The Time Is Right to Get Rid of the Debt Ceiling

Kevin Drum has written a very helpful explainer on everything you'd want to know about the fiscal cliff/curb/staircase/trap, and near the end he reminds us that the debt ceiling is going to come up again early next year. "However, an agreement to raise the debt ceiling will almost certainly be part of the negotiations surrounding the fiscal cliff." Which is good, but I'd like to suggest that Congress go a step further. Instead of raising the debt ceiling, meaning we'd have to revisit the issue again in a year, why don't they go ahead and eliminate it once and for all?

Just because something has been around for three quarters of a century, that doesn't mean it's in any way useful, and this is one little legislative artifact we can do without. Before last year the debt ceiling was raised 75 times since its creation in 1939, and nearly all of those increases were nothing more than an opportunity for the opposition party of the moment to give a few floor speeches railing against the majority party's profligate ways. Once that was done, they'd vote to increase it and everyone would go on their way.

But now, the debt ceiling has become nothing but trouble, an opportunity for radicals in Congress to hold the entire American economy hostage, as they did last year. So how about as part of whatever bargain President Obama makes with Republicans in Congress, he makes the permanent elimination of the debt ceiling part of the deal? It isn't as though it ever did anyone any good, and the memory of 2011, with the downgrading of our debt, is fresh enough in people's minds that it should be possible to persuade them to never let that happen again. Oh, Republicans will complain that it's just Barack Obama trying to get permission to go on a drunken windmill/food stamp spending spree, but let 'em. Democrats can counter that this is about keeping fiscal guns out of the hands of economic terrorists.

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