Friday, April 2, 2010

What Debt Ceiling? The Sky's the Limit

Watching the U.S. economy, with its great deficits and diminishing work ethic, is like watching a huge heavenly body on a great collision course. Because of its immense girth it appears to move so slowly as to not be moving at all. (So unlike the small Greek economy that hurtles like a comet to it impact.) We move steadily, nonetheless, and much faster than we think. It is our growing debt that powers us I this fashion.

The alternative to this rush to destiny is to tighten our belts—pay our debts and live closer to our means. But that would propose “hard work”, and we like it easy.

That is why we created a debt ceiling in the first place—to give us some “playing room.” It also exists to remind us when to stop accumulating debt, and when to start paying it down. The problem with that: We raise the ceiling regularly, and more frequently all of the time. (Debt is like that. The more you achieve, the quicker you achieve more.) Republicans raised the debt ceiling four times under Bush. Obama has raised it in his first year—from twelve to the present thirteen trillion dollars.

Trillions. We must not know what “ceilings” mean. (Ceilings exist so that things don’t go through the roof!) For us, they exist to advance the illusion of fiscal responsibility without being responsible at all.

What is debt, anyway, but a promise to pay? Yet, I get the impression that we have no intention of paying down this mountain of debt. Rather I think we will build on it some more, and build, and marvel at it because it is there.

Sure, it will be like contemplating a voyage to another star system. We might consider such a trip—play with the numbers, (the light years and such), but we are not serious; we do not truly plan to go there. We only contemplate it out of amusement—because we know it exists “out there,” in a proximity to us, however inaccessible. But we are no more serious about mounting that expedition than we are about mounting this debt.

So, why not “raise the ceiling”—make that mountain all the more insurmountable? That way, we can look at it with even greater awe, and fantasize endlessly without fear of ever having to go there and pay that terrible price.

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