Janet Yellen may be physically small in stature, but she still shatters glass ceilings (first women Chair of the Federal Reserve, first woman Secretary of the Treasury). The ceiling she is fixated on now, however, is the United States debt ceiling. As Treasury Secretary she is trying to remain patient, pointing to all the red blinking lights on the dashboard of the economy, an economy, she warns, that is about to suffer a grievous self-inflicted wound by the actions and inactions of Congress.

The debt ceiling was reached months ago and Yellen began executing “extraordinary” financial maneuvers in order to delay the moment when the government of the United States of America goes into financial default, unable to pay its bills, including monthly support payments to millions of military veterans and 66 million Social Security recipients.

To be clear: this can be fixed now by Congress. Congress is not acting.

The fiscal cliff is coming in days. Yellen’s workarounds are about to stop working. The US almost plunged over this in 2011 thanks to Republicans basically saying they were going to prevent the US from paying the bills that Congress had already authorized. Republicans call themselves budget hawks but in fact, the debt ceiling law, passed in 1917 to allow the US government to rack up war debt, shows a radically different story.

The debt ceiling has been raised some 78 times, 29 times under a Democrat administration and a whopping 49 times by Republican leadership. It is done as a matter of course, in order to simply account for spending already debated by and approved by Congress. Congress voted to raise it three times when Trump was in the White House, but when a Democrat is president, suddenly the Republicans get in touch with their fiscal prudence.

Kevin McCarthy is hostage to a small group of far-right “Freedom Caucus” that blocked his ascendence to the Speaker of the House for a historical record 15 votes until he agreed to their outrageous demands, including a Trump-encouraged condition that McCarthy block lifting the debt ceiling unless Biden agrees to slash spending on all the items most important to working families and our one and only environment.

Of course Trump would be nonchalant about not paying bills. Six of his businesses have gone bankrupt and he’s had many other financial failures, plus his reputation as a charlatan who stiffs honest workers who have done work for him. While promising at his 2016 campaign rallies, and in several places on his website, that he would build a “beautiful wall” for more than 1,000 miles across the US southern border and that Mexico would pay for it, his claims were, as usual, lies. Some of his wall was built and you paid for it if you are a taxpayer in America.

Now he is encouraging a wall between the US government and the financial well-being of seniors on fixed incomes, people with disabilities, military veterans (whom he has called losers), and the working poor. His politics of greed and cruel fraud are now the Republican brand.

Biden has indicated that, despite his own promise not to negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States, he is in fact sending staff to do just that, with some serious future budget proposals that would cut the US debt for once--by some $3 trillion over the coming decade. Fiscal hawks should love the plan, and that is how the most rightwing Republicans characterize themselves, starting with the Tea Party some 13 years ago and continuing now as the so-called Freedom Caucus.

But of course they have thrown up an instant wall against Biden’s proposal because his ideas would roll back some of the greedy gains Republicans got under Trump and McConnell that slashed taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations. Plus, Biden proposes reducing some of the “socialism for the rich,” and drying up some of the massive subsidies enjoyed by Big Oil and Big Pharma, two of the biggest welfare queens in US history.

And of course neither party will consider reducing the number one discretionary budget item, the Pentagon budget. Weapons systems are enormously expensive, and really, does the US really need to dominate the entire world, with hundreds of military bases on other countries’ sovereign soil, 18 Ohio-class Trident submarines patrolling the seven seas all the way from under the polar icecap to the benthos bordering China and Russia? Do we need to control space?

As just one DoD expense example, Congress could reduce more of the fixed-target nuclear missiles that are a bigger threat to US citizens than to anyone else, and save the $billions proposed to build and install some 400 new LGM-35A Sentinel ground-launched nuclear missiles. Before the first one is even built, the Biden budget includes about $4 billion just for some plans. Overall, the US is headed for a trillion-dollar military budget. Supporters of that excessive spending claim it’s a small share of the US Gross Domestic Product, but if the Republicans send the US economy into freefall, that percentage shifts much higher, and it’s already half of the money that isn’t committed to trust funds.

Ultimately, the US voters will decide if allowing politicians who support the destruction of Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits should be re-elected. In the very short run, at least, we might want to remind those elected officials that we are watching.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coordinator of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and PeaceVoice Senior Editor.

(20) comments


No doubt this article is factually correct, the money was already spent by congress, and now they " the freedom caucus" are dealing to pay the bills. As an individual try that with the power company and see what happens.

David Collins

One person’s view for sure . Reality , if explored , is more complicated . Causes , effects , world events and so forth . Just have to do the best we can with what we have .

What’s for lunch today ?


Ah, a Portland leftist trying to place blame on conservatives for this last-minute debacle, when slow Joe refused to even meet to discuss for more than 3 months.


Attacking the author," slo joe" gee whiz. What exactly is there to talk about? The debts were approved and spent by the same folks who say cut vets benefits and do what we want, or we will shut down the govt. Like so many failed gop policies we have seen this before, it failed and here it comes again. Another gop shutdown.. maybe that will help the gop in 2024?

" freedom caucus" free from logic and common sense.


Really getting tired of the far anything. What has happened to the left of center, center, and right of center people. It seems as if the far ends are sucking up all the air in the room and leaving little or none for the rest. Very sad.

Tideland News, I have lived here most of my life except for some time away courtesy of my Uncle. I remember MT as the chief of police and the light blue Impala cruiser he used to drive. My point is I have been here long enough to know the people in this town. I know times are changing but they haven't changed that much yet. Why does the local paper think that most people in this area can't wait to read another article from some author living in Portland, Seatle, or Chicago? I enjoy hearing different points of view. I do not enjoy hearing the extremes. Maybe thats just me.

