Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Barely Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke at the New York Stock Exchange Monday, attempting to convince Wall Street that if the nation defaults on its debts in a few months and causes a global financial crisis, it’s all going to be President Joe Biden’s fault. That’s a tough sell since it’s been McCarthy’s GOP that has been arguing for months that a default could be managed by the Treasury Department while they flailed around unable to come up with a plan of their own.

“He’s probably trying to reassure investors and Wall Street … that Congress is capable of doing something, and we’re going to do something,” Rep. Steve Womack told The Washington Post, calling it a “test” for McCarthy. He added that the “real problem” is whether McCarthy can find 218 votes among the GOP to pass any kind of bill, much less a plan to present to the White House.

One thing McCarthy apparently wants is to make people go hungry. A centerpiece to the budget-cutting message he took to Wall Street is steep cuts to food assistance programs. That’s getting a tepid response from Republicans in the Senate (where it’s not going to pass). One GOP Senate aide scoffed “I mean, Godspeed. Get what you can. We’re going to live in reality over here.”

Arkansas GOP Sen. John Boozman reiterated that reality, saying it “would be difficult to pass in the Senate with 60 votes.” He’s doubtful it would even get 218 in the House GOP. “You look at the margin in the House,” he said, “It might be difficult to pass it in the House.”

McCarthy has four votes to spare, and plenty of his members have constituents among the 41 million low-income Americans who get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program help. That includes a bunch of swing-state Republicans, including a new group of freshmen members from New York.

That’s just one aspect of the massive cuts McCarthy would have to pass to achieve the kind of spending reductions he’s talking about–cuts that he’s going to find impossible to find 218 votes for.

That’s just one reason he has no plan, as Biden was quick to point out. “Show me his budget,” Biden told reporters early Sunday morning, on his return from his trip to Ireland. Biden released his budget on March 9. McCarthy has released nothing. Not even an agreed upon outline for the cuts he’s demanding.

"I don't know what we're negotiating if I don't know what they want, what they're going to do,” Biden stressed.

That’s one reason the White House is as adamant as it is in arguing that the only option is a clean debt ceiling that is separate from budget negotiations. They can count to 218, even if McCarthy can’t. They can also point to plenty of evidence that just one side of this argument thinks that breaching the debt limit isn’t such a big deal.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the White House, responded to the latest from McCarthy in a statement reflecting that. The House should “immediately take a default on our obligations–which would worsen the fiscal outlook–off the table.”

“House Republicans must address the debt limit; that’s their non-negotiable obligation under the Constitution,” Bates said.

House Republicans have spent more time putting together an inoperable plan for what the Treasury Department could do after a default rather than putting together any kind of budget to take to Biden to begin a real negotiating process. Taking the nation into default has actually become a thing that some Republicans think should happen. For real.

“My view is that the crisis at hand is the debt; it’s not that we might not pass the debt ceiling,” said Stephen Moore, a leading economist at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation. “It’s that we can’t just stay on this path. There will be a financial train wreck.”

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, real economists’ hair is on fire. “It will be financial chaos,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, if the nation even comes close to default. “Our fiscal problems will be meaningfully worse. … Our geopolitical standing in the world will be undermined.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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No, People Shouldn't Be Living On City Streets
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A lot of smart voices seem afraid to say outright that homeless mentally ill people should be taken off the streets, forcibly if necessary. They may easily agree that the sad humans sleeping on grates and under bridges would benefit from coming indoors for medical care and other social services. But they can't concede that the public's right to use sidewalks, parks and train stations should trump a homeless person's desire to take over those spaces.

Thus, this headline in the Harvard Gazette: "N.Y. plan to involuntarily treat mentally ill homeless? Not entirely outrageous."

The piece mostly defended New York Mayor Eric Adams' plan to hospitalize mentally ill people without their consent, but the "not entirely outrageous" was wrongly apologetic. There is nothing "outrageous" about stopping people living in filth, hollering into the night and sometimes attacking bystanders from, in effect, denying others access to public amenities.

This is a good opportunity to revisit the views of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who wrote in the 1950s about "private affluence and public squalor" in our cities and towns. He was referring to the size and comforts of American homes versus the shabbiness of our shared streets with their poor lighting and trash all around. In cities like Paris, he said, the opposite was the case. There, apartments were tiny and lacking modern appliances, but the world outside was well kept.

Galbraith was a liberal and meant "private affluence and public squalor" to reflect the ability of our rich to better limit their exposure to the broken-down public sphere. And so there is great irony in self-described progressives' insistence that the squalor of homeless encampments is acceptable in the name of affording dignity to the poor.

Some have sued the city making mostly specious arguments. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, for example, holds that the program puts people at risk for being detained "for merely living with their illness while in a public place."

The lawsuit further complains that they could be forcibly hospitalized "solely because an NYPD officer perceives them to have a mental disability and nothing more."

But that's not how it works. When the police take someone who concerns them to a hospital, that individual then undergoes evaluation by mental health professionals. Anyone who has witnessed the growing number of disheveled souls screaming at passersby and sometimes slamming into them understands that the bar for involuntary detention is high.

And those who recall the horrifying incident in which a homeless man pushed a young woman to her death as a subway train approached would be at pains to downplay his level of insanity as a "mental disability."

Katherine Koh, a street psychiatrist in Boston, told the Gazette that the criteria for hospitalizing someone without consent are whether there is serious risk of self-harm or harm to others. A third, "inability to care for oneself to a degree that it puts the person at risk of serious harm," is less clear but an important consideration.

For a treatable population, she adds, expanding community-based mental health services and supportive housing would be the preferred outcome to long-term hospitalization. If more staff and facilities are needed, the public has a duty to build them. But the public won't have the money to build them if the homeless crisis frightens away enough business to badly hurt the local economy.

In the end, citizens should have the right to enter a subway without having to step around cardboard boxes turned into shelters. And recognize that those who can afford the private affluence of taxis don't have to endure the public squalor of the others who have to walk through it. Where is the justice there?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.