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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Deal made; next crisis 2025

by John Brummett | May 31, 2023 at 3:13 a.m.

Flags flew above stoops. Charcoal flamed as burgers sizzled. Potato salads varied, from mom's downward. And, most likely, many people remembered, if for a moment, combat-lost Americans.

A debt-ceiling deal was on the table by which life would go on well through another Memorial Day. Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy had shaken on it over the phone late Saturday.

The United States government probably would not default on its debt and thereby precipitate potentially catastrophic global economic instability threatening markets, retirement savings and Social Security.

The next debt-limit brinkmanship would not occur until 2025, after the presidential election. You don't want to play global economic chicken during American presidential-election season, which is perilous enough.

The rate of government spending growth would be less than what it would have been absent the deal, enough to make future deficit increases less than what they would have been.

The right-wing loons among Republicans and the no-common-sense left-wingers among Democrats would gripe and whine. Those would be good things. Government functions best when strong-willed ideologues are distressed.

Republicans would boast credibly that they won the negotiations. They got a little spending restraint, a little work requirement and a quicker permitting process for energy-producing permitting. Democrats got by giving fewer concessions than Republicans sought.

Oh, and they got a world without economic catastrophe.

Joe Biden would look and be as always: weak after a negotiation he vowed until just the other day never to engage in, but deft enough to clear the agenda with little to no major harm. Swing voters aren't going to go Republican because of a debt-ceiling deal. They're going to go Democratic because of Donald Trump or stay home because of the choice, provided Republicans persist in the kind favor for Democrats of declining to nominate someone sane. Some people weren't keeping up with the debt-ceiling issue, and the rest have their minds made up who's right and wrong, or which side they hate.

A few poor people falling in a new gap, being 49 to 54, able-bodied and without dependents, would face a work requirement for food stamps that probably wouldn't put very many people to work or starve anybody, but would increase administrative busy work for government officials.

That the deal is less than meets the eye, and is more about talking points than policy significance, is nowhere more evident than in that work requirement for food stamps.

First, the Biden administration staved off a work requirement for Medicaid. You remember Arkansas tried that and put no one to work but thousands off health insurance until the federal courts overturned the nonsense. So, mainly the deal came down to food stamps, which already have what is called a work requirement. Anyone who is on food stamps and without dependents and deemed able-bodied between the ages of 18 and 48 is already required either to find work of 20 hours a week. or register for work and/or participate in a work-training program, or produce confirmation of volunteer work. The deal raises that 18-to-48 age span to 18 to 54.

So, if you hear Republicans crowing about the work-requirement accomplishment, or "progressive" Democrats lamenting the horror, just remember that all the noise is over a few people 49 to 54 who are able-bodied and who henceforth will need to get a letter from the church where they've been volunteering on janitorial and grounds upkeep.

I've always deemed work requirements for the social safety net to be mean-spirited. But even I'm all right with asking a 53-year-old able-bodied man with no responsibility to anyone other than himself to get off the couch and sweep a few floors for global financial stability.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Print Headline: Deal made; next crisis 2025


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