How the Debt Ceiling Battle Could End

May 25, 2023

And what FDR’s debt ceiling experience can teach Biden.

The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.

The Paths to Avoid Default

As the debt ceiling hostage situation continues, a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt remains a real possibility.

According to some constitutional scholars, it shouldn’t be possible.

This week, the Roosevelt Institute hosted a press call with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse and economic and legal experts to outline potential paths forward.

It is President Biden’s “constitutional responsibility to execute all of the laws, not just the demands of some members of Congress based on the debt ceiling statute—and there are many spending laws that he, in fact, must take care to execute,” said Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong.

“The 14th Amendment is not about going around Congress, and it is not an ‘option.’ In fact, we would argue that there is good scholarly precedent for saying that the 14th Amendment obligates the president to take prudent action.”

Read more debt ceiling takes from the call, and catch up on Wong’s latest blog post: “What Biden Can Learn from FDR for Today’s Debt Ceiling Fight.”


A False Dilemma in the Permitting Debate

Amid this debt ceiling brinkmanship, one of the many policy issues to be pulled into the debate is “permitting reform”—legislation intended to speed up the development of energy projects by cutting community and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These cuts have been framed as essential to speed up the renewable transition.

New research from Jamie Pleune shows that this is a false trade-off.

As Pleune finds, the true sources of delay are a lack of agency capacity, unstable budgets, waits for information from developers, and poor coordination between permitting authorities.

“Reducing analytical rigor or weakening environmental standards, which are some of the permitting reforms on the table in debt ceiling talks, won’t address the true blockages to the build-out of renewables,” says Pleune.

Read Pleune’s ideas for progressive permitting reform.


Using Industrial Policy for Productive Transformation

The Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act represent the most prominent initial efforts by US policymakers to reinvest in domestic manufacturing, infrastructure, and energy.

As implementation continues, there’s a lot to learn from history, Roosevelt’s Isabel Estevez writes in a new brief.

“The climate crisis will necessitate a sustained industrial transformation,” she says. “Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent a body of knowledge to inform that enterprise: Development economics scholarship has a long tradition and many lessons for this moment.”

Read on for three of those lessons.


How Feminist Economics Brought Us the Care Agenda

Feminist ideas once considered subversive are now changing how policymakers think about the economy.

On a new episode of How to Save a Country, renowned economist Nancy Folbre—author of Greed, Lust, and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas—explains how we got here, and what sets the care economy apart.

“I think we want to consider what the output of the care economy is, and the actual output is us. It’s our capabilities,” Folbre says. “The care economy is about the production and the development and also the maintenance of human capabilities. This doesn’t factor into GDP.”

Listen now, and follow for new podcast episodes every Thursday.

And for more on today’s care crisis, check out this new Ms. Magazine piece from Roosevelt’s Suzanne Kahn: “Women Workers Can Help Rebuild the US Economy—If We Can Solve Their Care Challenges.”


What We’re Reading

A Liberalism That Builds Power [feat. Roosevelt’s Todd N. Tucker]The American Prospect

Technologies Can Stop Fossil Fuel’s Financial Rollercoaster. But We Must Ensure Everyone Can Access Them [feat. Roosevelt’s Kristina Karlsson and fellow J.W. Mason]Forbes

Companies Are Taking a Harder Line on Union Organizers, Workers SayNew York Times