Heading for the Ditch?

Against the Current, No. 223, March/April 2023

David Finkel

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY clown car in Congress lurches from one outrage to the next, partially mitigated by its absurdity and incompetence — but potentially risking a collision course with the ruin of the U.S. economy and financial calamity.

Following the midterm election results, it becomes more clear by the week that the Democrats are the “responsible” political party — responsible, that is, to capital and the U.S. ruling class. While the Biden administration handles affairs of state from the Ukraine war to inflation to whatever was in the Chinese balloon, the Republican House majority passes resolutions to abolish the IRS and open any number of meaningless “investigations” into third-rate questions.

In the real-world United States, more than 30 million people in 32 states will face cuts, beginning in March, in SNAP (food stamp) benefits that were enhanced during the COVID emergency. At a time when food costs are 10 percent higher than a year ago, a family of four would lose around $328 a month, and  vulnerable elderly recipients could have monthly benefits reduced from $281 to as little as $23.

While hunger looms for millions, COVID continues to claim between 450 and 500 lives every day, of whom only 16% were fully vaccinated.

As the Republicans give thanks every day for the gift of Hunter Biden’s laptop, Democrats are reciprocally grateful for the existence of George Santos — the twin distractions who keeps on distracting.

Where matters get less funny comes in late spring or early summer, when the Treasury runs out of maneuvers to avoid default after exceeding the current $31 trillion cumulative “debt ceiling.” (If you don’t know, the peculiar institution of the debt ceiling dates from the 1917 Second Liberty Bonds Act, when the wartime Congress said government borrowing could not exceed a legislatively set limit, and took its more or less present form in the 1940s.)

Failing to raise the debt ceiling (to allow government borrowing to pay for already approved expenses) would collide with an Article IV constitutional provision guaranteeing “the full faith and credit” of the United States government. There are ideological fanatics who consider the debt ceiling an opportunity to impose a requirement for a balanced budget, something the United States has had for exactly two years of its history, from 1835 to 1837.

A U.S. government default, even the threat of it, represents an unthinkable catastrophe on multiple levels. The “responsible” rightwing Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says it cannot happen. House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who owes his tenuous position to the far right lunatic faction of his caucus, insists that raising the debt ceiling must be “negotiated” with savage social spending cuts — and more tax cuts for the rich.

At some point, the clown car will collide with the real needs of capital. Stay tuned and hold onto your wallet.

March-April 2023, ATC 223

Leave a comment

ATC welcomes online comments on stories that are posted on its website. Comments are intended to be a forum for open and respectful discussion.
Comments may be denied publication for the use of threatening, discriminatory, libelous or harassing language, ad hominem attacks, off-topic comments, or disclosure of information that is confidential by law or regulation.
Anonymous comments are not permitted. Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *