Breakfast with Senator Patty Murray

Since the November 2016 election I’ve upped my political donations, which means I get invited to events like breakfast with Senator Patty Murray here in Seattle. Lest you picture an intimate event where I have the Senator’s full attention, dream on. These events typically have 30+ people at them. But still, I usually get to ask a question, and to hear the questions of others and the Senator’s thoughtful, incisive answers. Patty Murray is a gem. I wish the Senate had more like her.

My question has to do with whether Democrats can do anything to keep Trump from exploding the debt ceiling, because he fancies himself the “king of debt” and thinks, deep down, that he can erase a good part of our national debt by pushing the country into default and negotiating with other countries for pennies on the dollar. It’s a strategy that worked for him in New York commercial real estate, and as Dan Balz of the Washington Post points out, Trump holds on to what he thinks he knows. Early in the campaign, Trump talked about defaulting on the U.S. debt as a means of erasing the deficit, and he got such blowback he stopped talking about it. But now he’s president, and I have no reason to think he’s stopped believing it.

Defaulting on our debt would throw the economy into a tailspin, and be very, very hard on people in my age bracket who live on pensions and/or the income from investments. Many states have public pension systems that are woefully underfunded; a default would be the absolute death-knell for the portfolios from which these pensions are paid.

Why do I think this is a real danger? Over and over, we can see Trump going back to his convictions — aka tweeting that the travel ban is really a ban, even as his legal advisors try to shape it into something acceptable to the courts — despite the evidence and despite political blowback or the advice of people who know what they are talking about. Trump revels in being a disruptor. He despises “experts”. He knows what he knows, much of it wrong, and he clings to his beliefs even harder when he gets pushback.

I have no idea what Congress can do — the Democrats in Congress really, as the Republican majority seems incapable of opposing Trump in any form. But I’m going to ask Senator Murray.

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