The most dangerous people involved in the upcoming debt ceiling crisis are the ones who do not believe that breaching the debt ceiling is that big a deal, that default is tolerable, or who deny the wide-ranging economic dislocation that such an insane decision would bring. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is one of those people, and Dave Weigel reports that on Laura Ingraham's radio show, he revived one of the terrible ideas he had the last time we came close to a debt ceiling crisis -- the "Full Faith And Credit Act":
On Laura Ingraham's show today, Toomey averred that "we have to raise the debt ceiling" as a "stop along this path" to fiscal sanity. And then he resurrected Full Faith and Credit.
"We should pass a bill out of the bill out of the House," he said, "saying there will be certain priorities attached to certain things, namely payment of debt services and payment of our military."
Toomey first came up with the idea of the Full Faith And Credit Act back when the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner started warning people of the measures his agency would have to take to forestall a default disaster -- the key point being that a lot of people who the government cares for, like veterans and the elderly, would stop getting checks. These warnings were definitely part of a leverage gambit -- tug at the heartstrings, gather public support against the hostage-takers -- and Toomey's response strikes me as mainly a political response: "Well, what if we passed a law that ensures all of our heroes and dear family members keep getting their money?"
Well, as you might imagine, the Treasury Department pointed out that "legislation to 'prioritize' payments would simply represent default by another name":
Suggestions that Congress could somehow evade responsibility for raising the debt limit by passing legislation to “prioritize” payments on the national debt above other legal obligations of the United States are simply not true. This would not prevent default, since it would seek to protect only principal and interest payments and not other legal obligations of the United States from non-payment. Adopting a policy that payments to investors should take precedence over other U.S. legal obligations would merely be default by another name, since the world would recognize it as a failure by the United States to stand behind its commitments. It would therefore bring about the same catastrophic economic consequences.
Funny thing: "full faith and credit" means exactly that. Another funny thing: back when Toomey criticized President Barack Obama's 2012 State Of The Union address, he assailed the president for allegedly believing "that Washington should be picking winners and losers based on his own political judgment."
I guess what he meant is that Washington should be picking winners and losers pased on Toomey's judgment. Unfortunately for Toomey, if we follow his judgment on what should be done about the debt ceiling, nobody wins.
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