Published on -1/15/2013, 10:51 AM
Nowadays, we like to label everything a "crisis" and there is another one on the way, "The Debt Ceiling Crisis." Sometime next month, the federal government no longer will be able to pay the bills Congress has run up because we will have reached the debt limit, a number established two years ago when we had a "Debt Ceiling Crisis." Unless Congress acts, it presumably will fall to the president and/or the secretary of the Treasury to decide what bills to pay, what promises to keep, and what obligations to ignore. This process is complicated by the fear of the national debt. "It's immoral to make future generations to pay for our spending" or "Debt makes us slaves to the Chinese" -- I am sure you're familiar with the rhetoric. But in this situation Congress, not the president, has authorized (promised) this spending but now seems reluctant to actually pay its bills. No one has been publicly specific about what spending will be curtailed so that the federal government won't have to sell any more bonds, so I've come up with the probable money-saving actions the secretary will employ.
We have talked about closing national parks before, so that's a certainty, but it not nearly enough savings to make a difference. Since this "Debt Ceiling Crisis" is being caused by Congress' deliberate inaction, Congress should get some of the burden. It seems wrong to stop the paychecks of the members of Congress, but we should stop paying all their support staff. The elevator operators, the committee staff, the security guards should punch out and go home. They will be more comfortable at home because the government should turn off the heat, water and lights in Capitol building and the congressional office building.
Here are some easy immediate spending reductions the Secretary of Treasury could make right away: Stop making F-35s. Park the ones already delivered and put them in mothballs until Lockheed-Martin figures out how to make them work right. These studies can't be on the military's dime. Lockheed-Martin made us believe the planes would work, so they can pay for it. We could also cancel all KC-46 contracts. This would save our children $4.6 billion; for that amount, we could buy a lot of duct tape to keep the KC-135 tankers flying.
It is immoral to make future generations pay for our Navy. They won't get to ride our present-day ships and submarines, so stop construction of all Navy and Coast Guard projects. No new submarines, aircraft carriers or destroyers. Send all the shipyard workers home; Uncle Sam won't be paying the bill. You may say, "Won't that raise the unemployment numbers? Sen. Moran says "Government does not create jobs," so how would it be possible for government to destroy jobs? So as any Republican would tell you, the answer is "No, the 'Debt Ceiling Crisis' will not increase unemployment."
A large proportion of U.S. government spending is checks sent to Medicare/Medicaid providers and Social Security recipients, so sending out these checks would push us over the debt limit. We will have to stop paying all retirees, civilian and military. Forget about the fact that the people getting this money paid into the system throughout their working lives; the federal government should not be held to its Social Security promises. The Republicans in Congress will like this result; they are working to get rid of "the social safety net"; more impoverished elderly people would be seen as a good outcome.
Furlough all air traffic controllers and TSA inspectors. We just can't afford to pay those people any more. I know we hired them and promised to pay them, but hey, we've reached an arbitrary number called "the debt ceiling," so that promise is also null and void. This debt-saving measure would of course shut down all civilian air traffic. The only thing allowed in the air would be Air Force planes armed to shoot down criminal planes (any plane in the air would be in criminal violation). This ban on flights would include emergency medical flights (this aspect would be acceptable to the GOP, as only poor people have to get airlifted to the hospital)
Shut down the Border Patrol. It would be immoral to make our kids pay for our present-day immigration policy. Put a big iron gate across all roads leading to Canada and Mexico. Paying customs agents will also put us further in debt, so we will shut down inspections of all cargo in all American ports; no ships in or out. Except Coast Guard ships on combat patrol to sink any criminal craft. (Any boat in American waters would be in criminal violation.)
Meat is inspected by the USDA, and we have to borrow money from our children to have untainted meat. Of course, the downside: no inspections, no meat. The upside is short supply will make prices go up, which makes more profit for Walmart and Kroger; and isn't that what is most important, more money for the "job creators?" Don't worry, there will be foreign noninspected black market beef available for you city folk, (remember, there will be no one patrolling the land borders), we rural people all know farmers and ranchers who will sell us cattle right out of the pasture (we could go on the Internet and learn how to butcher the cows). The farmers will be needing money because any payments for crop insurance, price support programs, etc., will have to be suspended; again, because paying those bills will cause us to borrow from the Chinese.
Most government debt is not really held by China; Americans and American institutions, like mutual funds, investment banks and hedge funds hold most of the bonds. To not pay these corporations (which are people, after all) would cause international monetary problems so complex that only learned people can predict them, so I would say we should continue to pay the interest on the national debt; rich people/corporations should never be inconvenienced; so when it comes to the debt ceiling, we poor people will shoulder the burden, we always do.
Some of you, like my right-wing friends, seem to think the only function of the federal government is going to take away firearms and give money to undeserving poor people. Congress is on the road to making a debt ceiling crisis that will be both horrific and educational.
Unless Speaker Boehner allows a debt limit extension to come to the House floor and if Sen. McConnell does not filibuster the bill in the Senate, ordinary functions of government could cease. We can hold out hope that Congress does what is best for America. Republicans laudably want to cut the federal budget, but now is not the time to do that; they have the upcoming "Sequestration Crisis" and the "Continuing Resolution Crisis" where they can change the budget amounts spent by the government through the ordinary legislative process -- you know, like in the Constitution.