Bruell column: Kindness and fairness — an alternative to the MAGA-made default crisis

Debbie Bruell

On Mother’s Day, I found myself reflecting on the simple moral compass I used as the mom of young children: Help each other out. Always share. Be honest. Treat others how you’d like to be treated yourself. Be kind and play fair were my north stars.

With my kids now grown and my life centering around politics, things often feel much more complicated. But the fact is, these same principles continue to guide me. At its core, my work is about helping to create a world that is kind and fair. A world where we take care of each other and play on a level field.

I’m inspired by the fact that most Americans — rich and poor; Black, white and brown — agree with these principles. We want our nation to be a place where no one goes hungry, everyone gets the health care they need, all children have great schools, everyone has the opportunity to work hard and make a good living, and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share. 

The fact that most of us support these values keeps me hopeful, especially when I see politicians completely disregarding them. The approaching MAGA Default Crisis is a case in point. 

Earlier this year, Republican leaders threatened to prevent our government from paying its bills if Democrats didn’t agree to slashing Social Security. The idea that we let older Americans go hungry and homeless — as was common before we had Social Security — was wildly unpopular with the American public, and Republicans back-pedaled.

Now they are threatening to default on the nation’s debt if Democrats don’t agree to a new set of budget cuts, including slashing Medicaid, which would put the healthcare of 21 million Americans in jeopardy, including seniors in nursing homes and children with disabilities; and cutting over 100,000 teachers’ jobs, eliminating educational support for 32 million kids. 

Republicans have the gall to propose these drastic budget cuts in the name of fiscal responsibility while also proposing a bill to make permanent Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the very wealthy. Trump’s tax cuts to ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations have already cost the Treasury $2 trillion. The new bill would add a cost of $300 billion annually.

How can these Republicans demand cuts to schools and healthcare, while seeking to reduce the tax revenue we collect from multi-millionaires and billionaires?

House Republicans know their proposed budget cuts are unpopular and they won’t be able to get them passed through the normal legislative process, so they are threatening to drive our country into a disastrous default if they don’t get their way. Using a threat like this is unfair and irresponsible. 

Paying our nation’s bills is the position that Congress has taken throughout all of American history because it is vital to the stability of our economy. It’s simply the right thing to do. 

We don’t eat at a restaurant and then tear up the check because we don’t like the price we saw on the menu. We don’t threaten that we’ll only pay for the meal we just ate if the restaurant agrees to charge us less in the future.

Playing politics with our nation’s past debts is playing with fire. The Republican position is akin to pouring gasoline in the streets, lighting a match, and saying, “I’m going to drop this match if you don’t give me what I want.” And then saying, “If this neighborhood goes up in flames, it’s going to be your fault because you could have stopped me from dropping this match.” 

Defaulting on our nation’s debts would result in a severe economic downturn, hitting middle- and low-income Americans the hardest. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a default would likely mean that, “Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” 

Democrats voted to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay our nation’s bills three times during Trump’s presidency — despite the fact that Democrats opposed Trump’s tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy and that Trump drove up the national debt significantly, even before COVID. In sharp contrast, President Biden reduced the national debt by an unprecedented $1.7 trillion in his first two years. 

What will it take for House Republicans to put down the match and support a clean debt-ceiling increase so we can pay our nation’s bills?

Threatening to blow up our economy if they don’t get their way, and cutting Medicaid for seniors while giving historic tax breaks to people who don’t need them, is mean-spirited and wildly unfair. 

Kindness and fairness are excellent guideposts in politics as well as child-rearing. Sadly, we also have to teach our children that not everyone lives by these values. Sometimes you need to stand up to bullies and call them out. As we’ve seen these last several years, not doing so only emboldens them.

Debbie Bruell of Carbondale chairs the Garfield County Democrats and is a past member of the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education.

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