Financial TimesFinancial Times

Game, set and almost match to Biden on the debt ceiling

By Edward Luce

31 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The U.S. debt-ceiling deal is a win for Joe Biden, but it's unlikely to end the era of fiscal brinkmanship. The FT's Edward Luce argues that this episode has only normalized such drama.

Shakespeare foretold the tale of America’s latest debt-ceiling crisis — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The final deal, which will probably be passed this weekend, could also have been scripted by Joe Biden. Rarely in the history of fiscal brinkmanship has so much noise been made by so many Republicans with so little to show for it. The result is a win for Biden that prudence stops him from celebrating.

This charade’s key lesson is that people who call themselves “fiscal conservatives” are guilty of fraudulent branding — aided by a process-obsessed media. The definition of fiscal conservatism is matching public spending with revenues over the business cycle. Threatening a catastrophic default unless the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service is defunded is its very opposite. That would be fiscal incontinence.

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