A Refreshing Change Of Pace With Federal Debt Management

The Tea Party Patriots are angry… again, or at least one of member of the political group isn’t a happy camper on learning that the House of Representatives passed an increase in the federal government’s debt ceiling to pay its previously approved bills. “A clean debt ceiling is a complete capitulation on the speaker’s part and demonstrates that he has lost the ability to lead the House of Representatives, let alone his own party,” charges Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. “It is time for him to go.”

It’s been said before and it needs to be said again: raising the debt ceiling for previously approved spending bills is reasonable and the only path for sensible governing. Somehow this obvious point is lost in the acrimonious debates that have become politics as usual in Washington of late. But no matter how you spin it, there’s no logical explanation for a) enacting legislation that requires government spending; and b) debating if the legislation should be funded after it’s become the law of the land.

Here’s a thought: debate the merits of new spending programs before approving the legislation. Yes, this can be difficult and frustrating, particularly if you’re trying to kill a particular bill and you have minimal support for your view. But the alternative is far worse. Agreeing to spend money on Monday and then holding the agreement hostage to funding debates on Friday is tantamount to a political hissy fit. It’s also a threatening act that exposes the US credit rating to an unnecessary downgrade. Call me crazy, but that’s not in the best interests of the American people.

Sure, there’s a compelling case for putting the federal government on the straight and narrow on matters of fiscal rectitude. I’m all for it. But this should be—must be—done at the appropriate time. It’s common sense, when you get right down to it. Alas, there’s precious little of that inside the Beltway these days.

For those who are skeptical, imagine running your financial affairs by second-guessing your previous commitments after the fact. You buy goods and services with a credit card; when the bill comes, you write a letter to the credit card company and lament the error in your spending decision and decide to withhold payment. Good luck with that. But that’s how some politicians insist on running the US government. It doesn’t work for Joe Sixpack and it won’t work in Washington. For the moment, at least, we dodged another fiscal bullet.

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