The Great Debt Ceiling Vote of 2013: Huh???

January 23rd, 2013 at 7:25 pm

As I’ve pledged, I won’t respond to the key-dangle of the latest fiscal crisis.  I will not come running with a bucket of tax increases and spending cuts every time some crisis monger yells “deficit!” in a crowded theater.  I will instead focus on a) the big economic issues from which these artificial crises are designed to distract us and b) the rational, CBPP-style analysis of our actual fiscal challenges and fixes.

Well…for the most part, I will.

For now, however, a few thoughts about this vote that just passed on suspending the debt ceiling.

We are stuck in deep topsy-turvy mode, where phony crises are ginned up, anxiously debated for weeks on end, then summarily resolved at the last minute, while the real problems with which we need policy makers to deal–like 7.8% unemployment or this pattern of wage growth–go unheeded.

Is one I supposed to be elated that the House dropped their insistence that unless they got the spending cuts they want, we could just go ahead and default for all they cared?  I mean, one minute, they’re all touting the debt ceiling as THE disciplinary measure that America needs to force the “hard choices” these faux budget hawks love to rant about.  The next thing you know, they scurry off on a retreat somewhere and decide their brand’s in trouble, that breaching the debt ceiling maybe isn’t so clever after all, and a few days later…they vote to suspend it for three months.

What the #@%!?  I’m proud to say that I can’t follow this any better than you can.  In fact, I’m beginning to think you’re better off reversing the polarity in the statements these folks are making these days.  Here’s Paul Ryan today with my reversals in CAPS:

“We DO NOT know with certainty that a debt crisis is coming to America. It’s NOT not a question of if. It’s NOT a question of when,” Mr. Ryan DID NOT SAY. “And if there is NOT a debt crisis, those who DO NOT get hurt the worst are the ones who need government the most, our seniors, the poor.”

I’m telling you, that makes more sense than the unaltered version.  Team Ryan needs a crisis so they can slash away at the programs that help the people they’re allegedly trying to protect by deeply cutting their benefits so as to provide tax breaks for the wealthy.  Get it?

OK, rant over.  Naturally sunny disposition returning.  And there are some good developments here, if by “good” we mean “it’s good to stop punching yourself in the face.”

This debt ceiling “crisis” was resolved before the last minute, an advance over recent self-inflicted wounds.  And while I agree with Jon Weisman’s assessment that getting House and Senate to reconcile a budget agreement will be a “really difficult task,” I think it’s a good thing that Senator Patty Murray (D-Wa) is working up a budget.  I’ll bet she comes up with a good one emphasizing priorities that have been sorely lacking in House budgets.

Less good: while we have a respite from the debt ceiling until May, there’s $85 billion in 2013 automatic budget cuts waiting to kick in on March 1.

But hey, how do we know we’re alive if we’re not lurching toward the next crisis?

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3 comments in reply to "The Great Debt Ceiling Vote of 2013: Huh???"

  1. Jim D says:

    As the amazing C.G.P. Grey explained (here:, “[s]o the debt limit fight is essentially the government version of the playground favorite: ‘stop hitting yourself’ except with added terror for everyone watching.”

  2. wkj says:

    During the Presidential campaign, I kept hoping we would get to see the specifics on how Romney was going to mesh all the tax and spending promises he was making into a balanced budget. Now Ryan has promised to do roughly the same thing–can’t wait.

  3. Ken Houghton says:

    I wouldn’t have bet the House would be that smart; in fact, would have taken the opposite bet.

    Does the final bill require a single budget to be passed, or that each chamber pass a budget resolution before the (arguably now unconstitutional) “no pay” provision kicks in?

    What we will get now is nearly four more months of Paul Ryan demagoguing about how we need to “CUT SPENDING” when the market is saying, “Please issue securities so we can buy them!”

    But it’s nice to see that they didn’t listen to their own supporters–AEI, John Taylor, even Peter Klein–who suggested default as preferable.