The Congress is under pressure to raise the nation’s $23 trillion debt limit by a late summer or early September deadline, when the borrowing authority of the Treasury Department expires.
Default is a possibility.
Think on it: The U.S. government, a $4 trillion annual enterprise, scratching under the sofa pillows for money to pay the bills, starting with Social Security payments, federal salaries and interest on the debt.
Some members of Congress want to trade brinkmanship, procrastination or political gridlock – over a ballooning budget – for raising the debt ceiling. But the federal debt is their own doing, a by-product of appropriations (spending) authorized by the House and Senate. Debt allows the government to borrow to pay the bills rung up by the Congress, like ordering on credit.
The debt ceiling is the maximum amount the United States can borrow by issuing bonds. It’s a bit like the limit on a credit card. The government has maxed out. Extending the debt ceiling is akin to increasing the government’s credit limit. Posturing left and right only gets in the way.
Saying no to a credit increase is the Congress’ way of saying, we bought all this stuff but now we don’t want to pay for it, and it does nothing to resolve the issue of spending in the first place. But should the United States be known as the world’s wealthiest deadbeat?
There is no legitimate reason to stall on the credit ceiling. The budget deficit has doubled from $665 billion to $1.3 trillion in two years due largely to Trump tax cuts and a doubling of Pentagon spending to $800 billion.
And the Treasury Department reports that the deficit, fueled by spending that outpaces revenue, is gobbling more of the national economy. Our over-spending and under-taxing only adds to the deficit and the debt. We have a deficit problem, and a credit problem, and above all we have a problem with Congress, where self interest rules and the national interest goes begging.
the gentle Bug
Earlier this month Volkswagen rolled the last Beetle off an assembly line in Mexico. It seemed a sad day especially for the generations who had known the original “people’s car,” or at least driven one.
This motor car has been around for more than 80 years, but serious production – and affection – did not begin until 1948 and ’49, when German factories burst back to life after the Second World War and the first Beetles went on sale in Europe and the Americas.
All politics and cultural baggage aside, the Beetle was to be seen for what it was, primarily a means of getting to and from work, school, or errand. And it added some tang to the mission.
Looking back on it, the Beetle seemed a functional kin to the Model-A Ford (1927-’32) in its day, and for a simple reason. The Volkswagen continued a triumph of honest, unfussy design and sturdy materials. It had few moving parts, especially about the engine, which was air-cooled. It was a gasoline pincher, it put on no airs, it came with its own five- or six-piece tool kit and when something got out-of-whack, the owner could usually tinker it quickly back to health. With normal maintenance (wax for the body, fresh oil for the engine) the early-era Beetles could earn high marks for durability and efficiency.
This was the Beetle before Volkswagen began to hatch siblings – a wagon, a camper, the Golf (odd name for a car), the Jetta, Passat and others. In the late ’90s, the company introduced the “new” Beetle, of similar design to the original but one that had put on weight and tried too hard to be cute.
Worse, the engine was moved to the front, tricked out with the modern complexities of electronic fuel injection and turbo-charging, a foolish attempt to be seen as a hot rod. (Devoted owners did not think their Bugs needed muscle.) The car could be at once fussy and perky. But it worked, it was durable, and with its rear engine moved easily through mud and snow. Police in Germany drove them for years.
The Beetle was left behind by an industry race to conformity in design and to worship at the altar of computerized gadgetry. The old Beetle could never be a candidate for advanced digital engineering. It was a companion, faithful, simple, loyal. It got you from here to there and back without complicating things.
The genuine Beetle was abandoned long ago. And now the end of the line for the “new” Beetle, and for a simple and practical automobile.