LETTER: Politicians playing ‘chicken’ with national debt

To the editor:

Perhaps you recall that favorite back road where the teens with the hot cars would go to play “chicken.” What a thrill to speed directly toward one another and see who would be first to swerve.

The guys who never swerved are now running our government and preparing, again, to play “chicken” with the nation’s fiscal debt ceiling. They are the ones, of course, too stupid to foresee the consequences if no one ducks.

“Oh, the damage will be light,” they kid themselves, “Dad will cover it.” “Dad” will be the federal taxpayers this time and, likely, will be forking over multiple extra billions in debt service for decades to cover “Junior’s” recklessness.

Sure, the U.S. government runs up more debt than it should. We demand first-class security, while policing the rest of the world. We insist upon safety nets of entitlements for the less fortunate, even at the expense of some who bilk the system. We understand the necessity of supporting a Social Security and Medicare system for those who pay in over a lifetime.

On the other hand, we balk at tax increases that would logically follow these demands. Still, when income falls short of outgo — at least for federal commitments — we accept the necessity to borrow.

Think of the debt ceiling as you would monthly credit card purchases of consumable goods. You commit to pay later for present needs and wants. The bill arrives and, panicking over spendthrift habits, you resolve to ignore the bill. How do you think your creditors will react? The time to address those bad habits is before the purchase commitment.

On a national scale, immense pressure will not allow grandma’s and grandpa’s Social Security and Medicare, nor service members’ pay, to go uncovered very long just so congressional “chicken” players can trade our nation’s good credit to score stupid political points. But it would, surely, be too late to avoid devastating economic consequences by then. Recession, anyone?

Douglas Smith