We know the situation in Washington is getting serious now that John Boehner has publicly used the word “damned.”
“This isn’t some damned game,” the frustrated House Republican leader said last week of the government shutdown.
Now it’s my turn to emphasize the seriousness of the government shutdown, the foolishness of the intractable positions on the debt ceiling and — most importantly — the continued inability of our country to control spending: This is f—ing crazy!
You need to know that I never use the F-word — not in conversation or in print (except when mocking actor Samuel L. Jackson).
But if that’s what it takes to wake people up to the seriousness of our situation, then F-bombs away.
The US right now is allowed to borrow up to $16.699 trillion. That figure was raised in 2011 — during the last threatened government shutdown — by $2.1 trillion, with $1.2 trillion of that increase coming just last January.
We’ve blown through this already.
US debt grows every second by hundreds of thousands of dollars and stood at $16.967 trillion when I last checked at 1:15 p.m. on Monday.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced a few months ago that he would take extraordinary measures (read: finagling and accounting tricks) to delay the debt limit issue.
Now the time has come. The debt limit will be reached Oct. 17 — unless, of course, there are more tricks that the Treasury hasn’t tried yet.
As it now stands, the Republicans won’t deal with the debt limit issue or the government shutdown unless they get something.
Boehner seems to want spending cuts, although a portion of the membership he supposedly controls in the House seems to want ObamaCare, aka the Affordable Health Care Act, gutted before we move forward.
The White House, on the other hand, wants to give nothing. Raise the debt ceiling, reopen the government — or else, is what the president is saying.
Which side is right? Neither one. Which side will come out looking worse in this fight? Who the hell cares?
It’s the country and its citizens who are going to be the losers.
As I’ve been writing for years, the worst thing that could happen is for our elected officials to lose control over the US economy.
There was a good example on Monday of what could happen.
According to a report in the Financial Times, “The Chinese government has warned the US that the government shutdown and prospect of Washington’s first ever default were threatening the value of its US investments.”
Beijing, the paper reported, has told the US that “the clock is ticking” and urged Washington to “ensure the safety of the Chinese investments.”
You need to understand a couple of things to get the full meaning of this.
For many years to come, we will have to endure lectures from the Chinese, as well as Japan, banks in the Caribbean, OPEC, Brazil, Taiwan, etc. The list of countries that have invested heavily in US government securities is enormous.
China alone held $1.275 trillion of US government securities in June. And the number was already declining as that country showed concern about how the US was handling its finances.
In addition to the budget and debt-ceiling issues, the Chinese and other investors are also concerned about the Federal Reserve’s actions.
Using its controversial quantitative-easing program, the Fed competes against legitimate bond buyers.
So when the Chinese are bidding to purchase US bonds, the Fed causes them and others to pay more by having QE act as a shill buyer.
Add that to budget and the debt-ceiling concerns, and you can understand the Chinese concern.
You might ask: Who cares if China and the others are worried? Who cares if they pull money out of the US or don’t invest in the future?
But we’ve gotten ourselves into such a pickle that we can’t survive without these big foreign-bond buyers. A lecture alone from the Chinese might be enough to send interest rates here rising; an actual boycott of our bonds would be a complete disaster.
You and the company you work for would be paying a lot more to borrow money if interest rates rise.
There would be widespread layoffs. The US government would be paying even more of its revenue to service debt on money already spent. The stock market would collapse. And the economy could spiral downward out of control.
What should be done?
The Republicans should be willing to approve a budget and debt ceiling in exchange for substantial cuts in federal spending. Defunding ObamaCare just isn’t going to happen, so they should move on to other expenses and not just closing tax loopholes and the old standby “getting rid of wasteful spending.”
The president and the Democrats can’t expect to raise the debt ceiling and get a budget without giving something. The fact that the deficit is projected to be only $642 billion this year is nonsense — a lucky bounce in tax receipts.
Obama doesn’t know it yet, but history will not treat him well unless he gets spending under control.
And if he doesn’t pull things together by next Thursday, he could secure the title as the worst President in modern history.
Do I have to say again that I’m f—ing mad? You should be, too.