“If you buy a car,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre explained the other day, “you are expected to pay the monthly payment. … It’s that simple.”
Is it? Now, obviously, those who argue that the president can cancel millions of student loans by decree aren’t in a position to offer lessons on personal responsibility. The deeper problem with Jean-Pierre’s analogy, though, is that there isn’t a bank on Earth that’s going to keep lines of credit open when a person is compounding unsustainable debt year after year.
Speaking of which, the federal government has already hit the debt limit. The Treasury Department is now relying on “extraordinary measures” that will sputter out by June, at which time we will all be forced to forage for food and barter for medicine. The only thing that can save us from this dystopian hellscape, Jean-Pierre explains, is for Congress to do its “job” and return to regular order.
The White House press secretary is apparently unaware that regular order would entail Senate Democrats passing a bill and then negotiating with House Republicans, who have already passed a bill raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion into 2024.
Until this week, Democrats wouldn’t even talk to Republicans on the matter. In the old days, this kind of absolutist position would have every newspaper wringing its hands about GOP “obstructionism” and the dysfunction of the political system. Today, outlets like The New York Times simply pretend Republican bills are apparitions. “Are Republicans Willing to Raise the Debt Ceiling?” asks the editorial board this week.
Does the Times not know that the GOP has already agreed to lift the ceiling? They do. They pretend it isn’t real because it includes “deep cuts in federal spending” (by which they mean a return to last year’s discretionary spending levels, with no cuts moving forward), the reversal of “investments in tax enforcement” (80,000 new IRS cops monitoring, among other things, Venmo accounts with more than $600), a rollback of some “green energy” boondoggles, and so on.
And anyway, the Times notes, Biden has offered Republicans “a reasonable path to resolve the standoff” in which the GOP raises the ceiling without any conditions as Democrats demand and then Biden will “separately negotiate measures to slow the growth of the federal debt.”
Dear Lord, can you imagine The New York Times editorial board urging Democrats to table their policy concerns and simply trust that a Republican president will negotiate in good faith at some undetermined, future time? And not any president, but one who claims a $3.5 trillion inflation-inducing bill “costs zero dollars.” So, not exactly a whiz with numbers.
But that’s not even the most ridiculous sentence in the editorial. The Times also contends that the debt ceiling “is not a useful mechanism for preventing the federal government from living beyond its means,” when that’s exactly why the law exists in the first place. The line reminds me of the scene in Woody Allen’s “Love and Death,” in which the newly married Boris is rebuffed by his bride Sonya on their honeymoon bed. “Don’t,” she says, “not here.”
If the debt ceiling is mechanically lifted without any debate over spending, then it doesn’t really exist. If you want to spend without any limit, just say so. But even The Times concedes that Washington is “living beyond its means.” So, then, why is it more “reasonable” to negotiate the slowing of spending now, when the ceiling is in view, than a month from now or a year from now when there is no incentive to do anything?
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who for weeks was sending out snarky tweets demanding Kevin McCarthy show the country his plan on the debt ceiling, won’t negotiate. And it’s clear that President Biden is now pondering invoking the 14th Amendment and simply ignoring the debt ceiling much in the way he ignores the law on a slew of other issues. Such a move would almost surely be overturned by the Supreme Court — because, as Ilya Shapiro succinctly put it, a “constitutional provision that prevents repudiation of debt doesn’t also somehow authorize limitless new debt.”
Maybe if Schumer threatens the court again, they’ll do what he wants this time.
Democrats spend their time blaming GOP administration for the preponderance of our debt — most of which Joe Biden has voted for as a senator or helped shepherd through in the executive branch. No one is innocent on that front, of course, but most of our debt is propelled by constantly expanding entitlement programs, which are treated with a reverence by the left that the Constitution can never attain.
But even if the GOP were culpable for every single dollar of debt and were engaged in blatant hypocrisy, it wouldn’t change the fact that they are objectively correct today in arguing that we need to slow spending and mitigate debt. The arguments used to oppose even a modicum of responsible budgeting do not make any sense.