Debt Burdens

For anyone who expected transformational changes from the fight over the debt-limit increase, Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the limit is a disappointment. But as a way to begin to control Washington’s spending, and to avoid the potential economic and political costs should the debt fight go wrong, it is a worthy framework.

The Boehner plan increases the debt limit by $1 trillion or a little less immediately. At the same time, it would cap discretionary spending so that the government has to spend roughly $1 trillion less over the next ten years than it currently plans to. These caps would be enforceable law, valid unless both houses of Congress and the president decided to break them. In the second phase of the plan, a bipartisan congressional committee would recommend roughly $1.8 trillion in additional deficit reduction. Congress would consider the recommendations under an expedited procedure, and if they passed, President Obama could ask for another debt increase of $1.5 trillion to get beyond the 2012 election.

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