Why are we even talking about the debt ceiling?

Setting aside the fact that all this debt-ceiling brinksmanship is probably starting to spook markets and could have an enormously bad, possibly catastrophic effect on the economy should negotiations collapse entirely, the very focus on deficits during the worst recession in decades seems to just badly miss the point.

Yes, the national debt is a problem. No, we can’t keep going like this forever. And yet, if we don’t return to normal growth rates simply cutting spending (or raising taxes) to close up the deficit will do us little good and could in fact do us a great deal of harm.

Republicans are simply incoherent on this issue. They argue – rightly, I think – that raising taxes during a recession is a bad idea. But they argue at the same time that cutting spending is a good thing, even though that will without a doubt take money out of peoples’ pockets. Just like raising taxes would take money out peoples’ pockets. Right now we don’t want to take money out of peoples’ pockets unless it’s to get them to spend it buying things.

It’s not as though every dollar saved in cuts will magically appear in the private sector. They will simply disappear from the economy altogether. This is not the time to hike taxes, cut spending, or worry about deficits. There is a time for all of that – when the economy recovers and growth and employment stabilize, and revenues increase. Unemployment is at nearly 10%. For goodness sakes, people, we’re just not there yet.

Not even close.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. We are discussing the debt ceiling because the GOP, which resembles the Communist party in being brilliant at consolidating power, though hopeless at using that power constructively, has chosen to make it an issue.

  2. I’m heartened to see this put in such clear terms.

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