The debt ceiling is an anachronism. It’s an accountability mechanism from the days when Congress didn’t much involve itself in federal budgeting. Today, Congress exerts full control over the federal budget. The debt ceiling isn’t imposing accountability on the executive but calling into question whether Congress will pay the bills it has already chosen to incur.
But it’s not an adorable anachronism, like grandfather clocks. It’s a dangerous one, like bloodletting, lobotomies and burning people you suspect to be a witch. If we crash through the debt ceiling, a global financial crisis could — and likely will — result. Even once we return to sanity and begin paying our bills again, America’s borrowing costs are likely to be permanently higher, and the market’s confidence in our political system is likely to be permanently harmed. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that the near-miss we had in 2011 cost us $18.9 billion. That’s $18.9 billion we spent for no reason. It didn’t buy us one service or lower taxes by even a dime.