The GOP’s insistence on using the debt ceiling as “leverage” is deeply irresponsible.But politics and philosophy aside, let’s quickly examine the practicality of the GOP’s stance in these negotiations.
In 2011, when the GOP made its debt ceiling stand, there emerged a concept now known as “The Boehner Rule” which basically says that any debt ceiling hike has to be matched dollar for dollar with cuts. So a $1 trillion hike to the debt ceiling must see $1 trillion in cuts, and so forth.
Already, everybody hates the fruits of the 2011 fight, because now we have the “sequester” which caps spending on defence and other domestic programs — which is something that everybody wants to undo.
But even though everyone hates what came out of the 2011 fight, the GOP is at it again.
Senator Bob Corker said this weekend that a good trade will be a debt ceiling hike for cuts to Medicare.
Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander pitched a plan on Friday to cut federal spending by $1 trillion — much of it from Medicare — in exchange for increasing the nation’s borrowing limit by that amount. The plan would raise the Medicare eligibly age to 67 and require wealthier Medicare users to pay higher premiums. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has estimated extraordinary measures can push the necessity of Congress addressing the debt ceiling until perhaps February.
“Here we are on Dec. 29 without a serious proposal before us to deal with the biggest issue, which is entitlements,” Corker said. “There’s been a lot of discussions about figuring out a way to deal with the … revenue side and at least getting that portion out of the way. Since we know it’s going to happen either before the 31st or after.”
(As an aside, remember that less than two months ago, the GOP was still bashing Obama for Medicare cuts, so… yeah.)
Tonight Corker is talking about tying a debt ceiling hike to Social Security cuts.
So OK, let’s imagine Obama caves on this (something he’s already pledged not to do). So we hike the debt ceiling and cut medicare. Then in a year or so, we hike the debt ceiling again by another $1 trillion and cut Social Security. These programs can’t be cut forever. If we raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 now, we’re not going to come back and raise it to 68 or 69 the next time the debt ceiling fight comes up.
There just aren’t that many times you can keep squeezing another $1 trillion in spending cuts. The “Boehner Rule” might give you a couple of whacks, but as an actual policy it will quickly fail.
So practically, risking the U.S. full faith and credit every time this comes up, to being able to agree on new spending cuts is unrealistic. And as a matter or principal it’s awful.