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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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The Debt-Ceiling Charade


With respect to the debt ceiling, let me issue an easy prediction: The Republicans are going to cave. They are going to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Oh sure, there will be plenty of posturing. There will be expressions of anger and outrage over out-of-control federal spending, borrowing, and debt. There will be strategic political posturing, including threats to “shut down” the government.

But in the end the Republicans will capitulate to the threats, the dire scenarios, and the Democratic demands to raise the debt ceiling once again. Federal spending, borrowing, debt, and inflation will continue to soar.

In the process, Republicans and Democrats will once again be engaging in their periodic debt-ceiling charade, a charade that is leading our nation down the road to national bankruptcy, moral debauchery, economic impoverishment, and monetary destruction — the road that such nations as Greece, Ireland, and Portugal have already traveled.

What exactly is the debt ceiling? It is an acknowledgement by the Congress that the total debt incurred by the U.S. government has reached too high a level. It’s a promise to the American people that their government will not incur a total debt in excess of the amount established in the ceiling.

Yet, every time the debt ceiling is reached, the Congress votes to lift it, thereby enabling the federal government to continue racking up even more debt. It’s actually just one big charade because everyone in Washington knows that when the debt ceiling is reached, it will be raised and extended and that the process will be repeated when the new debt ceiling is reached down the road.

Here’s how the process works. As the debt ceiling is approached, the politicians, bureaucrats, and mainstream pundits begin issuing all sorts of dire predictions as to what will happen if the government is not permitted to add to its debt. “The sky will fall! The sky will fall!” the statists cry.

As the debt-ceiling deadline approaches, the prospect of a government “shutdown” occurs. Of course, it’s not really a “shutdown” but rather a temporary suspension of what U.S. officials consider to be “nonessential” government functions. American tourists are threatened with closures of government-owned parks and museums, and welfare beneficiaries are threatened with a suspension of their welfare checks.

Most everyone goes into emotional hyperdrive, which then causes the members of Congress to “reluctantly” raise the debt ceiling. The American people breathe a big sigh of relief, while the politicians, bureaucrats, and pundits get another good laugh out of the whole process. Their scare tactics have pulled it off again: Even though Congress had set a maximum amount of federal debt a couple of years before, the maximum has been raised once again.

Everyone now starts looking down the road to the newly established debt ceiling. So, you would think the statists would prepare for the new debt ceiling down the road by reining in spending and borrowing, right?

Not so. They don’t care. Why? Because they know that when the new debt ceiling is reached down the road, the same thing will happen that always happens. The dire predictions, the threats to close government-run museums and parks, and the threats to suspend welfare checks. Congress will capitulate again, just as they’ll do this time.

So, the debt ceiling is really just one great big charade and fraud. By setting a debt ceiling, they’re publicly recognizing that too much federal debt is a dangerous thing for our nation, and they’re promising not to exceed that maximum amount of debt. But they know that their promise is false when they make it. They know that when the debt ceiling is reached down the road, they’re going to raise it again, thereby enabling them to continue spending, borrowing, and inflating to their hearts’s content.

The more honest approach would be to abolish the debt ceiling and announce that there is no limit to the amount that federal officials’ are spending, borrowing, and inflating. The effects would be just as damaging but at least Americans would no longer be subjected to the debt-ceiling charade.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.