Trump: Maybe we should just get rid of the debt ceiling altogether

Headshot image of Dan Calabrese
Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday September 08th, 2017

You mean stop pretending there's an actual limit to what we're going to borrow? Perish the thought.

We talked yesterday about how President Trump is disrupting the ways of Washington by exposing to the public just how absurd these ways are. One of his primary methods of doing this is to point out things that are patently ridiculous, but that everyone in both parties have pretended for years are not ridiculous.

Take the debt ceiling. Please. The debt ceiling is ostensibly a legal restriction on how much debt the United States government is permitted to incur. This, we are asked to believe, is a measure of fiscal responsibility. In reality it's a total joke. Every time our borrowing approaches the legal limit established by the debt ceiling, we are told that catastrophe will befall the nation if we don't raise the limit. And while there is often political jostling that goes on, every single time, the limit is raised.

Every time the limit is increased, everyone knows that the government will borrow to the new limit - often quickly - and then raise the limit again. In other words, the limit is meaningless. But the charade we go through every few months to raise the limit, and thus pretend to care about how much debt we're incurring, often leads to high drama and further legislative absurdity. Yet no one in Washington dares to point out that the debt ceiling itself is a joke.

Until now:

So what exactly would be different if we got rid of the debt ceiling? I suppose you could argue that the debt ceiling imposes some sort of accountability for the government's fiscal recklessness, because every so often they have to go on the record as wanting to borrow more.

But I don't think it works that way in practice. When was the last time Congress raised the debt ceiling and the media told you: a) what the old limit was; b) what the new limit would be; or c) that the limit was meaningless because they would raise it again as soon as they reached it?

They never tell you this. All they tell you is how awful it will be if we don't raise the limit because we'll default on our payments on the existing debt, which when you think about it should really tell you something.

GDP growth for Obama's final year? A measly 1.6 percent

I would have no problem with getting rid of the debt ceiling because it's not a real ceiling. No one has any expectation that Congress will honor it, and Congress is never made to answer any questions about why it didn't. The only people who come under pressure related to the debt ceiling are the rare souls who want the ceiling to mean something.

I'd be surprised if Congress actually got rid of this pointless charade that it uses to pretend it practices some form of fiscal responsibility. But as he likes to do, President Trump has just told everyone that it is, in fact, a total joke. And the Beltway isn't going to like it one bit. The disruption continues unabated.

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!