Don't Play Games With Debt Limit

Published Oct 10, 2013. In Wisconsin State Journal.

America’s soaring debt is a huge problem that too many leaders in Washington, D.C. — from the president on down — have failed to seriously address.

But defaulting on the government’s debt payments would only make matters worse by threatening the global economy, spooking Wall Street and increasing interest rates.

The federal government will reach its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit next week. Congress should stop playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States. It should vote to lift the cap without strings attached — then push for long-term savings in further budget discussions.

Olivier Blanchard, an International Monetary Fund economist, offered a stark view of the impact a debt default could cause.

“If there was a problem lifting the debt ceiling, it could well be what is now a recovery would turn into a recession or even worse,” Blanchard said this week.

Ten days and counting of a partial federal government shutdown is annoying and irresponsible.

But it’s nothing compared to the damage America could suffer if our nation fails to pay its bills.

This is really serious business. Presumably our leaders in Washington understand that. Yet they’re waiting — once again — until the last minute to stopgap a major problem. That’s risky in the short term. And it’s a losing strategy for our nation over time.

American is the leader of the free world. Other nations look to the United States for freedom, strength and support.

But recurring fights over extending the debt ceiling create instability for investors, business executives and foreign leaders. These games of partisan chicken need to end.

As the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group dedicated to fiscal responsibility, noted this week: “There is no realistic alternative to an increase in the current debt limit; even the supposedly austere House Republican budget calls for more borrowing through the next decade.”

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation needs to pressure its leaders for a vote. Lift the debt ceiling now to avoid harming the economy, then enter serious negotiation on long-range tax and spending adjustments.