Photo: Chuck Schneider
Yesterday John Carney argued that the debt ceiling debate was a useful mechanism for making people aware of the debt, and thus a useful check on government power.In response we said that the debate didn’t actually accomplish that, and that if anything it was only confusing people, and leading to demagoguery.
Carney is back hammering on two points. The first we’ll cede. There’s a requirement in the constitution that we have something like a debt ceiling.
But going back to the awareness/accountability point, he writes: “I think Weisenthal is just plain wrong when it comes to the issue of public awareness. We—journalists, politicians, and just plain ordinary folk—are currently engaged in a public debate about the levels of debt accumulated by our government. This debate simply would not be occurring if it were not for our rapid approach toward the debt ceiling.”
This is incorrect. The debate is being held because there’s a very real chance of a manufactured default by the Congress.
It’s not like this is the first time we had a debt ceiling. We faced a vote last February and it didn’t get nearly as much attention. And prior to that, it used to be a perfunctory vote. So yes, the debt ceiling can provoke a public discussion — even if it is one that is filled with unenlightening commentary — but only when one side (and it could be both, because as we noted earlier, it used to be Democrats who played debt limit politics) threatens to push the country to the edge and see what the consequences are.
By the way, we suspect that the anti-raise-the-debt ceiling folk are going to change their tune from: We shouldn’t raise the debt ceiling without significant cuts to not raising the debt ceiling and defaulting (which would be possible) wouldn’t be that bad of an outcome.
This happened in 1995 during the budget showdown. A group of folks openly called for default, and we think that will happen again.