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No More Delay on the Debt Limit

July 18, 2011
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    I've written here before about the dysfunction we see in Washington and how it stands in the way of tackling so many of the challenges that our nation faces.  The latest episode is delay and inaction on raising the debt ceiling - "Russian roulette" in the words of Warren Buffett.

    Our nation's debt is a serious issue and it deserves a serious debate, but when independent forecasters warn that our economy could dive into a second recession, partisan politics need to be put aside for the good of New Mexico and the whole country.  This weekend my predecessor, former Sen. Pete Domenici said:

    "I have more than one time put my head on my desk and just thought ‘How can we do this to ourselves with high unemployment and so many other problems? How can we stab ourselves right in the heart?' This should not be happening."

    At a time when families are already dealing with extremely tight budgets, a default would mean increased costs for just about everything - from food and gas to housing and sending the kids to college. It would also jeopardize critical federal benefits that veterans, seniors and others depend on to pay the bills and stay healthy.

    For example, more than 360,000 people in New Mexico receive Social Security - for retirement, survivors benefits or disability.  Here's how it breaks down across the state:

    New Mexico Social Security Recipients

    Source: U.S. Social Security Administration

    If the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline, the more than 360,000 Social Security recipients in New Mexico would be in danger of their benefits being disrupted.

    Failure to extend the debt ceiling would be a real crisis for our state, with every New Mexican paying the price:

    • More than 174,000 New Mexico veterans would be at risk of having their benefits disrupted.
    • Almost 1,000 active-duty military personnel from New Mexico may stop receiving payments for their service to our country.
    • Local communities in New Mexico received $27.5 billion - or just over $37,000 per household - from the federal government in 2009. These investments included funding for Social Security, Medicare, grants to local and state governments for law enforcement, transportation and other initiatives critical to communities. With a default, that funding would be in jeopardy. States and localities may be forced to raise property taxes on families if these investments are threatened.
    • Mortgage payments would increase by more than $1,000 for the average family. The average monthly mortgage payment in the United States is $1,022. A 75-basis-point hike in Treasury Bond interest rates, as estimated by J.P. Morgan to occur with a default, would raise the average mortgage payment by roughly $85 a month - or $1,020 per year.
    • Credit card interest would increase by $250 for the average family. Credit card interest payments in the U.S. total approximately $94 billion per year. A 75-basis-point hike in rates would increase this by $5 billion to $99 billion. In 2009, nearly half of Americans had credit card debt, with a median balance of $3,300. That means the average family with credit card debt will pay nearly $250 more in interest.

    The funding that every county in New Mexico receives would be in jeopardy:

    County Total Federal Expenditures Retirement & Disability Other Direct Payments Grants to State & Local Gov't Purchases of Goods/Services
    Bernalillo $9,629,048 $2,204,877 $891,716 $1,560,747 $3,749,572
    Catron $38,181 $20,274 $4,146 $8,971 $396
    Chaves $502,791 $201,472 $99,312 $163,356 $4,835
    Cibola $143,756 $76,835 $23,305 $23,678 $2,075
    Colfax $154,334 $55,813 $25,604 $61,391 $5,593
    Curry $538,149 $146,047 $97,288 $113,073 $35,492
    De Baca $31,692 $8,430 $5,807 $16,419 $201
    Doña Ana $1,832,372 $608,237 $269,923 $435,220 $324,390
    Eddy $836,151 $162,455 $96,590 $164,923 $351,315
    Grant $286,883 $128,986 $56,316 $84,084 $1,966
    Guadalupe $62,739 $13,096 $8,624 $37,833 $396
    Harding $7,899 $2,893 $2,290 $1,988 $132
    Hidalgo $73,377 $17,887 $10,164 $31,255 $384
    Lea $388,792 $141,392 $107,593 $130,641 $1,558
    Lincoln $146,132 $85,376 $26,533 $22,946 $3,612
    Los Alamos $2,639,942 $47,060 $16,469 $55,964 $2,497,885
    Luna $223,451 $95,395 $43,387 $53,344 $990
    McKinley $850,281 $174,721 $88,289 $390,583 $50,896
    Mora $72,283 $21,009 $7,566 $40,653 $432
    Otero $694,906 $254,233 $72,479 $87,777 $45,259
    Quay $127,291 $41,218 $34,996 $48,024 $484
    Rio Arriba $839,035 $126,929 $63,987 $234,076 $392,313
    Roosevelt $166,644 $46,314 $62,775 $47,182 $4,994
    San Juan $895,116 $316,584 $176,700 $291,426 $12,928
    San Miguel $384,872 $105,590 $55,603 $206,378 $2,681
    Sandoval $670,675 $334,628 $96,909 $197,809 $16,467
    Santa Fe $2,136,925 $468,542 $140,560 $1,252,927 $161,980
    Sierra $155,103 $73,004 $35,188 $37,636 $2,789
    Socorro $206,858 $57,036 $25,479 $106,312 $5,019
    Taos $314,924 $112,722 $40,410 $131,707 $6,617
    Torrance $113,437 $49,555 $17,135 $42,406 $585
    Union $43,994 $14,459 $12,373 $13,181 $477
    Valencia $493,322 $240,885 $95,726 $115,974 $19,041
    Non-County $1,770,827 $715 $994,292 $743,361 $32,458
    NM Total $27,472,182 $6,454,670 $3,805,535 $6,953,245 $7,736,211

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau

    It is time to put partisan politics aside and stop looking at this crisis as a political opportunity to score rhetorical points.  It is time to do what is right for New Mexicans. We must increase the debt ceiling, and we must do it by Aug. 2.

    Office Locations

    • Albuquerque
      219 Central Ave NW
      Suite 210
      Albuquerque, NM 87102
      (505) 346-6791

    • Carlsbad
      102 W. Hagerman Street
      Suite A
      Carlsbad, NM 88220
      (575) 234-0366

    • Eastside Office
      100 South Avenue A
      Suite 113
      Portales, NM 88130
      (575) 356-6811

    • Las Cruces
      201 N. Church Street
      Suite 201B
      Las Cruces, NM 88001 
      (575) 526-5475

    • Santa Fe
      120 South Federal Place
      Suite 302
      Santa Fe, NM 87501
      (505) 988-6511

    • Washington, DC
      110 Hart Senate Office Building
      Washington DC, 20510
      (202) 224-6621