Paul Jacob

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell calls it “the end of the world as we know it.” The hypothetical “it” he refers to is the alleged result of Congress not raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

Presently, the federal government has authorization to borrow a mere $14,285,000,000,000. Not a penny more. So far, our federal governors have put $13.95 trillion of debt on our backs — $4 trillion of that in just the last two years.

Of course, when a government is borrowing roughly $100 billion a month to keep itself that much larger than taxpayers can afford, it’s not hard to see the coming dilemma. We’re piling up debt so fast that we’ll be out of ceiling by the end of March.

O’Donnell’s hysterics now echo in the Obama Administration, seeing a new issue to really pelt at the heads of the Tea Party. This past week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent a letter to Capitol Hill urging quick action by lawmakers and cautioning that failure to approve more debt would mean a government default and “catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades.”

Geithner’s warning was preceded by Austan Goolsbee, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, telling the Sunday talk show circuit last week that if Congress fails to act it could cause “the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”

If such quick action were required, and the new Republican House with its anti-spending Tea Party influence deemed so unstable, one has to wonder why the lame duck Congress, which seemingly passed every other imaginable piece of legislation, didn’t tackle the debt ceiling as well. Instead, Obama’s economic brain-trust saved their Chicken Little act for the incoming Congress.

Even conservative supply-siders like Bruce Bartlett worry. About what, specifically? Those “nutty right-wingers” now “elected to Congress under the Tea Party banner” who are about to touch off the conflagration, “like children playing with matches.” He fears that Congress won’t raise the debt limit and will thus trigger a default.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.