Well, the deadline is here. On October 17 — tomorrow — our government will not have the authority to borrow money. Its options with federal revenue will include repaying debts and halting domestic spending, including for entitlements such as Social Security, or defaulting on our debts and trying to meet domestic needs.
The impact — economic and psychological — of a U.S. default is unknown because it’s never happened. We’ve always paid our debts, as a matter of honor and because it’s been essential to the economic welfare not just of Americans but of people the world over. Most of the predictions in the event of default are dire, and most responsible people don’t want to find out.
Unfortunately, we have reached this threshold because of irresponsible people in the U.S. Government. They exist in both parties and in both houses, and their collective inability in recent years to confront our national debt has contributed mightily to this situation. However, most of those people at least recognize the importance of overcoming their dysfunction to raise the debt ceiling — an act that would enable us to pay bills our nation already has incurred — and reopen the government.
Those members of Congress who continue to demonstrate irresponsibility now are the tea party Republicans, particularly in the House of Representatives. They have, through their intransigence and unreasonable demands, manufactured this crisis. Lamentably, they include Kansas lawmakers; 1st District Rep. Tim Huelskamp is one of their leaders. Blinded by self-righteousness, he doesn’t realize or doesn’t care how much harm he and his allies are doing to their constituents and to this country.
As this day began, the U.S. Senate was working on a last-ditch effort to avert default. Senators’ efforts Tuesday failed, and the House effort, largely because of the tea party faction, was unacceptable to reasonable people.
At this 11th hour, we find ourselves hoping there are House Republicans — their party holds a majority there, after all — who will defy the tea party faction as it has defied all moderate proposals this session. Though we don’t expect moderate Republicans to support every element in any proposal they’ll see, we hope they demand a chance to vote on it, and we hope they recognize that the greater good — the absolutely essential good — at this point is raising the debt ceiling.
We further hope that this unnecessary, embarrassing and frightening episode, which already has hurt the United States in the eyes of the world, will encourage reasonable members of both parties to take steps to prevent further disagreements from escalating into such reckless showdowns.