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Debt politics

After clearing both chambers of Congress, the nation's debt limit once again will increase. Majorities at both ends of the Capitol saw their way clear to authorizing payment for the bills they authorized to be created -- and did it without shutting down the government.

Do you see how low the bar is getting pushed for success in our nation's capital?

While the drama of last fall's 16-day shutdown was not repeated, the debt limit debate was not without its theatrics, politics and general misunderstanding.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was able to mix all three with his tea party line in the sand. The freshman senator who helped orchestrate October's shutdown threatened to filibuster this week's vote as well. That meant at least five GOP senators had to side with all the Democrats in order even to consider the House-passed bill raising the debt limit.

In the end, 12 senior Republicans did what responsibly had to be done. We would suspect at least some of them will pay the price in the upcoming primary election at the hands of tea partiers who are lining up donors and mobs of voters not to change Washington -- but to wreck it.

The Madison Project, a relatively new but financially solid ultraconservative political non-profit, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had given Obama a blank check.

Cruz said legislators had given Obama more time "to keep digging the hole of debt deeper, while doing absolutely nothing, nada, zero, to address the underlying problem of out-of-control spending."

Even Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said "it's irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without serious changes to the way Washington spends money."

As we've long held, we even agree with that. But risking this great nation's credit rating and threatening to disrupt payments to federal workers, Social Security benefits, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers is not the time to bargain. We need to recall Congress approves all spending bills. It seems the only time Congress appears willing to even mention some of the unsustainable spending levels is when the Treasury secretary already has begun accounting maneuvers to postpone potential defaults. Morale outrage is declared when suggesting a slight reduction in future cost-of-living adjustments for middle-aged Americans drawing full military pensions whilst working full-time in their second career.

All politicians appear to be in agreement that no "grand bargain" can be accomplished this year because of the all-important mid-term elections. Nonsense. Every election is important, and the election cycle never ends. Congress opts not to address the ever-increasing entitlement programs because almost every sector of America has its lobbyists, except for the very poor. Lobbyists come with money, and that money corrupts even the simplest of tasks.

We're not suggesting resolving any of the many issues that face our nation will be simple. Far from it. But posed outrage and false concerns when merely attempting to pay the bills Congress already agreed to spend is insincere at best. And the entire Kansas delegation voted against the limit increase.

The Treasury Department has 13 months before this issue arises again. Given the track record, we have zero confidence any of our elected leaders will do anything to fix this country's problems. They will tell us they'll try, and they'll blame the other guy, or if they're from the tea party they'll continue pushing for complete meltdown -- all the while more and more Baby Boomers will retire, further straining the federal budget.

And we'll keep electing them? We ought to have our heads examined.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net