In Washington’s current political climate, optimism is almost certainly misplaced — but still, there’s reason to hope that the White House and both houses of Congress can reach a deal on raising the federal debt limit well before the Aug. 2 drop-dead date.
If the Obama administration, House Republicans and Senate Democrats can pull that off, there’s some hope that they may also agree down the road on the fiscal 2012 budget.
The debt ceiling, now nearly $14.3 trillion, must be raised periodically so the government can keep on borrowing to pay its bills. Treasury says that line of credit will run out Aug. 2, when the department will have to delay paying Social Security, Medicare and interest on government bonds.
There is some urgency in reaching a deal because just the whiff of default could drive up interest rates and stall the recovery. As Samuel Johnson said of the prospect of being hanged, it does focus the mind.
The goal of enforceable spending limits is to get the deficit below 3 percent of the gross domestic product by 2015. It is now close to 10 percent.
An agreement on spending curbs along the lines of the deal being brokered would be more than a symbolic gesture toward making cuts in the budget. It also would be a more responsible way of reining in the budget than opting for default.
Kent-Ravenna, Ohio, Record-Courier (May 10)