Commentary: U.S. debt limit shouldn't be a game of brinkmanship

The Sacramento BeeApril 25, 2011 

When Congress and the president pass laws that set up programs and services – from Social Security to student loans to national parks to Medicare – they have a legal obligation to pay for them. That means paying with cash on hand – and, if cash is short, by borrowing.

Not paying would be deeply irresponsible, hurting the nation's reputation and creditworthiness.

Yet that is what majority House Republicans are threatening in a risky game of brinksmanship. If the president and Democratic majority in the Senate don't accede to their demands on a variety of issues, they have said they will not increase the nation's debt limit. The U.S. Treasury would not be able to borrow to pay for obligations already made by Congress and the president.

Worse, Rep. Tom McClintock and others naively seem to believe that the United States could preserve its reputation and creditworthiness simply by requiring principal and interest payments as a priority "over all other obligations (H.R. 421). Either they do not fully understand the consequences – or they would renege on various commitments.

Donald Marron, head of the Tax Policy Center, explains the dynamic. Our monthly bills are about $300 billion; revenue, $180 billion. If we reach the current debt limit (projected to come by May 16), the government could pay only 60 cents of every dollar it should be paying.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service