While a deal has been struck to raise the debt ceiling for now, many progressives have worried that the damaged has been already been done in that Republicans learned that “raw extortion works and carries no political cost,” as the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote today. “Irresponsible brinksmanship” is now “a proven effective negotiating tactic,” ThinkProgress’s Matt Yglesias noted.
This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed this fear when he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that Republicans will hold the debt ceiling hostage in the future, saying this debate “set the template for the future”:
MCCONNELL: It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.
The debt ceiling has been raised dozens of times in the past without controversy, including 19 times under President Bush alone. President Reagan increasing the debt ceiling by 199.5 percent during his eight years in office — more than any executive to date — while Presidents Bush, Jr. raised it 90.2 percent and Bush Sr. increased it by 48.0 percent.
Progressives should instead push to repeal it. The debt ceiling was intended to check the growth of federal debt, but it has clearly failed in that endeavor. All spending must already be approved by Congress in the budgeting and appropriations processes, so the debt ceiling serves as nothing more than a redundant yet dangerous roadblock that can be taken hostage by a minority party in Congress. The Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office have both doubted the value of a statutory debt limit, and even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called for its repeal in 2003, saying, “The debt ceiling is either redundant or inconsistent with the paths of revenues and outlays you specify when you legislate a budget.”