I feel as though we will soon reach the point of no return, no longer the United States. My hope is that instead of dividing into two groups maybe we could split up into thirds so people like myself will have a place to go. In the meantime keep driving that wedge.

David Collins

The local paper “ tideland “ posts what it does for responses . Gotcha ! The more the better . Much more can be said by silence but then the temptation is strong indeed . Responses , like clicks , are what pay the bills and salaries .

The best response is your vote and that matters . Who was it that supposedly said to walk softly but carry a big stick ?

Jackie Gleason

Drewski….you seem like a knowledgeable person….who was in control of the house and senate when these continued budget buster resolution extensions were agreed to?…..GOP?…not. Come back to logic and admit both parties must pull back the spending that was approved. Both parties are guilty to a degree. The GOP is now using the budgeted money to leverage future spending. Or are you that obtuse?


obtuse? I see your angle. Lets get real, trumps admin added a record almost 7 trillion to deficit. part of that was an almost 2 trillion tax cut, that boosted the stock market and not much else. The gop raised the debt limit 7 times in 4 yrs under trump with no conditions, no posturing on tv about fiscal responsibility,and no requirements to reduce spending" in the future"

The fact that the GOP only mentions fiscal responsibility when the other party is in power says much about their motives and lack of credibility on this and many other issues. It is an ACUTE problem we are approaching 32 trillion in debt, haven't had a balanced federal budget in decades, and one gop solution is to make sure there are work requirements for welfare recipients, now either the freedom caucus does not understand the scale of the problem or are simply unwilling to address budget areas that could be cut to make some actual difference. You could kill wic and food stamps completely and not make a miniscule dent in 32 trillion. Its not about the money its about political power. What did ole kevin promise to get that gavel? He's hanging by a thread, and the freedom caucus put the D in dysfunctional gov't.


Janet Yellen indeed hasn’t been fixated on inflation, and her workarounds have been initiated because of Biden.

I’ve got news for you, Mr. Hastings. Realistically, the US can’t pay its bills now.

I wish you had been more honest and said that both sides have been spending too much and our government is too big—an excellent place to start cutting.

I agree with your comments on the Freedom Caucus, indicating that they are bullies and that the US should not be the police of the world.

Slo Joe is more than accurate and an excellent way to describe Biden. I had to look up the meaning of obtuse and find it more than a fair description.


That's all rather vague.. where exactly shall we make cuts in too big govt? Food stamps? meat inspectors? congressional pensions and health care? DEFENSE? And Do tell what effect will your suggested cuts have on 32 trillion? the freedom caucus would have us believe making a work requirement for food stamps will help.. and it would.. in time... some time... literal eons from now


I’m not privy to the entire federal line item budget, nor are you.

You probably can’t find any items to cut, but I could. Reductions would be achievable.

An excellent place to start is the FBI, CIA, and IRS. After all, the IRS knows exactly what most middle-class folks owe, yet they make us go through the filing process anyway.


Got to start somewhere. Just do it especially with the bloated bureaucracy.


Spread the lobbyists fat from inside and around the Beltway to other parts of the country.


Lol, yes let's cut those " weaponised" 3 letter agencies, filled with deep state operatives. Between that and social programs problem solved. Who knew 32 trillion problem was so easily solved? You folks really need to read/ listen/ view something outside of right wing media.


Cuts will have to be made, the interest on the debt is an unsupportable drain. I know some folks don't like facts that don't align with their world view, but that does not change the facts. Those who would cut food stamps and 3 letter law enforcement agencies, to the bone, while supporting ever more corporate welfare, tax cuts for the wealthy, and ever increasing defense budget have been deluded by " alternative facts" There are only so many things that actually can be cut, and all parties to the budget have their own pet agenda. "lobbiest fat" gee is that the Bloated farm bill? the obscene defense bill? Our defense bill is more then the next 11 largest countries combined. That would be the place to start, knock down the defense budget and farm bill by 10% a year for 5 yrs. End oil company subsidies? talk about lobbyists fat.. sheesh


Fine, let's do it.


Not in favor of decreasing Defense budget, personally I wouldn't mind if they doubled it.


The defense budget is already horribly bloated, would doubling it make us safer from world threats? Consider DOD installations all over the world, and perhaps wonder about dod civilian employees sweeping the shop floor over and over on overtime ( hey, no one said cherry point ...oops) We do face threats, but our defense budget is equal to the next 11 countries combined.. that fact alone suggests there is much fat to be cut.


The DOD budget is absolutly, positively horribly bloated. Most cannot even comprehend the waste that goes on, but that makes them no different from the rest of the gov't . I'm just saying that as long as my tax dollars are going to be wasted I would rather see them wasted on defense. Don't understand the cherry point reference (never even been there for the air shows) and to answer your question "would doubling it make us safer from world threats?" . I am pretty sure it would IMO.

And I have a question. Do you believe that China only spends $237b on defense?


The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates the overall 2022 figure to be $292 billion and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) puts the number at $319 billion.

i do know their latest aircraft carrier has 3 major cracks in the flight deck.. China seems to be trying to emulate japan's ww2 "coprosperity sphere". this has brought the Philippines back into our orbit, and has much of asia worried and far more willing to rearm at our behest. China has some serious issues, for which there is no easy solution, mainly a serious gap in population due to their one child policy, that they rescinded.. too little too late.

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