Republicans risk catastrophe to balance America's checkbook
When summer dries the pine needles of the West's great forests and roasts scrub brush to a tinder brown, Forest Service workers sometimes roam the canopy with fuel tanks strapped to their back, lighting the ground on fire.
Firefighters call these exercises "controlled burns" or "prescribed fire." Essentially, it means burning a few dead trees to save the whole forest. When it works, as it often does, the practice thins the kindling on the forest floor and reduces the danger of a catastrophically large fire. But sometimes, the wind shifts unexpectedly and fans the flames, and the burn spreads wildly out of control.
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This is the risk congressional Republicans are taking as they negotiate with the White House over raising the nation's debt ceiling. They're subjecting the United States to a sort-of economic controlled burn -- one that could dampen risks down the road, or spark the very conflagration they hope to avoid.
By refusing to increase federal borrowing authority without major budget cuts, the GOP is trying to thin the possibility of a debt crisis raging through the domestic economy. America must act now, Republicans say, to avert a scenario where, faced with mounting public debt, investors quickly lose confidence in government securities, federal borrowing costs spike, and growth plummets.