The Washington Post recently answered the question: “Why does the debt ceiling exist?”
In answering the question, they reported, “The debt ceiling was set up in 1917 so the [US] Treasury could borrow money up to a limit without repeatedly having to go to Congress for permission. (The debt ceiling took its modern form, the one we know today, in 1939.)”
That “modern form” of the debt ceiling eliminated separate limits on different types of debt, and in 1941 the debt limit was set at $65 billion. By comparison, the federal debt has increased by at least $65 billion in all but 2 years since 1976 (FY 1979 & 2000).
The Post adds, the debt ceiling is “seen by many conservatives as a way to rein in federal spending: It takes a significant political fight to be able to go further into debt.”
However history shows otherwise. Since its creation, the debt ceiling has never been lowered – EVER – and has been increased 74 times since 1962. Conservative hero Ronald Reagan allowed the debt ceiling to be raised 18 times during his Presidency, and it was raised (or temporarily suspended) another 27 times since 1988. The debt ceiling currently stands at $19.8 trillion and President Trump is working on a deal with Congress to eliminate the debt ceiling altogether.
To say this is akin to giving a drunken sailor on shore leave a credit card with no spending limit would be an insult to the drunken sailor on shore leave, because the drunken sailor would still be left with the consequences of his overspending. The nearly $20 trillion debt that was authorized and created by the 535 men and women of the United States Congress will never be paid off, and those who authorized the spending will never be held accountable for their reckless spending. Instead, as the Post reports, the “votes to raise the debt ceiling… have long been politicized [and give] both large and small political factions significant power in an elaborate game of chicken.”
The question now is not whether or not Congress will vote to increase the debt ceiling to avoid a so-called government shut-down; the question is whether or not this Congress will give itself, and future members of Congress a no-limit credit card that will only encourage more wasteful spending!