I touched on this last night, but I think it’s an important enough point to make into a separate post. In the recent debt ceiling fight, media outlets across the nation claimed that the GOP voted to raise the debt ceiling:
New York Times: House Approves Higher Debt Limit Without Condition
Los Angeles Times: House passes ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase
Washington Post: Congress approves increase in debt limit after dramatic vote
Reading these headlines, a citizen could be forgiven for thinking that there is a debt ceiling in place — but that it is higher today than it was before these “dramatic” votes to “raise” that debt ceiling.
In fact, that’s what I said here on this blog, in a post that I corrected last night.
I corrected the post because I was wrong. The debt ceiling was not “raised.”
Contrary to widespread reporting by the media, Congress did not actually increase the debt limit on February 12. Instead, Congress rendered the debt limit statute inoperative, thereby waiving the debt limit, through March 15, 2015. This means that there is no debt limit in place to control borrowing for more than an entire year.
When the debt limit suspension ends, the debt limit is automatically increased to reflect the amount of borrowing that occurred since the last debt limit bound the Treasury. However, because there is no actual dollar-denominated limit on the national debt during the suspension period, taxpayers will not know for certain just how much more borrowing Congress authorized.
The debt limit last bound the Treasury on February 8, when the agency reported the new limit at more than $17.2 trillion. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that, absent major changes in spending policy, the debt limit suspension will result in a $1 trillion increase in the debt limit on March 15, 2015.
This trick has pulled by Congress before. It’s embarrassing for politicians to say that they voted to raise the debt ceiling (especially when pesky folks like Ted Cruz prevent them from hiding their votes from the public eye). It’s even more embarrassing to raise the ceiling to a specific, sky-high number. So you just vote to suspend it. No number gets reported, as the entire media will misreport the story anyway.
As we sit here today, there is no debt ceiling at all. There is no mechanism restraining Congress and the President from spending us into oblivion — just their good sense and their deeply held beliefs about fiscal restraint.
Like I said, nothing at all.
Good thing we have those watchdogs in Big Media looking out for us, huh? Trouble is, politicians throw them a hunk of meat, and the watchdogs go to town munching away while the politicians sneak in and loot the Treasury.