5 Ways to Stop the Next Crisis in D.C.
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Once again the U.S. has avoided self imposed disaster.
Recently Congressional Democrats and Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling and reopen our government. This October's was the latest in two decades of battles over the debt ceiling and budget that have cost America billions , money spent opening and closing "non-essential agencies," shaking the markets and suffering the first-ever downgrade in U.S. credit history.
This cannot continue.
Somehow Congress has to end this cycle of crisis to crisis governance. Unfortunately the odds of having legislative brinksmanship end on its own are... well, let's be honest: it's not going to happen. We avoided catastrophe in 2011 and did so again not long ago, but sooner or later our luck will run out. Someone will eventually overplay his hand and over the edge, we'll all go. If you've ever seen the chicken scene in Rebel Without a Cause , you've got an idea of what to expect.
In an attempt to appear evenhanded some journalists have written that we need reform to protect us from radicalization by all sides. Objectively speaking, there's no evidence of this. The government has been shut down or the debt limit threatened five times in the last 20 years: in the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, the shutdown this month and the debt ceiling crisis resolved last week. Each time championed by Republican Speakers.
"Over the past dozen years, both parties have become more militant in the way they play politics," David Frum recently argued . "If the Republicans look more militant today, it's also true that they are the party out of power. Wait until it's the Democrats turn to go out, and see how they act."
With due respect to a man whose work I admire, we have seen it. Many times. The Democrats were out of power for most of Bush II's administration and not once did we live through a government shutdown or worry about the debt limit. Liberals disagreed with many Bush-era policies just as strongly as the Tea Party does Obamacare, including starting a war, but never did they hold the American people hostage to these demands.
This is a tactic unique to the far right wing, and it keeps getting worse. There's no political reason to believe they'll stop now. Instead we need some structural ones. Here are a few ways we might prevent the next crisis before it starts.
1. Kill the debt ceiling
One best case scenario is to abolish the debt ceiling altogether. There is no justifiable policy reason to keep this relic from 1917 on the books. Congress originally passed the debt ceiling, because, under nineteenth Century law, it had to approve every bond issued by the Treasury. A debt ceiling allowed Congress to avoid this increasingly impractical duty while still maintaining some control over borrowing.