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I Am Not Your Leverage!

an open letter to US politicians

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 11 months ago 11 min read
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I Am Not Your Leverage!
Photo by Harold Mendoza on Unsplash

Dear politicians,

I don’t expect you to care about me. You have demonstrated time and time again your refusal to listen to each other. If you can’t be bothered to listen to your fellow politicians, why would you listen to someone like me, someone who lacks your money, education, and influence? No, I'm not naïve enough to think my thoughts will change anything or even matter to you, but I’m going to voice them anyway because I have little to lose.

Last week, Secretary Yellen predicted that the US government could default as soon as June 1, less than one month away and four days earlier than her initial worst-case prediction. This should come as no surprise to you. You've known that a summer default was a possibility since we hit the debt ceiling on January 19. That was nearly four months ago, yet I've seen little meaningful action from either party since.

It seems like every other year we go through this. 2021, 2013, 2011… and those are just the more dramatic debt ceiling debates that come to mind. Each time the issue comes up, I hope that surely our politicians have learned their lessons from their past mistakes and won’t subject us to unnecessary brinkmanship and uncertainty again. Yet it’s the same thing every time. Every time, both parties dig their heels in and drag out the arguing for as long as possible. Every time, you wait until the last minute to act.

In any other job in the country, one could be fired for such procrastination, yet many of you who played a part in the past standoffs are still in office. Should you - heaven forbid! - fail to act in time to avoid a default next month, you would remain in office until your term ends. Possibly longer, if your constituents chose to forgive your inaction. Such inaction is inexcusable!

Now once again, we’re down to the wire. According to the calendars on their respective websites, the House is only scheduled to be in session for 12 days between now and June 1 and the Senate for only 11. Last week I read an article that said there are only 6 out of those days in which both chambers of Congress are in session at the same time President Biden is in Washington. That’s so little time to cover so much ground!

Meanwhile, my stomach has been in knots for nearly five months. Every day I wake up thinking, is this the day we default? Why are our lawmakers taking so long to act? What happens to the economy and the American people if they don’t? If I'm that worried, it stands to reason that other American citizens are too, And if we're that worried, why aren't you?

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People like to compare the debt ceiling to a credit card. They say you don’t raise the credit limit every time your kid maxes out your card. While that is true, the problem with that comparison is the aforementioned scenario only affects the people who accrued the debt. A government default would affect everyone but the people who accrued the debt.

No, the debt limit is not like a credit card. I think of it as more similar to this scenario: Imagine you put down a payment on a car. You already have means of transportation, so you set aside that car to help others who do not. Say your elderly mother, your disabled neighbor, your veteran uncle, your single parent sister and her struggling family, your employee who runs company errands for you. You’re doing a good thing, helping others less fortunate.

Now let’s say you struggle to make your car payments. This is not due to unforeseen circumstances; you know your funds are dwindling ahead of time. You and your creditors have plenty of time to work something out, but you let your pride get in the way. Both parties refuse to negotiate, and the car is repossessed. Who do you think is going to face the consequences of your pig-headed inaction? Not you.

Sure, the fallout from a government default would bruise your egos. It may cut your salaries or end your political careers, and well deservedly so! But whatever else happens, you would still have a roof over your heads. You would still be able to put food on the table for yourselves and your families. Your jobs pay enough that you should be able to live off your savings for a while, and worst case scenario, you are able-bodied enough to find work elsewhere. But what about the people who don’t have those luxuries?

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To be fair, a government default has never happened before. Nobody knows for sure what the ramifications would be, but the predictions are dire. The global economy could be thrown into chaos. Stocks could crash. Jobs could be lost. The military and other government workers could go unpaid. Programs meant to help our nation’s most vulnerable citizens - children, veterans, the poor, the disabled, the elderly - could be unable to help those who need it most. These are people whom you were elected to serve, not sacrifice to your political agenda!

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes now. You’re probably thinking, why should we care for people who don’t care for themselves? It’s their own fault for depending on government assistance. If they just worked harder, they wouldn’t need it. If that’s the way you think, I envy you. I envy that you’ve lived such a charmed life that you’ve never needed anybody's help to get by, therefore you’ve never had reason to question those classist and ableist beliefs.

Contrary to the stereotypes, sometimes life throws a curveball at you, and no amount of work ethic or optimism can change it. As much as it pains me to say, it happened to me. I was born with a rare disease that prevents me from working, and it was not for lack of trying. I tried to live as normal able-bodied people do. I tried to live up to our society’s definition of success, to go to college and get a traditional 9 to 5 job, but my illness got in the way every time. Believe me, I hate being on disability every bit as much as some of you hate spending government money on people like me! I’m doing everything to change my circumstances, to turn my hobbies into an income so I may no longer need disability, but it takes time, more than we've got to prevent a government default. So for now, I and millions of other Americans have no choice but to depend on you to do the right thing and stop a government default.

