Beating a debt horse: Republicans hate red ink only when the other side is spending

·2 min read

See if you can spot the hypocrisy.

2011: Apoplectic about rising national debt at a time when a Democrat held the Oval Office — debt primarily incurred as a result of spending intended to rescue the economy from a deep recession — Republicans in Congress threaten a historic default on the nation’s bills, refusing to raise the Treasury’s debt ceiling before folding under pressure.

2013: Republicans in Congress, steamed about the Affordable Care Act, try to force the Obama administration to make spending cuts, ultimately forcing a government shutdown, then finally backing down.

2020: Under President Trump’s watch, sparked by uncontrolled spending and a skewed-to-the-wealthy tax-cutting spree, the national debt rises by $7.8 trillion to about $27.7 trillion, its highest level relative to the size of the economy since World War II. Republicans in Congress raise the debt limit repeatedly to accommodate a budget-busting president of their own party. Indeed, in 2019, they suspend the debt limit entirely until July 31, 2021.

2021: Once again suddenly apoplectic about rising national debt at a time when a Democrat holds the Oval Office, even though most of the spending called for by President Biden and Democrats is designed to get the U.S. out of its pandemic pit, Republicans in Congress once again refuse to raise the debt limit to try to force reductions in spending. Following through on their threat would make the U.S. default on its obligations, prevent it from paying military and civilian employees and sharply raise the cost of borrowing going forward, all in a hollow, partisan show of fiscal responsibility.

To prevent the calamity, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is rightly demanding Congress raise or suspend the debt ceiling by Aug. 2. Congress should immediately comply. More to the point, the American people must permanently tune out Republican debt histrionics. We have serious concerns about endless federal borrowing, but risking default is the equivalent of putting a loaded AR-15 to the table in a negotiating session — and then starting to squeeze the trigger.

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