Nonsense: Debt Limit Increase and Deficit Reduction

The United States Government’s debt limit is too low.

I have been reading that Republicans in Congress have been claiming otherwise. They are wrong. On top of that, they insist that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by debt reduction measures providing as many dollars in debt reduction as the amount by which we are increasing the debt limit.

If you think that makes sense, you are wrong, because if you think the total debt now is too high, then you must want a balanced budget now. Some set of cost savings that totals, say, two trillion dollars over the next ten years is not going to serve to pay back an additional two trillion dollars that you borrow now, if you are running a deficit.

If you had a budget now that was projected to balance over the next ten years, then you could say, “Hey, promise me two trillion in savings over this present projection, and I’ll be happy to let you borrow two trillion now. Because I can see how you’re going to pay it back, see?” But if your current projection for the next ten years is for five trillion in new debt, then a promise of two trillion dollars in cuts still accumulates three trillion more in debt over the ten years, so how do you say it’s okay to borrow two trillion more now? Your stand, it seems, is “No, you shall not go further into debt, and no further debt shall be incurred unless it is getting paid off in ten years.” To meet that demand, you need a surplus over the next ten years for whatever additional debt you allow today.

So why isn’t that the demand? Because everyone in Washington knows it can’t be done, that’s why. So the cynical Republicans take this logical-sounding but impossible requirement and convert it into some lesser but still difficult requirement, and pretend it still fits that logic.

But the logic is broken. Be honest, Republicans, and tell your tea partiers that you can’t get that no-more-debt result.

So what should we require before we raise the debt ceiling? Nothing. We just raise it. We will have to honor that new debt just like we have to honor the 14 trillion of old debt. If you think that’s too much debt, here’s what you ask for: movement towards a balanced budget. If you show me how the budget will be in balance ten years from now, there’s no need to demand that all debt be wiped out in the meantime, or that all of this year’s new debt be wiped out in the meantime. Just get to where the budget is balanced and the economy is growing faster than the debt.

And if you can get the budget to balance, you can try a little harder and get a surplus, and then you can go about reducing the debt burden if it truly is excessive.

That’s still a tall order, but it’s achievable. How about working for this achievable thing? And if you’re serious about it, give up the no-tax-increase pledge. Taxes pay bills. If you can’t stand the borrowing, increase the tax take to pay the bills you need to pay. There isn’t a trillion dollars of spending to cut in our federal budget. Try for cuts, but if you are serious, don’t suppose that with current tax levels we can honor our commitments to senior citizens, maintain a world-dominating military, and keep some semblance of the government services we have today. The numbers don’t add up that way, and congressional leaders know that.


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