Throughout the past months, I’ve seen the ongoing political bickering compared to a game of chicken or called a stalemate. I find such terms offensive because they erase the very real stakes of the situation, but the word I hate most is one I’ve seen bandied about by both parties: leverage. Both parties think they can use the situation to extract concessions from the other without regard for the people they’re throwing under the bus in the process, but I have news for you.

This is not a game. This country is not a giant chessboard, nor are its people pawns to manipulate for your own gain. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not your leverage. I may be different from you, but that does not make me dispensable. And frankly, I resent being treated as such every time the debt ceiling issue comes up. If you want to gamble, bet your own survival, not mine and definitely not that of millions of other Americans!

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Tomorrow, May 9, marks the first time since Feb. 1 that President Biden and Speaker McCarthy will speak about the debt ceiling crisis. While I’m appalled that it took so long for both sides to come back to the table, I will give credit where it’s due. Tomorrow is a good start. The thing that concerns me is that both sides are still repeating the same thing we’ve heard for months. The right still refuses to pass a debt ceiling extension without spending cuts; the left still refuses to negotiate. Both positions are untenable. If you go into tomorrow’s meeting clinging to those attitudes, talks will stall again. You can’t allow that to happen!

You need to come together. You need to accept that neither side is getting everything they want out of this. You need to back off of your hardline demands and find some middle ground. Those on the right, it’s not unreasonable to expect spending cuts. What is unreasonable is to subject the American people to unnecessary financial upheaval until you get your way. Those on the left, you need to negotiate. You can’t just stick your fingers in your ears and go, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” until the other side gives in. Such actions are petty and childish - no, I take it back. Most children don’t act like that; most children have already learned the concept of compromise. I shouldn’t need to explain that to the most powerful group of people in the country!

President Biden, Speaker McCarthy, ladies and gentlemen of Congress, I respectfully urge you to put your differences aside and compromise on the debt ceiling before the June 1 deadline. That shouldn’t be a tall order. I’m only asking you to act in the American people’s best interests, as your job says you should, and I’m not asking you to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. In the interest of seeking solutions, I offer you suggestions to move forward. Remember I am not a politician, therefore I have no authority to tell you how to do your jobs. These are only a concerned citizen’s ideas, coming from the outside looking in.

No more recesses. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled for a recess later this month. That is valuable time that could be used to stave off a June default, so should lawmakers fail to hammer out an agreement before the recess, they should be required to stay in Washington until one is reached. If the American people don’t get a vacation from worrying about default, neither should you!

No more rejecting ideas. Every day, I check the latest news on the debt ceiling, and every day, there’s at least one story about some politician rejecting a potential way out of default. Democrats don’t like a short-term resolution. Republicans don’t like the discharge petition. President Biden doesn’t like invoking the 14th amendment. Secretary Yellen doesn’t like minting a $1 trillion platinum coin. As unorthodox as some of those options are, there may come a time when they are your only options. Keep them open!

No more sitting out the negotiation process. President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, you can’t stop talking to each other for months on end again if tomorrow’s talks hit a snag. You need to keep trying for as long as it takes to find common ground. Rep. Jeffries and Sen. Schumer and McConnell, you can’t take a backseat in the negotiations. You were invited to take part because you have as much say in them as President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. Should talks stall, it could fall on you to keep the momentum going and foster some sense of unity. We’re counting on you to take those steps!

No more political brinkmanship! This is the big one! Raise or suspend the debt ceiling as soon as possible, certainly before the end of the month. Ideally I’d like to see it go until the start of calendar year 2025 so neither side will be tempted to use the debt ceiling for their political gain in next year’s election, but any length of time would be preferable to a June 1 default. In exchange for Republicans’ co-operation, Democrats should agree to one or two spending reforms, maybe a spending cap or repurposing unspent COVID relief money. I’m not asking you to go along with everything in the Limit Save Grow Act. Frankly, I don’t support all of it either, but as a teacher I once had said, “Some is better than none.” Republicans should take said smaller concessions as a promise to negotiate broader spending reform later and agree to raise the debt ceiling in return.

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Should you fail to act in time to avert an unprecedented and catastrophic government default, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. It will not be Joe Biden’s fault. It will not be Kevin McCarthy’s fault. It will not be Chuck Schumer’s fault, or Mitch McConnell’s or Hakeem Jeffries’s. It will be all your faults. Everyone who had the power to act and did not will share the blame equally.

The choice is yours: put your differences aside for good of the people or put the people through undue suffering for the good of your own egos. Remember, it takes both a left wing and a right wing to make the American eagle fly. We’re counting on you to not fly it off a fiscal cliff!

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

opinionpoliticians
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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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