It’s hard enough for most Americans to itemize and figure out their weekly budgets, let alone the complexities of the national debt and the impending default, but it is still important to understand this issue. 

An apparent agreement has been reached—we are told—between President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy, and now it’s a matter of getting members of Congress to go along with it.

One of the complaints we’ve heard from senators and representatives, on both sides of the aisle, is the issue of cuts and reductions: The Dems are concerned about how the poor, working class, and marginalized communities will be affected if the measure is passed.  

Echoing this reaction is Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who said in a recent statement that while the agreement on the debt ceiling is an improvement over the House bill, a number of troubling elements remain, including the risk of losing food assistance for very low-income older adults. 

“The agreement puts hundreds of thousands of older adults aged 50–54 at risk of losing food assistance, including a large number of women,” she said. “Doubling down on the existing, failed SNAP work-reporting requirement for adults aged 18–49 without children, this provision ignores the strong evidence that it takes food assistance away from large numbers of people without increasing employment or earnings.”

Such a possible outcome doesn’t seem to trouble the majority of GOP members of Congress, who are determined to hold the economy hostage to achieve their ends.

Last week, several senators began circulating a letter urging Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment, which, for many Americans bereft of history and civic lessons, was a baffling strategy. 

Simply put, the 14th Amendment states in part that the validity of the public debt “shall not be questioned,” a provision that goes back to the end of the Civil War, when the nation was in economic and political tatters. Thus far, the White House is not very excited about this tactic, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that it could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Let us hope that all these concerns and possibilities are academic and the nation can avoid a default, which would be unprecedented. Let us also hope that any cuts do not severely affect our imperiled citizenry—a wish that we all should have in our hearts and minds.

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