Mere words can hardly convey the preposterousness of the debt ceiling. It is a stupid artifact of legislation that was hastily passed in the World War I era, and it creates a paradox at the heart of our budget politics: the law of the land commands the government to spend more than it takes in in tax revenue, and also, forbids the Treasury to borrow the necessary money.


When I was reporting on Wall Street, I used to be told with some regularity that government was needed to counteract the short-term thinking of the business sector, who never thought much beyond the next quarterly earnings report. This now seems as quaintly adorable as picture hats and daily milk deliveries. An ADHD day trader with a cocaine habit and six months to live has considerably more long-term planning skills than our current congress.

Like other anti-Coiners, Megan doesn’t address the question of what the President is supposed to do if the Congress orders him to spend money it forbids him to raise, but she’s right to say that the Coin idea is a vicious satire on our current political situation, as created by the clownshow calling itself the House Republican Conference, with assistance from Grover Norquist, the Brothers Koch, and most of Red Blogistan. Which, for some of us, is the main point.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.