The Debt Ceiling Is At Best Superfluous

In today’s New York Times Economix column, former advisor to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush Bruce Bartlett argues persuasively that the debt ceiling and debate about it accomplishes nothing constructive that is not already contained in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.  Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan made this point emphatically in his 2003 testimony to Congress.

In the Congress’s review of the mechanisms governing the budget process, you may want to reconsider whether the statutory limit on the public debt is a useful device. As a matter of arithmetic, the debt ceiling is either redundant or inconsistent with the paths of revenues and outlays you specify when you legislate a budget.

Current Fed Chair Bernanke put it even more starkly when he noted that the debt ceiling legislation is equivalent to using a credit card to buy things and then refusing to pay the bill when it arrives.