Slashing With Butter Knives: The Debt Ceiling Debate


The nation will be waking up on Wednesday with a platitude hangover. Accordingly, GOP senators who want to see the upcoming debt ceiling fight result in mildly significant spending cuts have used the past week to argue that lifting the ceiling is not the only "adult" course of action.

Despite the debt doubling in the past decade and public opinion mostly behind rejecting the ceiling increase, the Republican House leadership has made sufficient talk of "leverage moments" to indicate they will crack when it counts. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) took to the Wall Street Journal to argue that the country need not stop governing without new debt:

In fact, if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the federal government will still have far more than enough money to fully service our debt. Next year, for instance, about 6.5% of all projected federal government expenditures will go to interest on our debt, and tax revenue is projected to cover about 67% of all government expenditures. With roughly 10 times more income than needed to honor our debt obligations, why would we ever default?

Toomey makes no specific calls for cuts, essentially admitting that with the right cuts and reforms Congress will pass a ceiling increase. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) gives no such ground, calling for passage of Republicans' Spending Reduction Act, which won't likely be that effective anyway. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) might boast the biggest chainsaw—details are sketchy, but his budget plan reportedly slashes $500 billion in year one.

The Spending Reduction Act has already inspired hand-wringing over deep cuts and job losses. Toomey's modest proposal inspired the cry that once entitlements are accounted for, we would—horror of horrors—have only enough funds remaining to cover interest twice over. In reality, using the shady accounting and pension fund raids practiced by broke states like Illinois and California, we could waddle along with saddlebags full of IOUs before tipping over. Although they need to trade their penknives for machetes, there's a handful of senators and freshmen congressmen who are squawking in the right key. Don't hold your breath for the rest figuring it out. 

Watch Nick Gillespie discuss the budget ceiling on Freedom Watch earlier this month: 

More from Reason on the debt here.