With ten days left before the looming Congressional deadline to raise the debt ceiling, I am hosting a gathering of fifty of the nation’s mayors in Los Angeles over the next two days, to urge Congress to reach an agreement on the debt limit to prevent default and ask them to invest in job creating programs.
Default will have an immediate and catastrophic impact on our cities, the implications are global, and economists agree. A credit downgrade will plunge us into a deep, double-dip recession. We urge Congressional leaders to act now.
The Congressional Research Service has estimated that if the debt ceiling is not increased, “the federal government would have to eliminate all spending on discretionary programs.” That means every federal payment to cities will stop, either immediately or shortly after default. The cuts would eliminate support for critical local programs including housing and community development, CDBG, COPS, Homeland Security, job training, and transportation infrastructure. This would have a crippling effect on our cities and on our people.
Additionally, local governments would also be prevented from issuing tax-exempt bonds. And cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would take billions more out of local economies.
Mayors understand that raising the debt ceiling isn't a partisan issue. The debt ceiling was raised 17 times under President Reagan, 4 times under President Clinton, 7 times under President George W. Bush, and has been raised 3 times under President Obama.
There’s a reason the overwhelming majority of Americans want a balanced approach combining spending reductions and new revenue. The facts are, that the request to increase the debt limit is for obligations Congress has already made -- this is not about new spending.
America’s cities are where Pennsylvania Avenue meets Main Street. Here, on the ground, mayors are working with businesses to try to put our citizens back to work after three years of economic stagnation. We can’t allow the budget impasse over the debt crisis in Washington to undo our progress and sink us back into recession.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is President of the United States Conference of Mayors