The debt limit

If you thought the recent fight over finishing the federal budget for the rest of the year was fun, brace yourself for what’s coming next: the battle over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Both sides agree the ceiling must be raised. Even Rep. Paul Ryan’s seeping and unrealistic budget plan doesn’t balance the budget for years – and even doing that depends on unicorn budgeting like projected 2.8 percent unemployment. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the United States would be unable to both run its government and pay on its debt. The result would be a catastrophic default with monumental global ramifications that could make the 2008 financial meltdown look like a day in the park.

Earlier in the year, House Speaker John Boehner said, “That would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy. I don’t think it’s a question that’s even on the table.” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said failing to raise the debt limit would be “a recovery-ending event.”

With agreement on that basic premise, the sane course of action, then, is clear: Raise the ceiling with the minimum amount of fuss and debate. Republicans have been claiming for nearly a year that uncertainty – not lack of demand – is what’s holding business back in this slow recovery. What could be more uncertain than keeping this sword dangling over the global economy?

So, guess who wants to play with fire?

Congressional Republicans are vowing that before they will agree to raise the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling — a step that will become necessary in as little as five weeks —President Obama and Senate Democrats will have to agree to far deeper spending cuts for next year and beyond than those contained in the six-month budget deal agreed to late Friday night that cut $38 billion and averted a government shutdown.

This is deeply, grossly irresponsible. Playing politics with the full faith and credit of the United States and risking a plunge back into recession, if not far worse, is childish and wrong. Politicians committed to the best interests of this nation wouldn’t even consider it.

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