The U.S. – A World Leader In Borrowing Money


By John J. Duncan Jr.

From 1958 to 1991, I was actively involved with the Knoxville Smokies as batboy, scoreboard operator, public address announcer, and part owner.

Many times during bad seasons or bad games, some of the regular fans would shout out in frustration or disappointment “Same old Smokies!”

As I watched the news about the negotiations over the debt ceiling, I couldn’t help but think they were playing the same old game.

In almost every one of my 30 years in Congress, negotiations would go right up to the deadline before an agreement would be reached, and several times the deadline would pass and the government would be shut down.

There have been six federal shutdowns since 1990. The three longest were 21 days in 1995-96 under President Clinton, 16 days in 2013 under President Obama, and 35 days in 2018-19 under President Trump.

Every time, the Democrats would try to scare people and tell them they were not going to get their Social Security or veteran’s checks when they knew that was not going to happen.

What they didn’t tell people, and what they knew too few would figure out, was that if we kept spending more than was coming in, more money would have to be printed, creating more inflation, and those checks would be worth less every year.

The agreement between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will allow the debt ceiling to be raised by as much as $4.3 trillion until after the election in 2024.

As Senator Rand Paul said, there are “no real cuts in spending, only cuts in the increases.” He said any person “who claims to be conservative who votes for this bill should be sent home.”

Senator Mike Lee said, “With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?” and added that he would use “every procedural tool” to try to defeat this bill in the Senate.

However, Senator Paul said he believed all the Democrats in the Senate and about half of the Republicans – what he called “big-government Republicans” – would vote for the agreement.

Rep. Andrew Clyde said, “Simply put, this agreement isn’t a win for the American people, it is a win for Washington.”

Proving the truth of these statements, two of the biggest government “conservatives,” Senators Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney both came out strongly for the agreement. Of course, both men have spent more time in Washington over the years than in the states they supposedly represent.

Rep. Bob Good said the agreement “maintains all the spending from President Biden’s first two years and does not make any significant cuts.” He added, the deal “further hastens our fiscal decline.”

Rep. Scott Perry said it “totally fails to deliver on conservative priorities,” and Rep. Ralph Norman said, “No Republican in good conscience should vote for this.”

Rep. Chip Roy, who led the fight against this agreement, made a similar statement saying, “Not one Republican should vote for this deal.”

Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said, “Republicans had a real chance to protect families and fight sky-high inflation and interest rates by cutting government spending,” and added that, “Republicans entered negotiations with a strong hand… Sadly, that leverage was given away in closed-door negotiations.”

Adam Brandon, president of Freedom Works, said, “With the national debt nearing $32 trillion, this legislation will continue to fuel out of control government spending and propel us faster toward the $50 trillion of debt our nation is expected to reach by 2030.”

In 1995, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House, he did away with the seniority system. He started basing chairmanships on how much money a member raised for the party and whether the member would always vote with him on close votes.

Thus, I remember an earlier debt ceiling vote many years ago when I overheard a Republican friend of mine say, ”I wouldn’t vote for this bill, but I have to because I’m a chairman.”

House leaders of both parties know they can put great pressure on people by making it clear they won’t get some chairmanship they want or something they need for their district unless they vote with their leader.

Most Democrats voted for the bill because it increases spending, although not as fast as they would like, and allows much more borrowing.

Very few Republicans wanted to vote for this agreement, but most caved in to the pressure because the Speaker already has done something big for them or they hope he will in the future.

An organization of CEOs of the Fortune 200, the nation’s biggest businesses, are for the agreement, showing we will continue to be governed by this duopoly, this partnership of extremely big business with extremely big government.

I started this column with an old baseball saying. Another one comes to mind about the always pitiful Washington Senators baseball team. “Washington: first in war, first in peace, last in the American League.”

Over the last many years, because defense contractors and the military always wanting and getting more money, we seem to be first in war and last in peace.

But this agreement means that we will continue to be the first, by far, in debt.

No one can humanly comprehend how much one trillion dollars is, much less $32 trillion. This agreement means that we will continue to borrow much more than we can afford unless or until our economy goes into total collapse.