As we lurch toward the automatic tax increases and spending cuts that go into effect on Jan. 1, it's worth a brief recap of how we got here. In the spring of 2011, the newly emboldened Republican majority in the
During the summer, House Republicans insisted on tying any increase in the debt ceiling to the passage of a balanced budget amendment — a political nonstarter and an economically foolish idea. On the very last day before the federal government would have defaulted on its debts, the
The upshot of all this maneuvering: Standard & Poor's reduced the nation's credit rating for the first time, public approval of Congress plummeted, the stock market tanked, the supercommittee failed, and we wound up with the mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts known as "sequestration" that are due to hit starting in January.
Republican posturing on the debt ceiling got us in this mess and likely tamped down the economic recovery as global financial markets, businesses and consumers alike lost confidence in the United States government. And now they want to do it again.
The Republicans are in a box because the Jan. 1 expiration of the Bush tax cuts means Mr. Obama can achieve his goal of higher rates on the wealthy without taking any action, and Treasury Secretary
The president also warned this week against Republicans trying to beat a tactical retreat to the debt limit, which will need to be increased again in February — but the GOP, it seems, just can't help itself. "We do have some leverage with the debt ceiling increase, more than we do right now," South Dakota Republican Sen.
It's a cynical move because the debt ceiling has nothing to do with controlling the level of federal spending, just the government's ability to fund appropriations Congress and the president have already authorized. Fighting over the debt limit is like trying to control your cholesterol not by stopping eating cheeseburgers but by refusing to pay for them.
And there are signs that the public isn't buying it either. The president of the Business Roundtable, a group representing big corporations, suggested extending the debt limit enough to last for five years to avoid the kind of damaging standoff we saw last summer. Other business leaders appear to be warming to the president's proposal to take Congress out of the equation.
Whether the answer is a procedural change or just another agreement to raise the limit, the debt ceiling needs to be part of whatever fiscal cliff deal President Obama and the Republicans strike. We can't allow the resolution of one manufactured crisis lead us into another.