Is the Debt Ceiling the Most Cynical Vote in Congress?

More

The debt ceiling vote has been called a "tax on the majority." Here's why.

These two graphs show how the Senate and the House have voted on stand-alone debt limit measures over the past decade (via Donald Marron at the TaxVox blog) -- first Senate, then House.

Why do the bars look so monochrome? Because every year besides 2002 and 2007 (divided government), the party in power has had to carry the burden of raising the debt ceiling alone. When Republicans are in power, Democrats hold out to kvetch about taxes and deficits. When Democrats are in power, Republicans hold out to kvetch about spending and deficits.


The debt ceiling rule allegedly exists to give lawmakers pause about how much they're charging to the federal credit card. It's like a federal credit card statement. Is that so unreasonable?

I think this graph conclusively proves: Yes. The debt ceiling vote is grandstanding masquerading as procedure. It doesn't give lawmakers with power pause; instead, it gives lawmakers without power a platform to rant about deficits before letting the other party bear the burden of responsible governance. Then elections happen, the parties switch roles, and the roll calls flip.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In