Jim DeMint To Hold Debt Limit Hostage To Make U.S. More Like California

AP090701026115Last month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) demanded Social Security cuts in return for voting to raise the debt limit. A separate slew of Republicans have demanded everything from severe spending cuts to Constitutional amendments in return for their vote to ensure that America pays its bills on time.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), in a USA Today op-ed, added one more demand to the list — a two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases:

Washington will never voluntarily shrink its size until it is forced to by law. Republicans should oppose another debt limit increase unless Congress first passes a balanced budget amendment that requires a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.

A balanced budget amendment is sorely needed now because the debt is rising bigger and faster than it ever has, like a wave cresting with more force and power as it approaches land. Without anything to block it, the debt wave will break and overtake everything in its path.

Of course, failure to increase the debt limit could lead to catastrophic consequences, with the U.S. ultimately defaulting on its debt obligations. Even House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently agreed, saying, “you can’t not raise the debt ceiling. Default is the unworkable solution.”

It’s bad enough that DeMint would mess with the credit worthiness of the United States. But he’s doing so while demanding a truly problematic tax policy. DeMint’s proposal for a mandatory two-thirds majority to raise taxes is the foolish twin of California’s Prop. 13, which lies “at the root of California’s misery.” As Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo wrote, Prop. 13 left California “no choice but to cut its budget to ribbons during the economic downturn. California has had to gut public education, slash social services and health care programs, close prisons, and lay off record numbers of public employees.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned last week that the debt limit was not “something you want to play around with,” and said “not to focus on the debt limit as being the bargaining chip in this discussion.” Bernanke further pressed the catastrophic implications of not raising the debt limit:

Beyond a certain point … the United States would be forced into a position of defaulting on its debt. And the implications of that on our financial system, our fiscal policy and our economy would be catastrophic.

DeMint and his colleagues are conveniently not listening to the experts nor paying attention to the recent budget troubles in California, so that they can play a risky game of political brinkmanship with America’s credit rating.

Paul Breer