Count three-term Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann among those happy that the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted Tuesday not to raise the debt ceiling without corresponding cuts in federal spending.
By a 318-97 vote, members of the House opposed simply increasing the total amount of money the federal government is authorized to borrow. The current debt ceiling stands at $14.3 trillion, and an August deadline looms for approving more red ink.
In an exclusive interview for the July edition of Newsmax magazine, Rep. Bachmann, who plans to announce later this month whether she’ll run for the GOP nomination for president, says many voters don’t understand what “raising the debt ceiling” really means: Giving the federal government the green light to spill more red ink.
“It’s Congress giving permission to the federal government to borrow more money that we don’t have, and we borrow it for the purpose of spending it,” Bachmann tells Newsmax. “So we need to know what this is about: President Obama wants the Congress to go to other countries and borrow $2 trillion that we don’t have, and that our children will have to pay back some day, and to use that to spend right now.”
According to Bachmann, Treasury secretary Tim Geithner, who has said not raising the debt ceiling could cause a massive default, has greatly exaggerated its impact.
According to Bachmann, Geithner “unfortunately resorted not only to scare tactics, [but] in my opinion it was outright blatant lies when he said that we would see the collapse of various things if we didn’t allow the government to continue to borrow money, and spend money, that we don’t have.
“What the Treasury secretary has failed to tell the American people is that we have it within our discretion to pay our debts first,” Bachmann says.
Conservative pundits have pointed out that because the Treasury secretary is authorized to decide which bills to pay first whenever there’s a revenue shortage, the only person who could trigger a default by not making a debt payment would, ironically, be Geithner himself.
So far, the American people are clearly siding with Bachmann and her fellow Republicans on the debt-ceiling issue.
According to the latest Gallup poll, Americans want their representatives to vote against raising the debt ceiling by a 47 percent to 19 percent margin.
But about a third of those surveyed stated they don’t know enough about the issue to say one way or the other. And Democrats believe that once the debt-ceiling leads to a shutdown in specific government functions, the tide of public opinion will soon turn against Republicans.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal column by Princeton University economics professor Alan Blinder, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, the federal government currently spends about 40 percent more than the revenues it takes in. Reducing expenditures by 40 percent to stay below the debt ceiling, he says, would cut total federal spending by $1.5 trillion. That would amount to a fiscal contraction of about 10 percent of GDP when unemployment is already 9 percent. Blinder calls such a prospect “evidence of a dark, self-destructive impulse.”
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