Reforming the debt-limit law is one place to start. It has its virtues, chief among them the power to periodically focus the nation’s attention on its accumulated debt burden, which, though related, is a separate issue from the annual level of spending, taxes and borrowing.
Alas, the law was crafted in a different era, before U.S. debts were so large, and our ability to service them so crucial to the world’s well-being. Our politicians were not so easily frightened into voting against a debt increase — or so easily tempted to partisan blackmail.
We need a new debt-limit law for a new era of permanent debt and permanent partisan conflict. Ideally, a reformed procedure would preserve the law’s power to focus Congress on accumulated debt while removing, or minimizing, incentives to delay passage, and thus usurp presidential power.