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POLITICS: PennAve

Big Ideas: On debt ceiling, climate change and fear of guns

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Gun Control,Treasury,Debt Ceiling,Climate Change,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Energy and Environment,Think Tanks

Michael Strain and Stan Veuger for the American Enterprise Institute: Much is in flux in Washington this week. But two important realities have remained constant, whether certain elements in the GOP accept them or not: We must not default on the federal debt, and we shouldn't wait until we're on the brink of default to raise the debt ceiling.

The United States actually defaulted on its debt once, in spring 1979. Then, as now, the debt ceiling was a source of partisan bickering, and an agreement was reached only at the last moment. The late passage, along with computer problems, meant the Treasury Department was late in making payments on maturing securities to individual investors and in redeeming T-bills.

The moral of that story is clear: If Congress waits too long to raise the debt ceiling, the slightest error can throw the country into default on its obligations. Economists Terry L. Zivney and Richard D. Marcus, who studied the incident, concluded that this temporary default on a tiny share of the debt increased T-bill yields by six-tenths of a percentage point and resulted in $12 billion in additional interest payments.

If the near-default of 2011 and a very minor default in 1979 cost so much money, imagine how much an actual default would cost taxpayers.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL

Neil Bhatiya for The Century Foundation: Deniers of unequivocal climate change, beware. The proof you've been looking for is hot off the presses.

Reflecting the consensus of the international scientist community about Earth’s changing climate, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began rolling out its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

It makes for comprehensive and scary reading. Basically, all indicators of the Earth’s climate system — carbon emissions, surface temperatures, ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, sea levels and ice cover — have been worsening, according to actual science. (You can find the best summaries at Grist and ClimateProgress.)

If you’re only interested in the elevator pitch of the most important facts, you’re in luck. Here are the 32 Most Important Words in the IPCC Report:

"Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

It really is that simple. Or, it should be. Politics and economics have complicated it. Climate change denial is all too pervasive in Washington.

Even among those who do acknowledge climate change, it has yet to translate into an urgent political action. Someone making a casual read of America’s elected representatives' priorities couldn't help but sense that, despite the Obama administration’s best efforts, common sense actions continue to face extreme resistance.

 

TAKING FEAR OF GUNS TOO FAR

Evan Bernick for The Heritage Foundation: Just when you thought gun-fearing “educators” couldn't get any sillier.

Last week, it was a couple of teenagers suspended for a year for playing with airsoft guns on the front lawn. This week, it’s a second-grader suspended for a day for using his finger as a pretend gun.

Yes, 8-year-old Jordan Bennett was sent home after administrators at Harmony Community School in Harmony, Fla., concluded that the gesture was an act of violence. School district officials have told the press that their code of conduct prohibits students from playing with invisible guns.

An act of violence? Are they really that dumb? Jordan’s mother, Bonnie, is justifiably bewildered by the stupidity of this punishment: “He had nothing in his hand. It was a finger gun, a pretend gun. He didn’t threaten violence. He didn’t utter words that were inappropriate. He made a sound and used his fingers and that was it.”

This is not the first time that school officials have overreacted to second-grade gun play. In March, Josh Welch, a 7-year-old (yes, 7) student at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, was accused of nibbling a rectangular, strawberry-filled pastry into a gun-like shape, then stating “bang, bang.” School officials were sufficiently disturbed by this event to remove Josh from class and banish him from the premises for two days.

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