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Another Day Older And Deeper In Debt

(Alternate title: The Ceiling! The Ceiling! The Ceiling's On Fire!)

OK, let's talk red ink. The US government is rapidly approaching its debt ceiling of 14.3 trillion dollars (let's write that out -- $14,300,000,000,000.00), with estimates we'll hit it around March or April. The Republicans are talking about saying "no mas" and cutting enough to keep it from getting there. The Democrats are running around, screaming about apocalypse and defaults and shutdowns should we not raise it to allow Washington to keep on spending borrowed money.

I find myself, oddly enough, agreeing with Barack Obama. Not President Obama, but Senator Obama, who said in 2006:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. ... Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
Of course, that, like nearly all Obama statements, had an expiration date. The thought that the US government owing 8.9 trillion dollars is catastrophic; that it would owe 14.3 trillion a mere four years later, not so much. Naturally, the White House spin on that is that Obama didn't really mean what he said; he only spoke out because he knew he was safe in doing so; the raise would go through. This should not be taken as crass opportunism or lying, because... well, it's Obama talking. It's just the way he is.

But we're in a new era now, and compromise is the order of the day. In the House, Speaker Boehner is planning on giving a bit more power and influence to the minority, and in the Senate, the Democrats are talking about modifying the filibuster rule to make it a smidgen more difficult -- but not banning it entirely. So, in that spirit, let me offer my own compromise position on the debt ceiling:

We raise it to 15 trillion dollars immediately... but with a provision that it comes right back down to 14 trillion on December 31, 2011. And if we really want to be serious, we say it has to come down half a trillion dollars every year after that.

The Republicans in the House have the votes to make that stick. They can pass it to the Senate,  and then kill any move to repeal the downsizing.

That takes the wind out of the sails of the "oh, no, we don't have enough time!" crowd, yet puts a hard -- even harder than we have now -- deadline on fixing the fundamental problem.

Plus, it will give the Republican House a chance to work on the Democrats' single greatest abuse of the power and public trust they foisted on us during their four years in the House: their refusal to even introduce a budget for the current fiscal year. For that alone, I'd have no problems with every Democrat Representative from the 111th Congress charged with treason. Or, at least, have to give back their pay for their term.

It's a fair compromise. It addresses the expressed concerns of both sides. The Democrats get a little more time to manage the problem, and the Republicans are given a locked-in-stone debt ceiling that is actually lower than current.

Of course, it doesn't address the Democrats unspoken concerns -- why can't they just keep borrowing and spending more and more and more money forever, and hope that the day of reckoning never comes? But quite frankly, I don't feel like catering to their fatal fantasies.


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Comments (9)

If the Democrats really bel... (Below threshold)

If the Democrats really believe that hitting the debt ceiling will be the fiscal apocalypse, great. All the more reason for Republicans to demand their entire agenda be passed, with a smiling Harry Reid having championed it in the Senate and a President Obama breathing a sigh of ecstasy as he signs it into law, before they raise it.

After all, as bad as you might think Republican demands are, they can't be worse than the fiscal apocalypse. So, it's a more than fair trade.

I say write the bill to rai... (Below threshold)

I say write the bill to raise the debt ceiling with a kicker ...
for ever dollar of debt ceiling raised we will automatically pro-rata cut 50 cents from non-discretionary spending ... spread across all non-discretionary departments ...
You want a trillion you have to cut 500 billion ...

I say we put a clause in th... (Below threshold)
jim m:

I say we put a clause in the bill that states that if by a date certain the deficit has not been reduced to a stated level that the names of every elected offical that voted for it are put into a hat and 1/3 of them are drawn at random and those members are expelled from the Congress immediately.

That would get their attention and give them some incentive for getting the deficit down quickly. It would also penalize them for failure and using bogus methods to acheive it.

jt, you keep making these p... (Below threshold)

jt, you keep making these posts and then commenting about how you should never, ever have power. are you insane? your ideas are usually better than 99% of the politicians out there. this one is seriously very good.

NO! NO! NO! NO!... (Below threshold)


Why 'raise it' in order to "Cut back later"?
CANCEL the remainder of Porkulus! And then CUT some more.

Lately, I'm leaning towards... (Below threshold)

Lately, I'm leaning towards the "screw em lets default" side of things.

It will be a catastrophe and it will happen eventually anyway.

Might as well get it over with.

I don't think it makes any ... (Below threshold)

I don't think it makes any difference. Obama and the last Congress turned the currency into toilet paper. The GOP bears some blame for this, too, but what Stretch Pelosi and Dirty Harry have done is breathtaking.

Weimar America, here we come!

GaranFan,I would b... (Below threshold)
jim m:


I would be in favor of what you suggest but if we do not raise the ceiling the result will be that we default on our debt (OK the alternative is that the Federal Reserve just prints however many hundreds of billions we would have otherwise borrowed and that's not good either).

The best course of action to save this mess is to temporarily raise the ceiling and then to do some serious work to decrease the mounting debt. Killing the remainder of porkulus is tops on the list for the right thing to do.

The reality is that unless there is a clear danger of losing their jobs for not reducing the deficit the congress will do nothing.

Frankly, I'd be in favor of hanging one congressman from the gallery each week until they get the spending under control. That still might not be enough incentive but it would at least have the benefit of being satisfying.

Raise the debt ceiling with... (Below threshold)

Raise the debt ceiling with a promise to cut spending and debt later has already been done many times. It result s in raising the debt ceiling later as well.

Unless we are paying more in interest than we are bringing in, I don’t see how we default on our loans. Our loans should be paid first. If we need to shut down parts of government or make drastic cuts, so be it.

Unless they are force to they will keep kicking the can further down the road. It is time to force them to make the hard choices and balance the budget. This year’s budget not a phony projected one 10 years down the road.






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