In a better, more rational world, the debt limit wouldn’t be a tool of budgetary policy. But it is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation that Republicans can use to force spending cuts, and it obviously relates directly to our budget problem. If the president doesn’t want the debate over it to go nerve-wrackingly down to the wire, he can set out a serious offer, now.

Of course, he’s doing the opposite. His refusal to negotiate isn’t sustainable, but he’ll spend precious time trying to sustain it. He’ll finally agree to talk, and then get Republicans to back off whatever their maximal position is — because Republicans will again fear being blamed if there’s no agreement. Another Band-Aid will be applied to the debt, until next time. In the Age of Obama, the new budget crisis always follows the last.