Republicans are on the path to shutting down the government and tanking the economy in the process. It’s an incredibly irresponsible road they’ve set us on, even for them. Hopefully, the crisis can be adverted, but let’s make sure that whether it is or isn’t, we make sure that everyone in the state knows who set out to create the problem in the first place. And of our Arkansas congressmen, none would be more guilty in pushing for a shutdown than Steve Womack.
Womack said he would be open to forcing a government shutdown over spending. If the debt ceiling has to be kept at its current level to force budget cuts, Womack said, “so be it.”
So be it…Gee, who does that sound like?
The budgetary consequences of this conservative pledge would be catastrophic and far-reaching, forcing the immediate cessation of more than 40 percent of all federal government activities (excluding only interest payments on the national debt), including Social Security, military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, homeland security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. This would not only threaten the safety and economic security of all Americans, but also have dire impacts for the economy and job growth.
In short, the economic consequences of such a large and precipitous drop in spending would be crushing, and almost certainly result in a severe drop in economic growth and employment at a time when we can least afford it.
Moreover, such a move could lead to a panic in the international financial markets. Following the 2008 financial crisis, we have seen debt crises hit Ireland, Greece, and Italy, with fears that this could spread further and cause a global economic downturn. The financial markets are on edge today, with U.S. Treasury bonds being the safe haven for most investment capital. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would recklessly disrupt the sale and purchase of new Treasury bonds, and could potentially cause a run on outstanding Treasurys as well, as investors sought other investments. This could have catastrophic consequences for our economy as well as the economic stability of the rest of the world.
Refusing to raise the debt ceiling would also exacerbate the problems with our long-term budget outlook. The budget deficit right now is the result of two distinct sets of changes since 2001, when we last had a budget surplus. First, a series of long-term policies enacted by the Bush administration—most notably the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, the decision to fight two major wars without raising taxes, and the passage of an unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug program—created permanent structural budget deficits that will remain with us over the long term unless they are addressed. Second, the poor economy caused a drop in tax receipts alongside higher “countercyclical” spending, such as for unemployment insurance and food stamps.
So let’s make a little check list here. This is what Womack is perfectly okay with setting into motion, and what will happen if they shut down the government:
- Social Security checks stop going out, effectively cutting off the income of millions of seniors.
- Our soldiers get left high and dry without any funding in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Homeland Security gets shut down, leaving us vulnerable.
- Folks dependent on Medicare and Medicaid for medical treatment are going to be left high and dry.
- The unemployed already struggling to make ends meet are going to find themselves cashless.
- Job growth will be killed in the crib and we’ll see layoffs as things spiral out of control, especially if the shutdown lasts for a long time.
- There will be a massive panic in the financial sectors, one that will echo around the globe and potentially cause massive unrest in a variety of far flung places.
- And, on top of that, it will not only do nothing to fix the deficit and the debt, but will make those problems worse.
This is the very near future if Steve Womack has his way. And he probably thinks he can get away with it too, being in the district that he is. But here’s the thing, the third’s demographics are changing dramatically with an influx of people from other areas of the state, out of state, and, of course, the exploding Latino population. At some point, perhaps even within this decade, it will become a district that is winnable to Democrats. Not only that, if the Democratic Party is going to remain viable in this state, it’s clear that with the growth in the third that we are going to have to start competing there. We may not be able to do that within the next two years, but we have to start now so that when the opportunity presents itself we will have a groundwork to build upon. Personally, I can think of no better way to start than going after the government shutdown’s biggest cheerleader.