GOP leader McCarthy went to Wall St. to sell his debt ceiling scheme — and it's not going well for him
Kevin McCarthy (AFP)

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy traveled to Wall Street on Monday, the financial capital of the world, to deliver a speech at the New York Stock Exchange demanding President Joe Biden negotiate with him on the debt ceiling while he unveiled what is being called his latest “scheme” – taking the debt ceiling “hostage,” failing to produce his long overdue budget, and revealing that it will include a requirement that people who use food stamps to survive will to have to work to get them.

It hasn’t been well received.

In fact, most aspects of his speech, and even his choice of venue, have been thoroughly lambasted, discredited, or just mocked over the past 24 hours.

“Kevin McCarthy literally going to the New York Stock Exchange to pitch cutting food stamps for poor people is… well, there’s a reason why people think Kevin is an idiot,” tweeted Vox’s generally reserved Ian Millhiser.

“Today at the NYSE, Speaker McCarthy explained his scheme to slash food aid for low-income Americans to his true constituents: Wall Street and massive corporations who pay little to no taxes,” tweeted the New York Working Families Party.

“Delivering today’s speech threatening our economy at the New York Stock Exchange shows Speaker McCarthy is either in denial about the danger of his threats or intentionally hoping for market turmoil,” tweeted U.S Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA). “I’m not sure which is worse.”

It wasn’t just the venue. Far from it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday railed against McCarthy’s speech: “I’ll be blunt, if Speaker McCarthy continues in this direction, we are headed to default.”

It gets worse for McCarthy.

Indeed, McCarthy’s “argument is out of date,” wrote noted author and professor of history Heather Cox Richardson overnight in her Substack newsletter.

“It’s time to get Americans back to work,” McCarthy on Monday declared, despite unemployment having hit a 54-year low, (and a new historic low for Black unemployment), as the Speaker blamed President Joe Biden, alleging he’s keeping Americans from obtaining employment.

McCarthy repeatedly promised he “will grow the economy,” as he promised to bring jobs back from China, while complaining that “there are more job openings than people who are looking for jobs.”

He touted House Republicans’ HR 1 legislation, the “Lower the Energy Cost Act,” that “makes us less dependent upon China, and it brings jobs back to America that will grow the economy,” he said.

Now, we should presume that McCarthy has an economist on staff, hopefully. But it does not appear so, because what he’s promising doesn’t actually work.

Economists tell us that inflation is still at higher levels because the economy is growing too fast – which is why the Federal Reserve keeps raising interest rates, literally to slow the growth so we don’t explode into a recession. And yet McCarthy wants to grow the economy which in theory will lead to higher inflation.

“I have full confident [sic] that if we limit our federal spending, if we save the taxpayer money,” said Speaker McCarthy, in his unique manner. “If we grow our economy, yes we will end the dependence on China, we will curve [sic] inflation, and we will protect Social Security and Medicare for the next generation.”

“In reality,” Professor Richardson observes, “the inflation that plagued the U.S. as it reopened from the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed dramatically, making it clear that the policies of the Biden administration are working. As Jennifer Rubin noted yesterday in the Washington Post, the annual inflation rate for producers is 2.7%—the lowest rate in more than two years—while consumer price increases are at their lowest point since May 2021: 5%. Gasoline prices have dropped 17.4% since the high prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The overall declines mark nine months of slowing inflation.”

She goes on to deflate McCarthy’s claims.

“At the same time, labor force participation is at record high levels,” Richardson notes. “Real incomes—that is, incomes after inflation is factored in—have risen 7% for those making $35,000 a year or less and 1.3% across the whole economy. Meanwhile, the deficit has dropped more than $1.7 trillion in two years.”

McCarthy also said he wants to create more job openings, while acknowledging that there aren’t enough people to fill the job openings we currently have.

Which is why, just like Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Iowa Republicans gutting child labor laws to allow America’s most vulnerable population to work adult jobs, Speaker McCarthy is looking for anyone (except the people staring him in the face: undocumented immigrants, and migrants from Central America) to fill those jobs.

Instead, McCarthy wants to put Americans to work, Americans who for many reasons need government assistance – food stamps – while ignoring that most families on food stamps already have people working at least one job.

“Our proposal will also restore work requirements that ensure able-bodied adults without dependents, earn a paycheck, and learn new skills that will grow our economy and help the supply chain. Right now there are more job openings than people who are looking for jobs. You know why? It’s in part because of the Biden administration weakened work requirements,” McCarthy claimed. “Incentives matter. And the incentives today are out of whack. It’s time to get Americans back to work. Don’t believe anyone who says our plans hurt Americans’ social safety net.”

“We are very generous nation,” McCarthy claimed, ignoring that most industrialized nations provide far more services, like universal healthcare. “A hand up, not a hand out,” he said invoking Ronald Reagan, but just the parts that fit his narrative, not the main focus of his speech.

What was the main focus of his speech?

The debt ceiling. And his desire to negotiate over it — or, as many are saying, holding the nation hostage to fringe House Republicans’ demands.

“McCarthy is trying to hide the Republicans’ own bumbling disarray,” tweeted Richardson. “Congress negotiates over the BUDGET, not the debt ceiling, which simply pays for bills already rung up in large part by the Republicans themselves. But they can’t agree on a budget, so are screaming about Biden.”

Pointing to his Morning Memo titled, “This Is The Dumbest Debt Ceiling Fight Ever,” Talking Points Memo executive editor David Kurtz tweeted, “Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has such a tenuous grip on his own conference that the debt-ceiling hostage-taking he is attempting to pull off has all the hallmarks of the bumbling kidnapping capers you see in the movies.”

Professor Richardson actually had a lot more to say about Speaker McCarthy in her newsletter.

“McCarthy has not offered a budget proposal because the Republican conference cannot agree on one,” she says, noting he is “trying to use the threat of national default to extract the cuts extremist members of his conference want. The Biden administration has made it clear that it will not negotiate over paying the nation’s bills, especially since about a quarter of the debt was accumulated under former president Trump, $2 trillion of it thanks to tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In those years, Congress raised the debt ceiling three times. Biden presented his own long, detailed budget, full of his own priorities, as a start to negotiations in March, and he says he is eager to sit down and hammer out the budget once McCarthy produces his own plan. McCarthy is trying to deflect from his inability to do that but is confusing the issue, suggesting that he has the right to negotiate instead over whether or not to pay our bills.”

House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ spokesperson, Christie Stephenson, on Monday blasted “Speaker McCarthy’s refusal to produce a Republican budget,” and his New York Stock Exchange speech:

“A speech is not a plan. Extreme MAGA Republicans continue to treat the full faith and credit of the United States as a hostage situation while their so-called budget proposal remains in the witness protection program. As always, we will evaluate any legislative text when and if House Republicans can ever agree with themselves about how much they want to devastate American families in order to finance tax cuts for the wealthy, well-off and well-connected.”