If the U.S. really had a debt ceiling, the president and Congress would not keep raising it.
President Obama won a great political victory last week when craven Republicans bowed to his will and approved an increase in the debt limit that should last until February.
But it was a policy failure. Who says? President Obama says. Or at least that's what he said back in 2006 when he and other Democrats tried to block a debt ceiling increase to a much lower level than it is now.
Objecting to a $250 billion budget deficit under President George W. Bush that resulted in the need to increase the debt ceiling, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama decried the nation's growing debt.
"Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better," he said.
In his speech from the U.S. Senate floor, Obama warned that "every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America's priorities."
The president has since acknowledged that his speech was just a political ploy to embarrass the Republicans, who were able to pass the debt ceiling increase by a 52-48 party-line vote in the Senate. Then it was the Democrats who were pushing the default on debt obligations that they rightly decry now.
But Sen. Obama was right then, just as Republicans are right now to warn that simply increasing the debt limit as the country's debt increases isn't the right answer. That's not to say that the U.S. should default, but only that it must control spending.
The national debt is $17 trillion and growing by leaps and bounds. Interest on that debt is eating eat up larger and larger chunks of the federal budget.
Debt isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most home owners have a mortgage that they pay each month, and, if other spending is managed properly, debt can be a useful tool that boosts a person's quality of life.
But this country is courting disaster, just as Illinois courted and caught disaster with its profligate ways.
It's not a real debt ceiling if the ceiling is automatically increased with the debt. This country will pay dearly unless both parties get serious on the issue of our exploding debt and consequent debt ceiling increases.