No, in the end they did not actually block a debt ceiling increase, so we avoided a formal default, and the ratings agencies may even yet let us off the hook for an official downgrade. But that does not matter. Since our one-only-in-the-world debt ceiling was unified in 1939, it has had 89 "clean" increases up until this year, despite some noise and huffing on some, and even a delay in 1979 great enough to cost taxpayers something like $10 billion due to a one month technical delay in paying $120 million in interest.
But now we are in a new world. The master of this increase, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has made it clear that this is the "new normal." There will be no clean increases in the future, and the tea party has made it clear that Grover Norquist is our dictator; there will be no tax increases to help in meeting the demands to reduce deficits, even though these efforts look to push us back into another recession, 1937-style, all over again. Chinese and other foreign commentators have gotten the message, just as did Moody's, that there is a very severe risk to the full faith and credit of the United States due to potential political gridlock in the Congress, with the worst of this driven by maniacs who refuse to increase taxes and some of whom even think that a default would actually improve the credit rating of the US. The only thing that could have been worse out of this mess would have been if in fact they had failed to raise the damned debt ceiling.
As it is, the New York Times has a lead editorial this morning calling for the abolition of the debt ceiling, a position I have been pushing here since April 19.