The Corner

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The Coming Debt-Ceiling Fight


is my topic this week at Bloomberg View. According to liberals, I write,


[t]he debt ceiling should be raised without any spending cuts attached, and ideally it should be raised to infinity. One common argument goes like this: Since Congress sets spending and tax levels, no good purpose is served by holding a separate vote making it possible for the government to follow Congress’s original instructions.

That argument would have more force if the federal budget were the result of a deliberate policy. Instead, more and more of our spending rises on autopilot because of decisions made long ago, and nobody is forced to take responsibility for the gap between revenue and commitments. Bills to raise the debt ceiling are the only occasions when congressmen and the president come close to doing so. They are thus appropriate moments to attack the trends that are driving our rising debt.

I go on to offer some advice on how to minimize the potential for the debt-ceiling debate to harm the economy. I also concur in the advice Patterico gives to Republicans about government shutdowns: Two lessons of the shutdowns of 1995-96 are that the public dislikes them, and that it tends to blame the party that seems most eager to have them.