Increase the damn limit

Republicans continue to play with fire on the U.S. debt limit, and the results could be catastrophic. Today, the United States hit its debt limit. To keep government running and our obligations met, the U.S. Treasury Department is now juggling books and taking “extraordinary measures” to avoid the global economic meltdown that would occur if the United States doesn’t keep up with its debt payments.

While a few voices who are either very partisan, very stupid or both want Congress to reject an increase on the debt limit, most people who understand the situation know that failure to do so would result in complete disaster:

To understand the danger posed by the debt ceiling, it helps to understand the financial crisis. A lot of banks and investors held assets based on mortgages they thought were safe. They weren’t. That meant that no one knew how much money they really had, or how much money anyone else really had. So the market did what woodland creatures do when they get confused and scared: It froze. And so, too, did the economy. As the unemployment rate shows, we’re still not completely thawed out.

If Congress fails to lift the debt ceiling beyond its current limit of $14.29 trillion — or even waits too long — the chain of events will be similar, but the asset under question will be America itself, not some newfangled Frankenstein bond made out of mortgages from the Reno suburbs. Which would mean the aftermath would be much, much worse.

“The cornerstone of the global financial system is that the United States will make good on its debt payments,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “If we don’t, we’ve just knocked out the cornerstone, and the system will collapse into turmoil.”

Republicans know this.They just don’t care. If they can make progress on their ideological agenda by risking economic collapse – well, their base would crucify them if they didn’t push it to the limit.

Which says much about the Republican base.

It is time for Republicans to govern. They must act like grown-ups. They must put the good of the country – and, indeed, the global economy – ahead of ideology.

Increase. The. Damn. Limit.

Then debate spending cuts and Medicare vouchers and everything else between now and 2012. Let the public make a rational, informed judgement about the direction this nation should go in. If Republicans win big in 2012, then they can put their agenda in place.

Ransoming the future of the global economy in exchange for forcing through that agenda is undemocratic and irresponsible.

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