As the seasons turn from summer to fall, there are some things we can depend on. Kids going back to school. Leaves turning colors. And discussions about the debt ceiling.
Recently, President Donald Trump spoke to House Minority Leader Nancy “Joan Rivers Was a Piker Compared to Me” Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Charles “Don’t Get Between Me and a Microphone” Schumer and agreed to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for concessions on disaster relief. Yeah, I know. Debt ceiling talk is so sexy, right? Well, get ready to get really hot because here we go!
What the Left believes it means – a budgetary procedure to ensure the government can pay its debts without shutting down
What it really means – giving the least fiscally responsible entity on Earth a pass on bad spending.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to pay the debts of the country, including the debts they themselves rack up allegedly representing the county. Usually, this gets done through the budget process, where the House, the Senate, and the President try to hammer out a vision for what needs to get paid and by whom. There’s a tiny snag with this currently: we haven’t actually had a budget since 2006. The way Congress has done around this detail has been to raise the debt ceiling, which allows the government to pay debts. A necessary evil, right?
Let’s say you have a credit card that you max out on a trip to Las Vegas. You may be able to skate by for a while, but eventually you are going to have to make a payment. Then, instead of making a payment, you request raising your credit line. The credit card company agrees, and you go back to Vegas to max out your card again. Then, payment time rolls around again, and you request yet another credit line extension. The credit card company agrees, and the process continues.
There’s no way this can end badly, right?
Actually, there is no way this can’t end badly. With a budget, Congress has a framework for how to proceed. Without a budget, Congress can spend and spend without much oversight. Wait…did we just stumble onto the reason we haven’t had a budget in 11 years? Why, yes, yes, we did!
Under the typical budget process, the House comes up with a budget and gives it to the Senate to look over and either approve as-is or offer changes. If there are changes, the House and Senate come together and work out the differences before sending it to the President to sign. Then, if the President vetoes it, the budget proposal goes back to Congress to either fix the proposal or override the veto. In short, there are checkpoints at every stage of the budget process to prevent one side or the other from running roughshod over the other and to put limits on what is to be spent. By simply agreeing to forego the normal budget process and raise the debt ceiling, those safeguards are as reliable as the TSA.
If America had her financial house in order, raising the debt ceiling might not be an issue. After all, we’ve accrued debt in the past for noble purposes, like fighting a war. However, America is spending like a drunken sailor these days. Okay, that may have been out of line. After all, drunken sailors have a bit more fiscal responsibility than the average Congrescritter. I mean, when was the last time you saw a drunken sailor spend money to watch shrimp on a treadmill?
Complicating matters further is the fact America doesn’t own all of its debt. We have issued bonds for our debt for various parties to buy. And guess who owns a good chunk of those bonds. China. Yeah, that country that hasn’t quite gotten over the Cold War and has a penchant for trying to handicap America whenever it can. And we gave them Most Favored Nation status in the 1990s! And how do they repay us? Sending toys with lead paint and dog food that actually kills dogs.
But I’m sure they’ll do us right this time!
All it takes for our fiscal house of cards to come tumbling down is for China to say, “Yeah, we kinda want our money back because we don’t think you can pay us back.” If you thought the financial crisis in 2008 was bad, this will make that look like “Heidi.” (For you Leftists out there reading this, that is a bad thing.) And if that happens, we have Democrats and Republicans to blame. Our representatives decided that spending money is more important than fiscal security. Even when we get representatives elected who promise to keep us on budget, those voices are either drowned out or sold out by those who think we can print enough money to keep ourselves afloat. Spoiler Alert: we can’t. The more money we print, the less valuable the money we have becomes. That isn’t a recipe for success, kids.
So, how do we fix it? Outside of a Congressional enema, we’re stuck until our representatives figure out raising the debt ceiling without a reason will cost us more than the ability to spend money we don’t have on crap that has no real purpose.
Like shrimp on treadmills.