Washington is now consumed by the question of whether to raise the ceiling on the national debt. That ceiling currently stands at $31.38 trillion, barely above the $31.34 trillion of outstanding debt subject to the ceiling, according to the latest Daily Treasury Statement.
The so-called responsible faction in the impending debt debate says that the ceiling should be raised without any risk of default. The nation’s creditworthiness, they argue, shouldn’t be held hostage by conditions of fiscal discipline. The White House falls into this faction, insisting on a higher ceiling without any strings attached.
A group of about 20 House Republicans—many of whom originally opposed Kevin McCarthy’s speakership—announced their opposition to raising the ceiling without spending cuts. On Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee said he was “unwilling to give Biden a blank check.” His emerging faction is being called irresponsible and worse.
But who’s really irresponsible? This small group of Republicans who want to reintroduce fiscal discipline or the Biden administration and congressional Democrats, who have been borrowing and spending like drunken sailors for two years. Since President Biden’s inauguration alone, the national debt has soared by over $3.6 trillion.
Was this spending responsible after $4.4 trillion that had already been borrowed and spent between February 2020 and January 2021 as part of a necessary and sufficient response to the pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown? Many economists warned that Mr. Biden’s first spending initiative, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, was unnecessary and would unleash inflation—and it clearly has.
It’s hardly irresponsible to suggest that we return to fiscal sanity. Indeed, any increase in the debt ceiling should be matched by an equal reduction in this slew of post-pandemic domestic spending.
Yet the Biden administration’s irresponsibility in its domestic spending isn’t the primary reason it should be reversed.