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Should Congress Raise the Debt Ceiling? Weigh In!

Thursday July 14th, 2011   •   Posted by Emily Skarbek at 9:18am PDT   •  

Freakonomics reports yesterday that a new poll from the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post shows more people see raising the debt limit as a bigger risk than not raising it. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner conduct their own poll. Weigh in here!

As Ezra Klein reports on the development of the Capitol Hill compromise, Mario Rizzo reminds us that whatever the nature of the promises politicians arrive at before Aug. 2nd—those promises fundamentally lack credibility of enforcement.

Republicans have complained with good reason that the revenue enhancement ideas put forth by Obama and Co. are much more specific than expenditure reduction “proposals.” (I would add this is probably true of the expenditure reduction proposals of each side!)

The upshot is: The public doesn’t know what is on or off the table with any reasonable degree of specificity. I imagine that the parties themselves don’t know. There is no reasonable enforcement mechanism for whatever the negotiators come up with.

Mich McConnell might be on to something. Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal he writes, “The entitlement state can’t be reformed by one house of Congress in one year against a determined President and Senate held by the other party. It requires more than one election.”

In short, the question of making credible commitments that can be enforceable in democracy over time is difficult and will not be resolved by this Congress alone. Action to resolve the debt crisis now may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for genuine reform.

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July 2011