The MacMillan Dictionary defines a “perfect storm” as “a very unpleasant situation in which several bad things happen at once.” Trying to predict the future is one of the easiest ways to end up with egg on one’s face. However, enough matters will converge on March 15 that I think prudence commends our at least being aware of them.
• Federal debt ceiling deadline. Recently the following comments from David Stockman, who was Ronald Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, caught my attention:
“I think what people are missing is this date, March 15th, 2017. That’s the day that this debt ceiling holiday that Obama and Boehner put together right before the last election in October of 2015. That holiday expires. The debt ceiling will freeze in at $20 trillion. It will then be law. It will be a hard stop. The Treasury will have roughly $200 billion in cash. We are burning cash at a $75 billion a month rate. By summer, they will be out of cash. Then we will be in the mother of all debt ceiling crises. Everything will grind to a halt. I think we will have a government shutdown. There will not be Obama Care repeal and replace. There will be no tax cut. There will be no infrastructure stimulus. There will be just one giant fiscal bloodbath over a debt ceiling that has to be increased and no one wants to vote for.”1
It’s easy to see how President Trump’s visions of a wall, improved infrastructure, and a $54 billion increase in defense spending (not that much less than Russia’s entire defense budget) could evaporate in the weeks following March 15. Of course, Congress could do what it has before—raise the debt ceiling yet again. But in addition to the common-sense urgency of balancing the budget, Trump has enough enemies in the Establishment—Democrat and Republican alike, to say nothing of the media—who wouldn’t mind seeing turmoil that could be blamed on him. The U.S. government did experience a two-week shutdown in October 2013.