Not to make too much of a fable of a complex subject, but assume that a group of small boys finally manages to climb to the roof of the family garage.
After first doing what comes naturally — throwing stuff off the roof — the boys move on to what comes second: What would happen to someone who jumped off the roof? All this, mind you, is not punitive, but by way of scientific exploration. A kid could be a hero or a kid could have a broken arm or worse; inquiring minds want to know.
And this brings us to the House Republicans and the issue of raising the debt ceiling so the United States can continue to borrow money and pay its bills.
Disregarding the proverbial neighbor lady’s warning, “You’ll break your necks,” some younger, adventure-minded Republicans — including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Daniel Webster of Florida — are toying with the idea, all in the interest of science, of course, of not increasing the borrowing limit: “Let Uncle Sam default. It might be kind of fun to see what happens.”
Many people — the Treasury Department, Wall Street, the major corporations, the rest of the world — think this is a terrible idea. We are, after all, messing with the full faith and credit of the United States.
One sure indication that defaulting on our debt is a bad idea is that Donald Trump thinks it’s a good one. Trump lectured Republicans: “For the good of the country, they need to hold firm for the big deal. If they don’t, the country will go to hell.”
Another reason, apart from the appealing lunacy of the idea, according to one strategist, is that it will reassure the Republican base that the party is serious about cutting spending.
Toomey, of Pennsylvania, whose state capital, if you are looking for ominous omens, is bankrupt, told Politico, “No Treasury secretary or president would actually default on the debt, even if they couldn’t borrow more money,” which actually sounds to me like a pretty good definition of “default.”
Even in default there would be some money coming into the Treasury from the dwindling band of solvent taxpayers, those that hold jobs that don’t depend on the government paying its bills.
One Democrat typically proposed that we simply ignore the debt ceiling and keep on spending as if it didn’t exist. Those Democrats! Always full of good ideas. Funny money! Who would have thought of it. Foreigners will never recognize Jefferson Davis’ picture on the $40 bill.
What we really need is a grown-up with a drill sergeant’s voice to say, “Hey, you kids? Get off that roof. Don’t make me come up there after you.”
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.