Those of us who live in the United States woke Tuesday morning to a “partial government shutdown.” Partial means, roughly speaking, that air traffic controllers go to work but park rangers do not. The shutdown is the result of the failure of Congress to pass a budget — or in lieu of a budget, a continuing resolution — in time for the October 1 start of the 2014 fiscal year.
Even if the shutdown is resolved in the next few days, another round of chaos looms at mid-month, when Congress must authorize an increase in the debt ceiling in order for the government to continue making interest and principal payments on debts that the same Congress previously authorized the government to accumulate.
Many conservative Republicans say that measures like government shutdowns and debt-ceiling freezes are necessary because taxation and government spending are out of control and public debt is rapidly becoming unsustainable. How much truth is there to those charges? Just how bad, really, is U.S. fiscal policy, and what should be done to fix it?