It’s pretty simple, really. And it has nothing to do with money.
So, let’s take the money part first: the debt limit.
Suppose you owe $15,000. You want to pay it off and later buy a new car for $20,000. You ask the bank to increase your credit to $35,000. You’ve always paid on time and have a great job, so the bank says OK.
You’re in a much better position than the US.
If you’re the United States, even though the you’ve never failed to pay your debts, you can’t borrow to buy the car. According to The Treasury Department, the US can only borrow “to meet it’s existing obligations”, what it owes now, not future expenses.
Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt, not to pay for his Build Back Better plan. McConnell has conflated the two, making it seem that Biden wants to raise the debt limit to pay for his plan. That is horse puckey and the Senator from Lincoln’s birth state knows it. The problem is most voters – don’t know it. And McConnell isn’t telling them.
McConnell is no Honest Abe.
The political side is more nuanced, but equally underhanded. It has nothing to do with borrowing money. It has a lot to do with spending money, specifically who spends it.
Republicans have always been the party of “fiscal responsibility” – not spending money unless really necessary. Then George H. W. Bush went to war in Iraq – without raising taxes to pay for it. That was the first time in the history of the country. The direct costs was $757 billion. Ten years, in 2001 later, his son did the same thing in Afghanistan. Direct costs of that war were $837 billion. Together, 1.6 trillion.
It’s been OK though. After each war both parties in Congress raised the debt limit.
Then Donald (Who me? Pay back a loan?) Trump reduced taxes on the wealthy. With less tax income for four years, $7 trillion was added to the national debt, raising it to $28.4 trillion.
Then came the pandemic, and another trillion in debt and growing. So Biden has asked Congress to raise the debt limit to pay off existing debt.
And hit the McConnell wall.
Not only will this torpedo everything from military salaries to basic services, it will turn the country into Trumpland, an international deadbeat. We’ll default on our debts for the first time in history. The outcome, even in December, will be catastrophic for us and the rest of the world. So much for the Christmas spirit.
But that’s OK with McConnell. He’s blaming it all on Biden by presenting the debt limit increase as a combination of past debts and Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. He thinks that will make Biden look like a spendthrift and persuade most of Congress to kill Biden’s plan.
He’s not telling the truth, though. Let me repeat: The current debt limit is for existing debts only. “Build Back Better” is not an existing debt and not part of the debt limit increase.
Why is McConnell doing this? Because his real worry is that “Build Back Better” will improve everything from healthcare to infrastructure to jobs to childcare. His real worry is that it will correct the economic imbalance in this country, especially in rural, traditionally Republican areas. And, when that happens, what will many of those Republican will do? Change parties.
On the other hand, if he is successful in throttling the debt limit increase, the country, especially rural Republicans, will be in more distress than ever, which McConnell can then blame on Biden and the Democrats, thereby winning the next election.
And after that, guess what? McConnell will do exactly what Biden wants to do: flow money into all those rural areas (although not as much – he’s a Republican, after all). Once he does that he and Republicans will be heroes and stay in power.
For McConnell, it is not about the debt limit. It’s all about the power.