The Mad Science of the National Debt
With Congress gridlocked by the debt-ceiling debate, the Federal Reserve is conducting a radical experiment with the American economy
Welcome back to the dumb season. It’s debt-ceiling time again.
We’ve been at this two years now. It was back in 2011 when the Republican Party, seized by anti-government furor, first locked on the lifting of the federal debt ceiling – an utterly routine governmental mechanism that allows the Treasury to borrow to pay for spending already approved by the entire Congress, Republicans included – as a place to hold a showdown over?.?.?.?government spending. That first battle resulted in a “Mutually Assured Destruction”-type stalemate, in which both parties agreed that if they couldn’t reach a deal by New Year’s Day 2013, a series of brutal, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts would take effect. At the time, it seemed unthinkable Congress would let that happen. By the time we passed that date, the thing that seemed unthinkable was the idea that Congress would ever make a deal. The cuts took effect in March and we were headed for a full-on fiscal crash on May 19th, when fate intervened to stop this stupidest-in-history blue-red catfight in its tracks, if only temporarily.