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‘Lights Out’: Harry Reid Takes the Debt Ceiling Fear Up a Notch

By Doug Powers  •  July 18, 2011 08:07 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

Last week Harry Reid said debt default could mean Social Security checks wouldn’t be mailed out, no paychecks for our troops and closed schools. This week he’s throwing in the kitchen sink — along with the dish cloths, soap, silverware and counter tops:

Senate Democrats sat down with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and he painted a picture of what our world will look like if Republicans in Congress force this nation for the first time in its history to default on its financial obligations.

The picture was grim. This is how he described the state of our government if Congress allows this unprecedented default: “lights out.”
Geithner described how the 80 million checks cut by the Treasury every day could simply stop coming. The federal government would, in effect, go dark.

Paychecks for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and bases around the world could stop. FAA towers could shut down. So could the FBI and the CIA. Border crossings could close [well, that’s one way to secure the border – DP]. Safety inspections of the food Americans eat and the cargo that enters our ports could halt. Literally every function of government could cease.

There would be no discussion of which operations and personnel were essential. All the payments would likely stop.

Some have said we could prioritize which bills to pay. Even if that wouldn’t irreparably damage the nation’s credit and our reputation in the global community – which it would – it is also a complete fiction.

Our government won’t even be able to cover the bills due on August 3. It will simply run out of money.

I’ll bet they’d manage to find enough money to pay Congress.

Has anyone asked Reid why they can’t prioritize payments? Is the government so crippled under its own weight that it can’t remotely begin to accommodate an “emergency” using the existing revenue stream? Federal revenue is $200 billion a month. Spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, active duty military, veterans affairs and education totals about $145 billion, leaving plenty left for cowboy poets.

Besides, Republicans have offered to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, and it includes cuts, a spending cap and a balanced budget amendment. President Obama has already threatened a veto. If Reid wants those checks to go out next month he’d better head to the White House and forcefully express his opinion.

According to Reid’s debt ceiling sherpa, Tim Geithner, “Plan A” is that Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling. What’s “Plan B”? There isn’t one. We’re in the best of hands. Don’t you wish some of these people could be half as creative when it comes to navigating alternative paths through a crisis as they can be when, say, doing their taxes?

And after all of Harry Reid’s debt default Armageddon talk, just to cleanse the palate and provide some contrast, here’s another reminder of what Harry Reid said about raising the debt ceiling in 2006:

“If my Republican friends believe that increasing our debt by almost $800 billion today and more than $3 trillion over the last five years is the right thing to do, they should be upfront about it. They should explain why they think more debt is good for the economy.

How can the Republican majority in this Congress explain to their constituents that trillions of dollars in new debt is good for our economy? How can they explain that they think it’s fair to force our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren to finance this debt through higher taxes. That’s what it will have to be. Why is it right to increase our nation’s dependence on foreign creditors?

They should explain this. Maybe they can convince the public they’re right. I doubt it. Because most Americans know that increasing debt is the last thing we should be doing. After all, I repeat, the Baby Boomers are about to retire. Under the circumstances, any credible economist would tell you we should be reducing debt, not increasing it.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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