Negotiating the Debt Limit with PharObama

It doesn’t take long to think of a Biblical example of an intractable negotiation between leaders of nations. Anyone could pick out the clash between Moses and Pharaoh as a prime illustration. Our repeated showdowns over the debt ceiling draw strong parallels which can lead us to wisdom and away from foolish political theater. Unfortunately, not many come to the invective war in internet comment sections armed with real facts. So let’s start there, shall we?

An article in late August pointed out that the publicly held debt subject to the debt limit had been frozen for 100 days straight. ¬†That hasn’t changed in the month since then, but very few news outlets have picked up on this point. As the chart below shows, there are more striking facts going unreported which could shift the entire debate.

FY 2013 National Debt (Daily)

A few questions came to mind while I was collecting this data:

  • What is going to be fundamentally different in the next 10 days that takes us from a 132-day flatline to going over the statutory limit, as the Treasury Secretary warns?
  • How did it stay flat for so long? Is it even true?
  • If we risk default at the current debt limit, why didn’t we default when we borrowed more than that in April and May while the limit was suspended?

The lack of transparency and veracity surrounding the debt limit charade leaves me with no clear answers. Instead we are awash in people invoking the fear of God with threats of economic collapse. Unlike Moses’ warnings to Pharaoh, this plague is not likely to come to pass –at least not from a refusal to raise the debt limit.

We cannot be certain when we’ll finally fall under the weight of the borrow-and-spend mentality much more than we can be certain when Jesus will return. While we keep watch for either event we must remember to fear God, not government shutdowns, for that is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10).

We must also remember that digging in is not wrong by itself. Moses certainly dug in with Pharaoh in his demand for Israel’s freedom, though to be sure Speaker Boehner is not the mouthpiece of God’s chosen people. What is wrong is for a leader to “make it hurt” as Pharaoh did when ordering the Hebrews to make bricks without straw (Ex 5:7-13). President Obama is accused of making this government shutdown more painful than it should be. I don’t know his heart, but the facts are not in his favor.