Raising the ceiling

Boosting debt limit for umpteenth time isn't fiscally sane

It’s about time someone started talking tough about America’s debt ceiling. Here’s what one prominent politician had to say:

“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. ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Oops. Sorry, that quote isn’t from 2013. It’s from 2006.

And it’s from then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

Of course now, since he’s ascended to the presidency, there’s no more “leadership failure” in his eyes. His debt narrative has changed.

Now he’s telling anyone who cares to listen that “raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt.”

“You know,” wisecracked comedian Jay Leno in response, “like raising the speed limit does not increase speed.”

Translate the president’s way of thinking to your household budgeting. Would, say, raising the limits on your credit cards encourage you to be more frugal or more profligate?

If America has raised the debt ceiling “over a hundred times,” as the president asserts, doesn’t it follow – hasn’t it followed – that America’s debt also has increased?

And doesn’t debt rise because you spend and borrow more?

No matter. The president’s message is clear: Just let us keep spending, taxpayer.

It’s not the least bit unreasonable to expect our government to spend less. All that

taxing and spending is returning – again – to haunt us. Raising the debt ceiling to meet our growing obligations is kicking an increasingly costly can down the road.

Some people say the president’s stance doesn’t go far enough. Henry J. Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, urged Obama in a Sept. 29 New York Times op-ed simply to ignore the debt ceiling.

Heaven knows Congress has. Too many of its members keep voting through spending bill after spending bill like – well, we don’t want to use the clichéd comparison of drunken sailors. It does a disservice to drunken sailors. At least the sailors stop spending when they run out of money – and it’s usually their own!

Not Congress. Members keep burning through our money, then when the spending approaches the always-looming debt ceiling, they feign shock.

We’re mortified.

A 2011 study from the Bank for International Settlements found that “beyond a certain level, debt is bad for growth.” For government debt, the study’s authors calculated that level at 85 percent of a nation’s gross domestic product. The United States is wheezing toward $17 trillion in debt – 109 percent of GDP.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia said this a couple of years ago regarding the debt ceiling, and it still holds: “Democrats seem to think that getting our fiscal house in order ought to be someone else’s problem for another time. That is the same attitude that got us into this mess, and it is unacceptable to the American people.”

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