Americans Still Don’t Understand the Debt Ceiling

I don’t mean understand it in terms of what it actually is (though I don’t think they understand that either). They don’t understand the consequences of it. Breaching the debt ceiling would be catastrophic, causing irreversible long-term effects on our debt and economy. That’s not hyperbole. The market doesn’t believe that we will breach the debt ceiling, because it would be too idiotic for John Boehner to allow that to happen. The current government shutdown is a drag on our economy and harms many different aspects of people’s daily lives. But a default is many orders of magnitude worse. Yet, a new Quinnipiac Poll today suggests that Americans are a bit confused about which is more dangerous: breaching the debt ceiling or a government shutdown.

Raising the debt ceiling is non-negotiable.
Raising the debt ceiling is non-negotiable.

The poll finds that by 72% to 22% margin, Americans do not want Congress to shut down the federal government over Obamacare. That’s good. However, a smaller margin (64% to 27%) do not want Congress to default over Obamacare. It’s good that in both cases Americans understand that it’s not acceptable to use a fiscal crisis as leverage to extort the opposite party. But these polls demonstrate that more Americans are OK with that extortion when the hostage is the debt ceiling than when it is government funding,

That’s backwards and needs to change. Part of the reason for this may be because this poll was conducted over the weekend, right before a government shutdown, while a possible default is still a few weeks away. Nevertheless, the media must do a better job explaining the consequences of a default to the American people. There should be no pretense that there will be negotiations over the debt ceiling. That’s not how this works. President Obama screwed up in 2011 by negotiating over it, but that was an outlier. It did not set a precedent.

Speaker Boehner will raise the debt ceiling, because if he doesn’t, it will go down as one of the single worst actions a legislator has done in the history of the United States. Once again, that’s not hyperbole. We need to stop treating this as a back-and-forth game, trying to guess what the speaker will do, and start calling it what it is: a foregone conclusion. Boehner will raise the debt ceiling, because it would be apocalyptic not to. The American people need to know that as well.