Why does the U.S. have this %^&*#@ debt ceiling in the first place?
Quick, name the other advanced countries with debt ceilings? That must be raised each year, or several times a year, as often occurs in the U.S.? Hell, name any country with a "debt ceiling." (Correct answer: Denmark. That's it.)
Here's a riveting essay by James Surowieki, New Yorker economics writer, on "Why We Don't Need a Debt Ceiling":
Here's the equally estimable Felix Salmon at Reuters on "How We Got Into This Fine Mess" (i.e. the debt ceiling):
For 37 years [since Congress introduced the debt ceiling], the debt ceiling has provided an easy way for the party which isn’t in the White House to posture politically against the party which is in the White House. Even Barack Obama voted against raising it, once. Every one of the dozens of times the debt ceiling was reached, there was a small but non-zero probability that something disastrous would happen. And each time, disaster was, predictably, averted. It’s a classic sign of how tail risks are treacherous and breed invidious complacency. We’ve reached the debt ceiling dozens of times; nothing’s ever happened; so there’s nothing to worry about; so there’s no point expending precious political capital doing the right thing and abolishing it.
And now we’re paying the price. It’s increasingly looking like the best-case scenario is that America simply loses its triple-A credit rating — something which in and of itself will be pointless, dangerous, unnecessarily expensive and potentially catastrophic. The worst-case scenario, of course, is an outright default.
The lion’s share of the blame here belongs with the Republicans in general, the House Republicans in particular, and the Tea Party caucus within the House Republicans most of all. But it’s not like these people’s existence or intransigence was any great secret. And so the White House tactics over the course of the past few months look dangerously naive.
And William Galston of New Republic on "The Debt Debate is Man-Made Chicanery, Our Stalled Economic Recovery is Real":
This painfully slow recovery is rending the fabric of American society. In turn, these growing socio-economic gaps are contributing to the rising polarization of our politics and declining trust in government—developments that will make it even more difficult to forge agreements on the policies we’ll need to get out of this deep hole. No doubt adverse trends in the global economy are making things even worse. But in the end, our economic crisis is a governance crisis. The stalemate over the debt ceiling is a symptom of this systemic fact.