The National Debt Ceiling

The national debt has been in the news lately.  It just went over $14 trillion.  You can view it here:

You can view more details here:

The sites differ a little bit, but they are both an estimate.  They may differ by a few billion dollars, but that isn't much in this context.  There is a debt ceiling that is fast approaching.  The Congress has to vote to raise the debt ceiling.  This has always happened in the past.  It is usually the party in the majority that votes in favor of raising it.  It is a political ploy by the party in the minority, but the debt ceiling always gets raised.

This time will be no different except that there might be more political posturing.  Some Republicans are threatening to vote no on raising the limit.  The establishment says this is impossible.  They say that it will have to be raised.  They say it has to be raised because otherwise the government would default on some of its debt and that is just impossible in their world view.

The Republicans could refuse to raise the debt limit.  They could, but they won't.  They will cut a deal with Obama.  Perhaps they will tell Obama they want some token spending cuts.  Perhaps they will ask for a reduction in corporate taxes of a few percentage points.  But in the end, they will vote to raise the debt limit.

When it comes to the national debt, I think repudiation of the debt is an option that, while seems to be ridiculous to most, is actually a good idea from a libertarian standpoint.  I have written on this before.

But even if you don't think repudiation (defaulting) on the national debt is a good idea, there is still another option.  Congress could actually cut spending.  Now, it would have to cut it significantly.  It would have to cut about 1.5 trillion dollars out of the annual federal budget.  But we have to get rid of this idea of non-discretionary spending.  Everything is discretionary, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, pensions, or the military.

The problem is that Congress does not want to make these hard choices.  They do not want to cut spending.  Even most of the new politicians who helped get elected by the Tea Party do not want to make tough cuts in spending.  They talk in generalities, not in specifics.

There may be a few that follow Congressman Ron Paul.  Most will not.  They will keep spending, even if it means at a slightly slower pace.  The national debt ceiling is a joke.  It might provide some good entertainment in the near future, but it will not put a limit on the debt.  The only thing that will eventually limit the national debt is the destruction of the dollar.