Centrist View of the Debt Ceiling Debate

The Democrats’ Position

First, let’s admit that Biden’s arguments about the Republicans’ opposition to raising the debt limit without reductions in the deficit have some merit. The Republicans raised the debt limit repeatedly during the Trump administration. The Republicans, also, increased the deficit and the debt level by passing significant tax reductions during the Trump administration.

Biden has indicated that he will not compromise on the issue of the debt cap and expects the House to approve an increase without any conditions.

Some Democrats have suggested a variety of work-arounds that don’t require raising the debt limit, like minting the trillion dollar coin (essentially printing money). Many of these options are legally dubious and/or economically dangerous.

The Real Republican Position

Based on its actions, the Republican Party is not concerned about the debt or the deficit level. What they do want is lower taxes and less government spending, particularly on social welfare programs. They also want the drama of a showdown with the Democrats, to excite their base. They are happy to use the leverage of resisting increasing the debt cap to accomplish these latter two objectives.

A Centrist View

Unlimited government spending and an escalating debt to GDP ratio is a bad thing. Shutting down the U.S. government or putting it into default are bad things.

As President Obama said, “elections have consequences.” The Republicans gained control of the House and governing requires compromising with them. In the past, attempts by the Republican Party to use the debt ceiling as a tool have backfired politically. I am guessing Biden hopes that history will repeat itself. Unfortunately, for the Democrats, taking the position that they will not compromise on the issue, in any way, puts the blame for a government shutdown and possible default at least partly on them.

A Centrist Recommendation

The Democrats need to concede that compromise is appropriate and necessary. They need to offer something to the Republicans in return for an increase in the debt cap.

My recommendation would be to address the problems with Social Security in a bi-partisan manner. Republicans want to raise the age for future eligibility to benefits. Democrats want to raise the income limit on the Social Security tax. Why not do both? Calculate the amount of money it would take to keep the system solvent for the foreseeable future and raise half the money by raising the income limit on the tax and half by extending the age for future eligibility. For more detail on the Centrist Independent Voter’s position on this issue visit the Social Security policy position.

This is not the only compromise that could be offered, but it is a simple, straightforward one that is also good public policy.

For a more detail discussion of the Centrist Independent Voter’s policy position on the questions of the deficit and the national debt visit the policy position on Taxation, Spending, and Debt.