Congress squawks about the horrible debt and then adds even more red ink.
There is of course an accounting identity that relates the government budget deficit (the excess of spending over receipts) to the government debt (the total amount that the government has borrowed). A deficit necessarily implies an increase in the debt by the same magnitude.
One of the peculiar embarrassments of the American political process is the fact that Congress votes separately on the deficit and debt, as if they were two different decisions. This bizarre arrangement allows Congress the luxury of instructing the Treasury to spend more than it takes in as revenue while at the same time voting to deny the authority to borrow the funds that would be necessary to implement the plan.
If the government is (a) required by the deficit legislation to spend, and (b) precluded by the debt legislation from borrowing, the Treasury would be forced into default. The greater the likelihood markets attach to such an event, the higher will be the interest rate the government has to pay on Treasury debt. A politician who votes for the spending and tax measures that produced the deficit but against a debt ceiling consistent with these is deliberately wasting taxpayer dollars for no purpose other than to grandstand before voters as a “fiscal conservative”. Anyone playing such a game has complete contempt for the intelligence of their constituents.
Due to the Senate’s procrastination in raising the debt ceiling, the U.S. Treasury had been creatively juggling the accounts for the last month to prevent an outright default, but by last week had run out of such gimmicks. The U.S. Senate gave in at the last minute on Thursday and finally voted to raise the allowable debt limit to about $9 trillion. That’s a lot of debt, to be sure. But if you don’t want the government to be borrowing so much, the time to say so is when the spending or taxing bills are on the table.
Without exception, every single one of the Senate’s Democrats voted against the most recent increase in the debt ceiling last Thursday, joined by Jeffords (I-VT), Burns (R-MT), Coburn (R-OK), and Ensign (R-NV). Exactly 2 hours and 19 minutes after voting against raising the debt ceiling, every single Senate Democrat voted for an additional $3.3 billion for spending on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Aided by yes votes from six Republicans, this measure passed.
And I’ll bet they’re planning their ad campaigns right now bragging about how they voted against raising the debt ceiling.