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Koons: Take the debt ceiling off the table

BY GUEST COLUMN | JANUARY 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Parents seeking to teach a teen the meaning of money may take away a credit card, but they would never consider not paying the debt owed the card company.

Why not? The company would come after them, or they’d never get credit again.

Refusing to approve the government’s budget or its many continuing resolutions is fine — assuming the politicians doing so have the guts to stare down those inconvenienced or harmed — but those politicians shouldn’t refuse to raise the debt ceiling and not pay the nation’s bills incurred.

To do so is irresponsible and not fiscally conservative. Practically, do we want to risk our credibility with creditors? As long as the debt ceiling remains on the table, the arguments coming from those threatening to invoke it will fall on ears deafened by the silliness blasting out of Washington.

If Congress doesn’t stop considering the debt ceiling as leverage, by either getting rid of the law or ceding the power to raise it to the president, then the president should assert the right to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally.

I don’t care if the president is Democrat. I would hope a Republican president would also act. Sometimes someone has to step up and recalibrate the discussion, or else, society veers off into a fantasyland.

The Republicans may be trying to control the nation’s spending and teach “liberals” to respect the nation’s treasury and protect its fiscal future, but those same Republicans risk not being taken seriously if boundaries aren’t set that keep their proposals reasonable.

The nation has a debt problem because it has never had to deal with the prospect of our creditors harassing us at our doors before. The debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 shook the nation because for the first time we felt a consequence — the lowering of our nation’s bond rating — for acting fiscally irresponsible.

We can no longer pretend that our credit line is unlimited, and neither can we forget that credit doesn’t come from nothing; it comes from creditors. Even teasing them with nonpayment is irresponsible and economically devastating.

If Republicans in Congress can’t drop the debt ceiling from debate, then the president needs to do them, and the rest of the nation, a favor and permanently take it off the table by unilaterally lifting the ceiling.

The Republicans may not like the president’s presumption, but the Republican’s own demands for fiscal responsibility will be better served if they are prevented from poisoning their own arguments with the hypocrisy of both demanding fiscal responsibility and also threatening to not pay debts already incurred.

The Republicans may challenge the decision in court but they would be resisted by the full weight of the financial sector. If brought, the court would face a choice that could torpedo the world economy if months or years of new debt incurred were to be held unconstitutional. Regardless of the Constitution’s proper interpretation, I don’t think the socially astute and historically aware Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over a fiscal Armageddon.

Andy Koons
UI student


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