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In Richard Westall‘s Sword of Damocles, 1812, the boys of Cicero‘s anecdote have been changed to maidens for a neoclassical patron, Thomas Hope. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope this post is my last post on the perennial debt ceiling impasse in American politics. The decision to raise the debt limit cannot be entrusted to feuding, vindictive, and, at times, uninformed politicians. Too much is at stake. One does not jeopardize intentionally the welfare of a nation and the world, which seems to be the case.

Had the debt ceiling not been raised, albeit temporarily, seniors would not have received their Social Security cheque. Veterans, the disabled, the unemployed, and other citizens would not have received the benefits to which they are entitled. Affordable health care would have been suspended. People who have contracted Covid-19’s Delta variant would not have received the care they need, the Military would not have the resources it requires, nor would law-enforcement agencies…

A Game of Chicken

Yet, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas calls the deal a “defeat” for the Republicans. Senators would be playing a “game of chicken.”

“We were on the verge of victory, but we turned that victory into defeat,” Mr. Cruz said in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, calling it a “strategic mistake by our leadership.” But, he added, “Chuck Schumer won this game of chicken.”
Debt Ceiling Bill Approved by Senate – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

The deal is temporary. It ends on 3 December 2021. By then, the deal may be repeated, which invites a comparison with the Myth of Sisyphus. The deal is not a solution, it is a stopgap and will remain a stopgap until reforms place the decision concerning raising the debt ceiling out of the hands of vindictive politicians. Meanwhile, the financial safety of Americans and the world will seem and be precarious. It will be a predicament inviting a comparison to the anecdote of the Sword of Damocles.

The Sword of Damocles

“Damocles, is a legendary courtier who extravagantly praised the happiness of Dionysius I, ruler of Syracuse. To show him how precarious this happiness was, Dionysius seated him at a table with a sword hung by a single hair over his head. The sword of Damocles is now used to refer to a precarious situation.”

(See Damocles, The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Oxford University Press, 2000)

“The anecdote apparently figured in the lost history of Sicily by Timaeus of Tauromenium (c. 356–260 BCE). The Roman orator Cicero (c. 106-43 BCE) may have read it in the texts of Greek historian Diodorus Siculus. Cicero used it in his Tusculanae Disputationes, 5. 61, by which means it passed into the European cultural mainstream.”
(See Damocles, Wikipedia)

This comparison is helpful. Although Dionysius I ruled, in his quest for power, he had offended others and made errors. He may even have committed crimes. So, he feared revenge.

Americans and the world are in a precarious position because of frightful partisanship. The United States has never defaulted, but it could. The Republicans are threatening the Democrats and former President Donald Trump is on the campaign trail. Stability is essential. Therefore, as noted above, the matter of the debt ceiling could be handled by economists employed by the United States. Moreover, the public pot of gold could be deeper. Certain reforms are necessary, and the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. If one pays his or her taxes, honest governments use the money to provide services. Let me tell a short story.

A Story

Last week, acute chest pain and feeling unwell forced me to go to a Hospital’s Emergency Room. I thought that everyone would be busy looking after Covid patients, but doctors and staff were available. The information they needed was in their computer, including proof of vaccination. I was wheeled to a small room, and after several tests, a doctor and health workers diagnosed pericarditis and medicated me. They phoned my pharmacy so medication would be delivered to my home. In the evening, a young man helped me get into a cab, so I could return home. The next morning, the pharmacy delivered the medication I required, and I have started to feel better.

So, paying my taxes afforded me the care which, in my eyes, only royalty receives. But that care is available to everyone and it is not jeopardized by a “game of chicken.” Shame on Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and perish vindictiveness. This kind of behaviour is dangerously irresponsible. My neighbours to the south deserve the care I am receiving.

3 December 2021

The debt ceiling had to be raised by 18 October 2021 and the deal is enabling Americans to stay afloat until 3 December 2021. The United States has excellent economists and there is an élite among Democrats. Chuck Schumer is an élite Senator. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, knows Washington inside out.

Moreover, although there may be a degree of dissent among members of a party, when the country needs them, the citizens of the United States usually rally. President Biden has a good team. The debt ceiling issue has been misused by both parties. It must be eliminated. The next dreaded deadline is 3 December 2021.


I hope that reforms will put the decision to raise the debt ceiling into the hands of experts who will be called upon to help an administration manage the economy. It may be best to remain as optimistic as possible. Motivation and solidarity are needed. First, Republicans must agree to raise the debt ceiling, for their own good, which they do not seem to know. Afterwards, one re-examines certain fiscal policies and updates priorities. The planet is endangered. 

What everyone must remember is that Republicans would be the first to suffer from refusing to raise the debt ceiling. They have seated themselves in Damocles’ chair and should know they have. If the ship sinks, they too will sink and they will be blamed. This is nonsense. Therefore, “stop the nonsense.” 


Love to everyone 💕

A scene from Joseph Keppler‘s Puck showing Damocles, wearing a crown labeled “Industry,” stands beneath a large sword, labeled “Coal Strikes,” which hangs above him by a thread, suggesting that the coal strikes at the beginning of the 20th century were the modern day sword of Damocles (1903) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
14 October 2021