By June 1st, the United States will no longer be able to pay all of its bills on time unless Democrats and Republicans agree on a deal to raise the borrowing limit. This isn’t the first time we’ve needed to lift the ceiling and it’s not likely to be the last, but never has so much been at stake nor the negotiations been so dangerous for our country.
Rather than raise the debt ceiling as Congress has done over 70 times in the last 50 years, GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the current GOP majority want to use the default deadline to make huge cuts to programs and services millions of people depend on as part of a trade to avert defaulting on debts. In fact, the Republicans have already passed their own partisan bill that cuts everything from Medicaid, public safety, and housing to payments for Medicare providers while at the same time rolling back tax enforcement for wealthy households making more than $400,000 annually.
That’s right: the Republicans are insisting cuts for working families in the same bill that enables rich people to keep avoiding making tax payments they owe and they are threatening to force a national default on debt if they don’t get their way. The Republican plan would take healthcare, education, nutrition assistance and housing from millions of people of all ages, but veterans in particular would see huge impacts in their daily lives.
McCarthy’s plan includes a 22% cut to the Veterans Administration, a move the White House has called the largest cut to veterans benefits in American history. Not only would slashing funding result in the loss of more than 81,000 jobs throughout the entire VA system but it would also result in millions of missed doctors appointments and worse health for veterans overall even though veterans tend to have higher rates of chronic disease, injury and mental illness than the civilian population.
But it’s more than just VA cuts that will impact the day-to-day life of millions of veterans. The House GOP’s plan also includes massive cuts to nutrition programs like SNAP and Meals on Wheels, both of which benefit veterans nationwide. In fact, 1.2 million veterans rely on SNAP assistance for their groceries – that’s 1.2 million veterans who could see their food budgets slashed, all to protect tax breaks for billionaires already paying lower tax rates than veterans and active duty military personnel.
It doesn’t stop there. Around 9% of veterans get their healthcare coverage through Medicaid, another program on the House GOP’s chopping block. While Speaker McCarthy claims that instituting more stringent work requirements is beneficial, it could strip healthcare access from vulnerable vets, many of whom have multifaceted health needs and disabilities. People who have served our country shouldn’t worry whether or not they can make it through the red tape to get the care they need.
Speaker McCarthy is playing politics with our country’s future. If he and Republicans in Congress succeed, the United States will, for the first time, fail to pay America’s bills on time in a default that will create economic chaos and have global impact.
The rest of us will pay the price, including millions of veterans who have already sacrificed to protect our security and way of life. The 16.5 million veterans living in the U.S. would see cuts to their health care under the Congressional Republican proposal. But default would create even more immediate consequences: timely disability payments, pensions, survivor benefits that people depend on could be delayed or not issued. Paychecks for the 1.4 million active-duty members could also be delayed or not paid.
If Republicans force a default it could delay Social Security and Medicare payments, harming seniors who have earned it and are counting on it. It will increase costs for working people by driving up interest rates on items like credit cards, car loans, and mortgage rates at the same time families are struggling with high prices. Even if it just lasted a few weeks, it could cause a recession that could result in the loss of nearly six million jobs, the unemployment rate could double and it could wipe out $12 trillion in household wealth.
Historically, both Republicans and Democrats worked together to address increases needed in the debt limit so that our country can continue to pay its bills and we can avoid a default, which hurts everyone–no matter which Party they belong to–and which can hasten recession, economic instability, and financial harm. Elected leaders of both parties should do the same now: pass a deal that averts default, does no harm, and allows our country to continue paying its bills and providing for our people.