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Opinion | How the Debt Ceiling Turned into a Doomsday Cult

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An apocalyptic mood sweeps over the congressional press corps every couple of years as the federal government approaches its debt ceiling and representatives and senators meet to bicker over whether to raise the ceiling, temporarily suspend it or perform other legislative magic to finance the workings of the U.S. government. Take, for example, this page one, above-the-fold lede from the Sept. 22 edition of the Washington Post, which all but unleashes the Seven Plagues on mankind and tosses the unbelievers into a lake of fire. The lede reads:

The United States is careening toward an urgent financial crisis starting in less than two weeks, as a political standoff on Capitol Hill threatens to shutter the government during a pandemic, delay hurricane aid to millions of Americans and thrust Washington to the precipice of defaulting on its debt.

Careening! Urgent! Crisis! Standoff! Shutter! Precipice! Default! If you were new to the subgenre of debt-ceiling journalism, the tone of this piece might be enough to encourage you to make like a doomsday prepper, liquidate your market positions and start stockpiling rations, batteries, water and weapons. Because it’s true that a default on the federal debt would fracture the economy and unleash a blood-dimmed tide over humanity — but it’s equally true that such a calamity has never happened, won’t happen this time and will likely never happen because members of Congress who love to play chicken never follow through. They always chicken out. Checking the fossil record, we find that Congress has averted disaster at least........

© Politico

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