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Congress Must Pay Its Bills and Lower Debt

Contrary to a common misconception, raising the federal debt ceiling does not increase government spending. What it does do is allow our country to pay our current bills. Those bills include interest due to individuals and institutions that have purchased U.S. treasury bonds and other government securities, and payments for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits, and other government obligations. Lifting the debt ceiling allows us to pay our current bills.

A separate issue is what the federal government will do going forward. Democrats and Republicans agree that spending needs to be reduced. Hopefully, the current discussions taking place between President Biden and his staff and Speaker McCarthy and his staff will lead to an agreement about how best to reduce government spending going forward.

Unfortunately, House Republicans and a large majority of Senate Republicans are insisting that unless the Democrats and President Biden agree to immediate drastic spending reductions, they will refuse to vote to raise the debt ceiling. By doing so, they are threatening to bring about the first default in the history of our nation. Defaulting on our financial obligations would have catastrophic consequences for our economy and for our standing in the world.

If no agreement is reached, default can be avoided by Democrats and Republicans voting to raise the debt ceiling, at least temporarily, and then working together to reach an agreement about how to reduce our national debt.

There are two ways to do that: decrease spending and increase revenue. President Biden has included both of these elements in his proposed budget. That budget includes specific spending reductions, such as those that would result from Medicare now being able to negotiate with drug companies for reduced medication prices. It also includes tax increases for those who have more than $400,000 a year in income. In addition, because the last congress enabled the Internal Revenue Service to increase its auditing staff, it will now be able to bring in billions of tax dollars from wealthy individuals and corporations who have been illegally avoiding paying the taxes they owe.

Republicans and Democrats need to work together to accomplish two important goals: 1) raise the debt ceiling so our country can pay its bills; and 2) negotiate a plan to reduce government spending and increase government revenue so we can lower our national debt. Both of these are urgent priorities. They deserve a concerted effort by members of both political parties to put aside narrow partisanship and put the needs of the country first.

Larry Feldman



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