In a recent letter, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, made several misleading claims about the importance of raising the debt ceiling. While Rep. Landry is certainly entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Here are some:
First, our current debt is $14.3 trillion, which represents 95 percent of GDP. This debt was amassed over the past 30 years, not just the past two and a half. A large factor in this increase is the $1.4 trillion spent on two unpaid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts and the faltering economic output caused largely by failed economic and regulatory policies under the previous administration.
Second, raising the debt ceiling does not give Congress and the president a blank check to increase spending. It authorizes us to pay for the obligations we have already accrued. Since 1939, Congress has increased the debt ceiling 89 times; 55 times under Republican presidents and 34 times under Democratic presidents. President Ronald Reagan increased the debt ceiling 18 times - twice as many times as any other president.
Third, if we fail to raise the debt ceiling, the federal government will hit the current debt ceiling limit on or around Aug. 2. The United States could default on its existing debt obligations for the first time in its history, and credit agencies will downgrade our AAA credit rating. Interest rates will rise, affecting all businesses and households in Louisiana and across the nation, triggering increases on interest owed on mortgages, car loans and student loans. Default would cause significant world economic disruption and would risk the stability of the global financial system.
Finally, in the event of a default, contrary to Rep. Landry’s opinion, there will not be enough money to make the more than 80 million payments the federal government is obligated to make each month. Making payments to bond holders and Social Security beneficiaries, even for a short time, would force us to suspend payments to veterans, shut down federal law enforcement agencies and/or close our federal court system, to name just a few.
We have an obligation to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our nation. Allowing our differences to force a default would be irresponsible and destructive to our nation. We ought to be able to work across party lines on a solution to raise the debt ceiling, while making significant and necessary cuts to spending, reforms to entitlement programs and tax reform to make our tax system more fair to middle-class families and small businesses. Let’s hope we find common ground by Tuesday.
U.S. senator, D-La.