Reagan Explains Why Raising the Debt Ceiling Is Necessary

Republicans should shelve using the debt ceiling vote as a means of negotiation.

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Let’s get real. What person in their right mind would really want the United States to default? Of course, nobody, yet over the years many members of Congress have voted against raising the debt ceiling.

Barack Obama did it and now rejects his own action. It is always a symbolic gesture that both Democrats and Republicans use, and use irresponsibly. [See a slide show of 6 consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised.]

Yet now we seem to have the Tea Party, and a larger group of Republicans, clamoring for some kind of show down at the OK Corral. Not a symbolic gesture to some but a real threat. Not smart. [ Check out political cartoons about the Tea Party.]

For those who like to cite Ronald Reagan in his 100th year as a stalwart, antidebt, no-tax-hike, no nonsense conservative, they have the wrong guy. Aside from his major tax increases as governor of California and as president here is a little history on the debt ceiling. [See photos celebrating Reagan's 100th birthday.]

In a letter to then-Majority Leader Howard Baker on November 16, 1983, President Reagan asked “for your help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt.” [See a slide show of 6 ways to raise the debt ceiling.]

Reagan went on:

…the United states could be forced to default on its obligations for the first time in its history.

This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world. The full consequence of a default--or even the serious prospect of default--by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate….The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.

The point is that Republicans should shelve using the debt ceiling vote as a means of negotiation. This is not a negotiable item. Should they take this right up until the 11th hour and refuse to fund the government not only will Reagan’s admonitions come true but the Republicans will seal their fate as an irresponsible, minority party--a pariah for years to come.

Bad policy, bad politics.