I’m looking for a word. Irresponsible doesn’t quite convey what I’m after. Despicable and corrupt come closer. Bat-shit crazy is a bit too inelegant, and besides, being crazy lets people off the hook–it implies that they don’t really know what they’re doing.
Here’s what generated my search for that perfect word: Yesterday, when the House of Representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling, two Democrats and 199 Republicans voted no.
In other words, 201 Representatives favored an American default on its obligations that would probably trigger a worldwide financial meltdown, because….? Because they don’t approve of debt that the House of Representatives ran up? Because they don’t like the President? (There were 19 bipartisan, no-controversy votes to raise the ceiling when George W. Bush was President.) Because they’re pandering to people who are too stupid or uninformed to know what the debt ceiling is? Because they are too stupid or uninformed to know what it is?
Let me spell this out.
The Constitution requires that Congress make all spending decisions—the President proposes, but Congress disposes. Sometimes–okay, a lot of the time–Congress authorizes more spending than the government collects in revenue. That requires government to borrow the difference, in order to cover the deficit that Congress has already authorized.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, Congress also votes to authorize that necessary borrowing to the extent that it will exceed the previously-set debt limit, or ceiling.
To many of us, this seems a bit silly, since the debt ceiling vote comes from the same Congress that has already voted for the spending that requires the borrowing, but this practice of raising the debt ceiling has generally been uncontroversial, and for years the ceiling has been routinely raised by votes from large, bipartisan majorities.
Routinely, that is, until the unthinkable happened, and Barack Obama became President.
Dishonest rhetoric to the contrary, failing to raise the debt ceiling would not do anything to reduce the national debt. Congress has already authorized the spending. Instead, it would be a vote for the U.S. to default on what it already owes.
Even using the threat of nonpayment of the nation’s bills as a bargaining chip sends a chilling message to world financial markets and undermines America’s reputation as a sound place to invest.
If Congress actually refused to raise the ceiling, the results would be catastrophic; such a refusal would require the United States to stop paying many of its bills—including amounts owed to senior citizens for social security, defense contractors and members of the military who defend the country, and many others. Economists warn that such a failure to pay our bills could precipitate a worldwide economic collapse. That’s why John Boehner–who periodically visits reality– ignored the suicide contingent in his caucus, and brought a so-called “clean” bill to the House floor.
I’m still looking for the word that adequately describes the House members who voted not to raise the debt ceiling. Those who knew what they were doing are beneath contempt; those who didn’t understand the implications of their votes are intellectually unfit to hold office.
Whatever you call them, they need to be sent home.