Kevin Williamson has moved from National Review to The Dispatch. It is well worth subscribing.
If you put me in a philosophy class, I am a pretty radical libertarian, but if you ask me how I want the government of these United States of America to conduct its business in the real-world here-and-now, I’m an Eisenhower Republican. I don’t love the debt-ceiling gamesmanship—I didn’t love it when Democrats, including Joe Biden, were doing it, and I resent that I’m apparently expected to forget that ever happened—and, in general, I prefer orderliness in administration and predictability in policy. I would prefer a politics of consensus to our current politics of apocalyptic imbecility.
If we do not do something about our national finances, then we will reach a point at which the debt ceiling is no longer a matter of congressional action but a matter of what the credit markets are willing to bear. Congress can authorize more borrowing, but that doesn’t mean that bond investors have to lend the government money. And when the market says “no,” then you are in a crisis, “because this massive accumulation of debt was predicted, because it was foreseeable, because it was unnecessary, because it was the result of willful and reckless disregard for the warnings that were given and for the fundamentals of economic management,” as Joe Biden put it when voting against a debt-ceiling increase during the George W. Bush administration.
Because we are not yet in such a crisis, we do not have to solve the problem all at once. We do not have to enact radical and disruptive change overnight. We have lots of tools in the toolbox, lots of options, and lots of resources—we can reform entitlements, put a leash on discretionary spending, rationalize the tax code, and take other steps to bring revenue and spending into something more closely approximating balance. That will not be easy or pleasant to do—but it will be much, much worse if we are forced into making radical immediate changes by the restrictions imposed by the credit crisis toward which our federal government has pointed itself. Take in the current debate and then imagine a situation in which raising the debt ceiling simply is not an option—because that is where we will eventually end up if we do not reform our finances.