October 18, 2022

Paul Krugman writes about what Democrats should do to prevent a Republican majority from refusing to raise the debt ceiling, blowing up the world economy, and extorting cuts in Social Security and Medicare? Via the New York Times:

Why would refusing to raise the debt limit blow up the economy? In the modern world, U.S. debt plays a crucial role: It is the ultimate safe asset, easily converted into cash, and there are no good alternatives. If investors lose confidence that the U.S. government will honor its obligations, the resulting financial storm will make the recent chaos in Britain look like a passing shower.

So what should be done to avert this threat? If Republicans do gain control of one or both houses in November, Democrats should use the lame-duck session to enact a very large rise in the debt limit, enough to put the issue on ice for years. Republicans and pundits who don’t understand the stakes would furiously attack this move, but it would be far better than enabling extortion — and would probably be forgotten by the time of the 2024 election.

If for some reason Democrats don’t take this obvious step, the Biden administration should be prepared to turn to legal strategies for bypassing the debt limit. There appear to be several loopholes the administration could exploit — minting trillion-dollar platinum coins is the most famous, but there are others, like issuing bonds with no maturity date and hence no face value.

The Obama administration was unwilling to go any of these routes, largely, I think, because it believed that they would look gimmicky and undignified, and it preferred to seek compromise. But surely Democrats don’t need to worry about dignity when the other party is ruled by Donald Trump. And in any case, they’re now confronting opponents who aren’t just radical but also anti-democracy; no real compromise is possible.

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