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Published: Thursday, 1/17/2013

Debt to the people

President Obama wants Congress to lift the federal debt ceiling, again. That won’t occur if he can’t negotiate reasonably with lawmakers.

The national debt is $16.5 trillion. Some Republicans in Congress say they will agree to raise the debt limit only to the degree that spending is reduced.

The problem is, as Mr. Obama noted this week, that spending already authorized by Congress will push the debt beyond its limit next month, making payment of the government’s bills impossible. A default would have disastrous results for America’s credit rating and the health of the economy.

The President has vowed not to negotiate with Congress on the debt ceiling, saying it would put Washington politics in the way of American progress. Republicans say they see no other way to restrain spending and cut the debt.

Mr. Obama is correct that lifting the debt ceiling is a separate process from setting appropriate spending levels for the military, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. Even so, Americans don’t want the debt to keep going up.

Rather, they want the White House and Congress to make rational decisions about government spending, without wrecking the economy by refusing to pay the government’s bills.

This latest impasse is an appalling example of Washington’s irresponsibility, only 10 weeks after the most recent national election. The debt limit must be raised, then the President and Congress must cut spending, without delay. Enough is enough.

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