From an editorial Friday on Bloomberg View:
Without muss or fuss, Congress just voted overwhelmingly to keep the federal spigot open for six more months. There were no shouting matches, no threats of a government shutdown, no hostage-takings. Even some tea party lawmakers approved the $1.047 trillion measure.
Contrast the smooth legislative action with the lunacy of last years debt-ceiling debate, when the United States came within days of defaulting on its IOUs. Standard & Poors downgraded the governments credit rating. The recovery went into reverse as consumers delayed purchases and businesses hunkered down.
Much as we dislike recalling that madness, its worth looking back if only because it now seems so manufactured or worse, economically reckless. If last summers fight was necessary to save the country from fiscal ruin, why is this falls continuing resolution, as the measure is called, not a threat to Western civilization? It even adds another $8 billion to the deficit.
We understand that many lawmakers, in trouble back home and anxious to return to their campaigns, are concerned that a government shutdown would invite an anti-incumbency rout. We also accept that Republicans may be timing their next fiscal showdown for after the election, in case voters turn out President Barack Obama and turn over Senate control to their party. But those are political, not economic, calculations.
A year ago, Republicans cast the debt-ceiling fight as a principled response to unsustainable borrowing and the only way to avoid a Greek-like comeuppance at the hands of the bond market. In offering his budget in March, Rep. Paul Ryan, now the partys vice-presidential nominee, said government debt continues to rise at a frightening pace, raising fears that a similar crisis may happen here.
So can we assume that Republicans have now fixed the countrys debt problem? Not at all. In many ways, they did the opposite.
The debt-ceiling drama barely moved the long-term debt trajectory. Instead, it left the country standing at the edge of a fiscal cliff, at the bottom of which lies another recession. It also raised doubts about whether Congress and the White House can govern, and led the rest of the world to question the sanity of the U.S.
When a trillion-dollar spending bill flies through Congress, it raises a simple question: Why now and not then? Its a question voters would do well to ask in the months ahead.