Monday Wake Up Call – December 12, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Oak Creek in snow, Sedona, AZ – November 2022 photo by Ray Redstone Photography

What is it with our national politicians? There are only a few days left for the House and Senate to increase the country’s debt limit, but both Parties have been screwing around, and now it looks like they may punt the problem to the incoming Congress.

From the NYT:

“Congressional leaders have all but abandoned the idea of acting to raise the debt ceiling this month before Democrats lose control of the House, punting the issue to a new Congress when Republicans have vowed to fight the move, and setting up a clash next year that could bring the American economy to the brink of crisis.”

The plan had been for Democrats to act during the lame-duck post-election session to increase the legal borrowing limit. That would take advantage of the Dems’ final month of control of both Houses of Congress. It would head off a pissing contest with Republicans when they take over the House in January. Republicans have threatened to block the increase once they are in charge of the House. They plan to hold it hostage until the Democrats agree to substantial cuts to domestic spending and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

There are several problems here. The debt ceiling which the US will reach sometime next year; the expiration of the last stopgap funding bill that expires on Dec. 16; and passing an overall budget for the current fiscal year.

The Dems had planned to attach a series of other priorities to the big funding package, including the reform of the Electoral Count Act (ECA), a critical reform that helps prevent election denier shenanigans in 2024. On December 3, Wrongo warned that this was a high risk gambit: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“…the Democrats need Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senate leaders to agree to attach ECA reform to a spending bill and enlist the 10 GOP Senators to support it. That means the GOP controls whether this bill is enacted.”

Now we’re hearing that the leadership of both Parties can’t get to an agreement on the big package. More from the NYT:

“Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over how to split funding between military and social programs. Talks are set to continue through the weekend ahead of the Dec. 16 deadline, though aides said lawmakers could pass a one-week stopgap bill to give negotiations additional time.”

So America’s Christmas present from Congress will be no Electoral Count Act reform and no new budget, and no debt ceiling increase. Instead, we’ll get another Continuing Resolution that will fund the government until early in 2023 when the Republicans will try once again to toss the US credit rating off a high cliff with their far Right ideological theories on US government debt.

Under the last debt limit increase passed late in 2021, the federal government can borrow $31.381 trillion. Total national debt has been slightly above that level, but since a small portion of the debt is exempt from the debt ceiling, we’ve stayed in compliance. As of last week, total debt subject to the debt limit got as close as $31.345 trillion.

The consequences of failing to extend the debt limit are immediate and bring great risk. For example, it could force the government to choose between paying Social Security checks or paying the interest due on the country’s debt. That happened in 2011, when Congressional Republicans pressured President Obama to accept similar spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.

That standoff led to downgrading the credit rating of the US. It rattled American investors and the US economy. This time, it could have global economic implications, given that the world is facing a global recession.

Before you say: Well, these birds learned this lesson back then, so they surely will make a deal this time. Consider that Goldman Sachs reports that less than a quarter of Republicans and less than a third of Democrats who will serve in the House in 2023 served there in 2011.

Time to wake up, Congress! Sure, some of you are very old, and want to go home for the holidays. But we pay you to fix things, not to make them worse. Schumer and Pelosi should make them all stay in DC until they vote on what the country needs.

To help them wake up, watch, and listen to a live version of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” with Vince Gill, Gregg Allman and Zac Brown from a 2014 performance at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. One of the wonders of live music is what happens when artists collaborate in a live setting:

We’re also seeing Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Kenny Aronoff on drums.

Sample Lyric:

And I don’t own the clothes I’m wearing
And the road goes on forever
And I’ve got one more silver dollar
But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the midnight rider