. . . the transcript (excerpted):
[MADDOW] When World War I started in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson was bound and determined that the United States would not get itself involved.
By keeping us out of the Great War, he was reelected in 1916.
But World War I was nevertheless dragging on, and expanding and by the spring of 1917, not even six months after Wilson had been reelected on the slogan, “he kept us out of war,” Congress voted to declare war and we jumped in.
But the political wrangling over that hard decision in 1917, left us with a little parting gift that is still totally screwing us up today. Because part of the way they tried to win over people who had objected us joining the war on cost grounds was to create a new thing in U.S. law. A new limit on what our country could spend. We could spend up to X amounts, but for any reason if the government wanted to spend any more than, Congress would have to affirmatively regroup, write a piece of legislation, and pass a new limit on what we could spend.
That process was created in 1917 to placate the isolationists who didn`t want us to enter World War I. That is the very specific history of how we got what we call “the debt ceiling.” We got it in 1917 and for more than a hundred years now, we have kept it.
It doesn`t function as a barrier to our government spending money, obviously. It doesn`t even keep us from spending endlessly and rapaciously on years-long epic wars. It doesn`t constrain U.S. government spending in any meaningful way at all. It just gives Congress something to do that they have to do every so often, because if they don`t, we will default on our debt and fling ourselves into a fiery self-imposed financial train crash for no reason other than that nobody ever thought to turn off this stupid thing that we turned on in 1917 because we needed to placate people who felt bad that we changed our minds about entering that war.
And over the 100-plus years that we have been saddled with this thing, it has loomed smaller or larger depending on the decade, depending on circumstances.
Just since roughly 1960, Congress had to vote to raise the stupid debt ceiling dozens of times, nearly a hundred times under presidents of both parties.
Again, it`s work that you have to do for no benefit. You get nothing positive for doing it. But if you don`t do it, fiery financial disaster on a national, and indeed, international scale.
It`s like if you have a backyard at your house or your apartment and you decided you were going to keep a piranha-filled lagoon right next to the swing set. I mean, yes, theoretically, having the piranha filled lagoon there might make your kids more careful in the swing set, make them develop a good balance so they don`t fall in and get eaten by the piranhas, right? Theoretically, okay, maybe there`s some benefit to it. But honestly, it`s all downside.
Why would you do that? They might fall in. Why would you set a trap like that in your yard? Why would you set a trap like this in American law?
But we have kept it ever since 1917. There it is.
Four years ago, September 2017, Trump’s first year, Democrats agreed to raise the debt ceiling. Not a single Democrat voted no. They voted unanimously not to throw the country in the proverbial piranha pit.
Yes, the other party is in charge, but let`s not self inflict a totally pointless crisis and huge unnecessary expenditure on our country by having us hit the debt ceiling, default on our debt, have a credit rating downgraded, throwing ourselves and a big part of the world into another financial crash for no reason. Democrats said let`s not do that. It doesn`t matter that the Republicans are in charge. Nobody wants that for our country. We will vote unanimously, so that should not happen.
That was four years ago. September 27. Now it is September 2021. And it`s the mirror image of the partisan control, right?
Now we`ve got a Democrat in his first year as president. Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. And just like September 2017, once again, it is time to do that thing. That we have been doing since World War I.
Once again, it is time to take that dumb vote raise the debt ceiling, in order to placate the ghost of the Austria-Hungarian empire, or why ever we still do this.
It is ridiculous that we still do it, but if we don`t do it — real problems, default crisis, huge, expensive, self-inflicted wound.
And this time, with Democrats in control, Republicans say they won`t do it.
They will not vote to keep the lights on. They will not vote to avoid a government shutdown, and they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. In fact, they say they will filibuster the debt ceiling vote, which means Democrats can`t raise the debt ceiling unless they get Republican senators to side with them and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell says no Republicans are going to do that.
When Trump and the Republicans were in charge four years ago, Democrats did this unanimously for the country. Now that Biden and the Democrats are in charge, Republicans stand unanimously against it.
So, apparently, we`re going to take a deliberate leap into the piranha pool, unless something changes, soon.
Tonight, the House just in the last half hour has voted to raise the debt ceiling to keep the lights on and keep our country out of the proverbial piranha pool.
Zero Republicans voted with the Democrats to do this.
And in the Senate, Republicans say they won`t do it.
It doesn`t matter that Democrats voted to do that unanimously when Republicans were in control. With Democrats in control, Republicans say no, screw it.
There’s much more, as you know if you watched. But that’s a good start.
Spain is amazing.
Wish you were here.
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