June 7, 2023

The debt ceiling debate between the Home GOP and President Joe Biden might, if not solved, result in financial chaos and destruction – so it may appear surprisingly lighthearted to marvel what a Nice Despair-era singer and activist would take into consideration this specific political second.

Actually, in all of the analysis I did in placing collectively my e-book “Prophet Singer: The Voice and Imaginative and prescient of Woody Guthrie,” I by no means got here throughout any remark Woody Guthrie made concerning the debt ceiling.

However he lived via the Nice Despair and its aftermath. He additionally stood witness to legislators struggling to appropriate the route that the nation was headed in throughout the Thirties and early ‘40s.

He had so much to say about Congress basically and the way it dealt with the nationwide debt particularly.

He as soon as made a folksy joke that implies his emotions about this supposedly august physique.

“The Housewives of the nation are all the time afraid at nite, afraid they’s a Robber within the Home. Nope, Milady most of em is within the Senate,” he wrote in his common column for The Individuals’s Each day, known as “Woody Sez.”

Guthrie continuously railed towards politicians, each Republican and Democrat, who he thought represented their very own egocentric pursuits moderately than these of deserving working women and men.

What if he might survey as we speak’s America? Would his feedback on the state of the nation up to now recommend that he would have one thing to say in 2023?

In truth, a few of his observations sound as in the event that they have been written about this political second – moderately than his personal.

‘Hearin’ the hens a cacklin’

When Guthrie visited Washington, D.C., in 1940, he managed to listen to some Senate debates and offered his ideas on their effectiveness.

“I gawthered the Reactionary Republicans was in love with the Reactionary Republicans; additionally that the Liberal Democrats was in love with th’ Liberal Demacrats. Every introduced a short case of statistics proving that the opposite temporary instances of statistics, was mistaken, misinterpret, misquoted, mislabeled, and mis-spoken,” he wrote in his column.

And simply what have been politicians arguing over then? The nationwide debt.

Bipartisan legislative efforts raised the debt ceiling 3 times underneath President Donald Trump. Now, Home Republicans are balking until sure situations are met, whereas the Democrats are demanding a clear invoice with no restrictions.

Guthrie witnessed a lot the identical state of affairs in his period. Throughout his go to to Washington, D.C., he listened to “senators a making speeches – on each conceivable topic underneath the solar, an’ although the style by which they introduced forth their arguments, their polished wit, and refined maneuvers, have been all very entertaining, I come out of it as empty handed as I went in,” he wrote in “Woody Sez.”

He then in contrast their debates to “hearin’ the hens a cacklin’ – and a runnin’ out to th barn.” Regardless of the scene’s being “loud, noisy, and lots entertaining,” the end result was “no eggs.”

There’s lots of noise coming from Congress as we speak additionally – however no outcomes.

What might occur if the 2 sides can’t agree? A telling instance occurred in 2011, when the bipartisan deal to boost the debt ceiling got here so late that Normal & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit standing – which hiked the curiosity that wanted to be paid on the U.S. debt.

But when an settlement doesn’t occur, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that such a disaster would carry on “financial and monetary disaster” on a nationwide and international scale.

Guthrie would discover this sort of brinkmanship troubling. Not as a result of he was a political operative, with merely an mental understanding of the dangers. As a substitute, he was pushed by a private information of the day-to-day hardships, the human toll of such momentous political choices. His household had fallen from middle-class security into abject poverty even earlier than the onset of the Nice Despair.

Due to falling agricultural costs within the aftermath of World Struggle I and his father’s actual property hypothesis in some small farms surrounding their hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, the Guthries couldn’t sustain with their mortgages. They have been compelled into foreclosures.

Guthrie joked that his father “was the one man on the planet that misplaced a farm a day for thirty days.”

Foreclosures would seemingly be simply certainly one of the ruinous results of default now, together with rates of interest hikes, slashing of social packages, unemployment spikes and decimation of pension plans. All are detrimental outcomes, however they’re sure to hit the poor and dealing class the toughest.

These are the folks whom Woody Guthrie advocated for all through his profession. These are the folks whose hardships he lamented in such songs as “I Ain’t Acquired No Dwelling” and “Mud Bowl Refugee.”

However he additionally expressed optimism concerning the energy of those self same folks to make a optimistic change, akin to in “Union Maid” and “Higher World A-Comin’.” Particular person and collective motion was vital, in response to Guthrie, and he celebrated each. The union maid would “all the time get her manner when she requested for higher pay,” and in “Higher World” he sings, “we’ll all be union and we’ll all be free.”

Maybe his best-known feedback concerning the nation seem in “This Land Is Your Land,” with the favored model praising the American panorama. However in his early model of that music, he ended it along with his narrator surveying a line of hungry folks lined up “by the aid workplace” after which requested, “Was this land made for you and me?”

That query might rise once more in 2023: If congressional leaders debating over the debt ceiling fail to seek out frequent floor for the nation’s better good, maybe somebody will problem them and ask if the politicians are in workplace for the American folks, or for themselves – simply as Woody Guthrie would have.