Best Way to Deal With the Debt Ceiling? Kill It
There are countless ways to criticize the debt ceiling — it's a tax on the majority party; a high-stakes yes-or-yes question; even a weird, mandatory hostage crisis — but they all arrive at the same conclusion, which is that it's a really dumb idea.
The case for the debt ceiling might go something like this: Just as cars need brakes, and Ulysses needed a mast, governments need restraints. The U.S. government's ability to borrow debt has no actual limit. We will probably run deficits, large and small, for every year in the life of the republic, just as we have in our two-and-a-half-century history. But we have installed a ceiling for the purpose of forcing lawmakers to reflect on our debt and consider the trade-offs of borrowing.
In theory, restraint is a nice idea. In practice, here's how it works out: The minority party votes against the debt limit, stealing the moment to abuse the majority about its policies — that's why it's a tax on the majority. Then, the party in power votes in unison to raise the limit, because doing otherwise would scare international markets half to death — that's why it's a high-stakes yes-or-yes question. And then, a few years later, the roles switch, and the abused party because the abuser — thus restaging our weird, mandatory hostage crisis once again.