It's a hostage negotiation! It's a lunch conversation! No, it's the debt ceiling debate.
In an effort to explain the infinite insanity of the debt ceiling negotiations, commentators are grasping for metaphors. And many are quite good! The classic comparison is to a hostage negotiation, where Republicans threaten to vote against raising the debt ceiling -- "shoot the hostage" -- unless Democrats give in to spending cuts.
But this metaphor is incomplete. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would hurt Republicans at least as much as Democrats. For any elected official to hold our financial credibility hostage means holding a gun to his own head, not a hostage's.
To me, the debt ceiling, itself, is silly enough to take a pejorative metaphor. Imagine if you asked your family to vote every month on whether you should pay off the house credit card bill. Your spouse would say yes. Your children would say yes. Your neighbor, if you cared to ask him, would say yes. There is nothing to be gained, after all, by not paying a bill you can afford to pay. So why put the family through a vote in the first place?
So it is with a debt ceiling. Ever year or so, the U.S. borrows enough money that we have to raise our legal debt limit. As a platform to demagogue against the majority party, this vote has proven extremely useful. As a means of minding the deficit or assuring foreign investors, it's as silly as polling your wife and neighbor when you receive each month's Chase credit card balance. Families don't vote on paying off credit cards. Governments shouldn't vote on raising debt limits. Indeed, most don't