The movie "Ides of March" contains a scene that illustrates the role of the growing national debt in alleviating the need to reduce federal spending or raise revenues.
In the film, Stephen Meyers, a campaign worker for presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris, urges the candidate to make his national service initiative for 18 year olds mandatory.
Morris balks at that, stating a voluntary program would be satisfactory.
"It's going to help people get an education ... it's going to create national unity ... it's going to teach young people a trade ... and it's going to help get people out of debt from college loans," the candidate says. "Tell me where that fails."
Meyer agrees the program is fine; but proposing to make it compulsory would attract voters.
"... everyone who is older than 18 and past the age of eligibility would be for it ... create national pride ... give all the kids an education," he says.
"And all the others?" the governor asks.
"Can't vote," Mayer replies. "Too young."
This shows why piling up the national debt is so politically attractive compared to reducing federal spending or asking taxpayers for more money. Unpopular decisions are deferred to another time.
Can this go on indefinitely? The last time the national debt was pushed to the limit, in August 2011, Standard & Poor's lowered its rating for U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA-plus. Don't be surprised if other ratings firms follow suit, even if the debt ceiling is raised sooner rather than later.
But any budget deal that involves raising revenues, cutting spending or both would cause the national economy to recede. So look for the debt limit to be raised again this month.
And then wonder how many who eventually will be tasked with repaying that debt are old enough to vote. Or old enough to know better.