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So, kids, are we having fun with the government shutdown yet? Fromdieting kids, to cancer kids, to forced family vacations, isn't Congress just the best?!? American exceptionalism at its finest! However, the fun is just beginning. Because while a government shutdown only causes headaches and pain for U.S. Americans, Congress is determined to share such misery with the rest of the world with another self-made crisis: the debt ceiling! Because sharing is caring!


What's this debt ceiling, you ask. Well, it is the statutory limit of borrowing for the Treasury Department, kind of like a credit card limit, but a super-platinum one where you get to set your own limit. If we can set our own limit, how can there possibly be a problem? Silly Wonkeroos, we have but one answer for you: House GOP. Let's wonksplore, shall we? 

In order to best serve Our Glorious Readers, we did massive amounts of research (thanks, wikipedia) into the history of the debt ceiling. We learned that Merica didn't always have a debt ceiling -- for a while, Congress would just give temporary authority to the Treasury to borrow a few bucks here and there, but only in certain ways and with certain types of debt. Then, they figured that it was too much hassle (or took away from whoring and beating each other with canes or whatnot) and decided to just tell Treasury, "Fuck it, man, just borrow however you want, just don't go over eighteen pence," or whatever kind of monies they used at the beginning of the 20th century. The debt ceiling was born.

Over time, this evolved into a guy at Treasury whose sole job is to call around and beg for monies. Probably some guy named Matt who sits in a dank basement office, chain-smoking menthols with China on speed-dial. Is Matt furloughed? We don't know.

Anyway, back to Congress. Throughout the 1900s, Congress kept raising the debt ceiling because we needed to pay for things like war, welfare queens farmers, more war, tax cuts, and whatever else. Eventually, Congress got tired of having to raise the damn debt ceiling so much, so House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Also Ran) decided to tie the debt ceiling to the annual budget, so that when Congress appropriates funds, Congress also raises the debt ceiling caused by said funds needing to be spent. He was the last good Dick we had in the House. What happened to the Gephardt Rule? Newt Gingrich ate it in 1995 when he served his wife divorce papers while she was recovering from cancer surgery became Speaker. Fast forward to present day clusterfuckitude.

You notice a pattern here: Congress is in charge of spending, and Congress is in charge of the debt ceiling. According to that old moldy document that the tri-fold hat cult worships, only Congress can allocate money to be spent. No President, not even our current Kenyan Muslin Dictator, can spend any money without Congress appropriating it. (This is why the government is shut down now -- Republicans won't appropriate the monies because Obamacare.)

The modern GOP, a group of sniveling, snot-nosed whiny-ass titty babies, has decided that the debt ceiling is the perfect unsuspecting tourist ripe for hostage-taking. If you remember, the GOP first implemented this plan in 2011. That debacle gave us the SuperCommittee, which failed miserably and now we have sequestration, a plan so bad that everyone agrees it sucks giant monkey balls. And what else happened last time the GOP took the debt ceiling as a hostage? Oh yeah, America's credit rating dropped -- FOR THE FIRST TIME IN GODDAM HISTORY.

The House GOP has now retaken the same hostage, and is seeking to exact more ransom. On Oct. 17, the Treasury will once again hit the debt ceiling, and will be unable to borrow money. And if Treasury doesn't have enough money, then for the first time in American history it will default on its obligations. That means we won't have enough money to pay our bills, and Congress won't let the Treasury give China a call and beg for cash just this one last time, man.

What's the big deal if we default, you ask? Oh, nothing, if you like worldwide financial panic and a global clusterfuck that scares the dogshit out of everyone, like the folks at NBC News:

Federal spending would fall by roughly 20 percent almost overnight. A protracted borrowing freeze would quickly tip the economy back into recession. It would also force the suspension of interest payments on the national debt for the first time in the country's history.

Such a default would have unpredictable -- and potentially dire -- consequences. At the very least, interest rates would likely rise to offset the risk of holding Treasuries. The ripple effects -- even more difficult to predict -- could spark a global credit freeze not unlike the failure of Lehman Brothers in Sept. 2008.

The Treasury Department just came out with a nifty little scare-brochure. It reminded us of come-to-jebus brochures talking about hellfire, except rather than hellfire, we have imminent global economic collapse:

In the event that a debt limit impasse were to lead to a default, it could have a catastrophic effect on not just financial markets but also on job creation, consumer spending and economic growth with many private-sector analysts believing that it would lead to events of the magnitude of late 2008 or worse, and the result then was a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression. Considering the experience of countries around that world that have defaulted on their debt, not only might the economic consequences of default be profound, those consequences, including high interest rates,reduced investment, higher debt payments,and slow economic growth, could last for more than a generation.

Good times. Seriously, no one knows what will happen if the debt ceiling isn't raised. It means that someone ain't getting paid -- might be the olds with their Social Security, or the military, or Congress (hahahaha right), or food from the mouths of hungry kids, or god knows what.

So yeah, at least there is a plan for a government shutdown/slimdown. There's no plan for default, and that's what scares people -- people with a brain, at least. Many fear that if Congress can't even fund the government, will they really be able to raise the debt ceiling? Hope you enjoyed being an economic superpower while it lasted!

But maybe the Tea Party wing of the GOP has a point... maybe Obamacare is so bad that it is worth tanking the global economy, creating financial upheaval at an unprecedented level, and utterly destroying a fragile economy clawing its way back from a recession.

Fuck that. They are all insane. Who knows what will happen, but we do know this: You can sign up for Obamacare at healthcare.gov, so fuck the GOP, go get yourself some health care.

[Wikipedia / NBC News / Treasury Department via TIME]

 

DDM
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