For all the nation’s problems — resurgent COVID-19, tragic weather extremes and the economic tolls of both — you’d think political leaders wouldn’t crash us into an easily avoidable crisis as well. Yet here we are, facing the catastrophic threat of defaulting on the federal debt.
It’s a recurring political game, a favorite of Republicans. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says Congress must raise the nation’s statutory borrowing limit by mid- to late October to meet the country’s obligations. But with Democrats nominally in power in Washington, Republicans are refusing to vote for an increase, risking a default on the IOUs they helped pile up.
While the right blames the red ink on President Joe Biden’s spending plans, more than a quarter of the $28.5-trillion federal debt is attributable to tax cuts and spending during Donald Trump’s presidency, including initial rounds of pandemic relief. Republicans controlled the Senate for those four years, and the House for two. Trillions more date to George W. Bush’s administration, when Republicans also ruled Congress for most of his two terms, and reflect the costs of deep tax cuts, two wars and a new Medicare drug entitlement.