Burke: Guess we all could just refuse to pay our debts

If hostage threats work for House Republicans, imagine the deals we could get by ignoring all debts?

By Tom Burke / Herald columnist

We had dinner the other night at Kosta’s, just up from the ferry in Mukilteo. Baba ganoush for starters; a classic Greek salad; a savory gyro platter; and a bit of sweet Greek coffee and some baklava rounding out the meal. Perfect (as always) and delicious.

And when the waitstaff brought the check I, in a fit of fantastic-fantasy-Republican MAGAism, refused to pay. “I ain’t pay’n ‘till you do something about the cost of the ferry to Clinton,” says I in my daydream.

Then, not stopping with dinner, the McCarthy/MAGA hallucination grew (in my dreams) so I’m stiffing Cabela’s, Kohl’s, and HomeStreet for my mortgage, as well as the Toyota guys who put a $680 water pump in my wife’s 2008 Prius.

I ain’t paying anyone ‘till they all do something about the high price of a “Big Green Egg” charcoal grill.

And that, gentle reader, is a practical interpretation of the McCarthy/MAGA debt ceiling logic: “We refuse to pay for spending Congress already approved; until you do what we say about totally unrelated stuff.

In other words, take the debt ceiling hostage threatening federal default until the Democrats cede complete control and meet our demands about spending and budgets, and immigration, and environmental permitting, and tax loopholes, and drug prices, etc.

So OK. Another frick’en “big deal” 2,800 miles away with partisan posturing and of no real consequence to me.


Wrong. Really wrong.

‘Cause the Republican MAGAs’ demands to increase the debt ceiling to cover what’s already been spent means real-life cuts to Head Start; assistance for food, child care and housing; and gutting Women, Infants and Children (WIC) aid.

It means millions of low-income Americans receiving food stamps (SNAP) and Medicaid must work longer hours to qualify for benefits and more than 10 million people could lose health coverage.

Plus the Republicans will cut over 100,000 school teachers and assistants’ jobs, 30,000 law enforcement jobs, and furlough 2,700 wildland firefighters; as well as adopting new, harsh GOP immigration provisions; loosening environmental permitting for obscenely profitable energy companies; and ending student debt relief while keeping Trump tax cuts for the wealthy. Plus allowing $200 billion in excess payments to pharmaceutical companies so you’ll pay more for medicines.

And that’s if the Biden aadministration capitulates to the MAGA blackmail.

Now if Biden tells McCarthy and MAGA take a hike and there isn’t a back-up plan (there is, see below), you’ll suffer even more.

To wit: After June 1 (a week from Friday) there’s no pay for active-duty military and retirees (like those folks at Naval Air Station Whidbey or Naval Station Everett), no money to pay June’s Social Security (seniors, explain that to your credit card and mortgage lenders when you start missing payments) and to the check-out kid at Safeway, or the Rite-Aid cashier for this month’s scripts. Your doctor and hospital won’t get paid for Medicare or Medicaid; no tax refunds (if you ain’t got yours yet, you’ll wait and wait); and no federal employees will get paid (like the Post Office folks, air traffic controllers, Social Security employees, and the TSA agents at the airports).

And, as our credit rating plummets,interest rates on Treasury securities climb higher forever, costing you more tax dollars forever; the stock market goes into the toilet (can you say “retirement funds?”); we lose 8 million jobs as the country plunges into recession; small businesses with federal contracts don’t get paid; world markets tank; and the federal government simply shuts down (so no national parks this summer).

Now to avoid this devastation, all the McCarthy-led MAGAs have to do is pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill like they did three times under Trump. Is that so hard to do?

Oh, two last things:

First: If a realistic compromise can’t be worked out there’s a potential work-around for Biden in the 14th Amendment, essentially making the whole concept of the “debt ceiling” moot (albeit at the risk of court battles and wasted time) and the Democrats in the House have some legislative legerdemain hatching that could, might solve the problem.

Second: Plan ahead and don’t let fear rule. Get advice from financial experts; play the long game (don’t react financially on a daily basis); have a good emergency fund (cash) on hand to weather any short upheaval especially if you work for the feds or are dependent on federal payments to your employer; and get rid of debt as interest rates (credit cards, car loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, etc.) could go up.

To sum up: The financial gurus say a federal default (if the debt ceiling isn’t raised) is “Low probability, high risk” but think a compromise will be reached, as it always has been.

There, don’t you feel better?

I don’t. Because Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, and the rest of the MAGA/Freedom Caucus in Congress are fanatics and have Speaker McCarthy on a very short leash. He’s one motion away from being canned and he needs those people so will do what they say.

And I don’t trust those people; they have no idea what they’re doing and look to Donald Trump for leadership.

So in the next week: Don’t panic. Ignore the bulls***. Tune out Fox and the MAGAs lies.

And believe Joe Biden when he says, “This nation has never defaulted on its debt. It never will.”

Oh, and drop him a note saying you’ve got his back (while prepping for more MAGA madness).

Slava Ukraine.

Tom Burke’s email address is t.burke.column@gmail.com.

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