Shutdown drama is costly

Tired of Congress' repeated partisan standoffs every time a big fiscal deadline approaches? Or have you tuned out by now?

These senseless self-induced crises have cost us taxpayers big bucks in higher interest on U.S. debt, even when Congress manages to avert a government stoppage or a default.

Going back more than a quarter century, it has been Republicans who have provoked the showdowns, setting conditions that couldn't become law on their own both for funding the government and raising the nation's debt limit, so the Treasury can keep borrowing to pay the bills.

The serial fiscal dramas have real consequences. The latest came Friday, when Moody's Investors Service announced that it had changed its outlook for U.S. government debt to "negative" from "stable," partly because of "continued political polarization."

The House's novice speaker, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, turned to Democrats for enough votes to pass a stopgap funding bill that simply extends the current spending levels, keeping government open and buying Congress time--to February--to finally reach an agreement for this fiscal year.

So the saga isn't over yet. Though Moody's lowered its outlook for U.S. debt, it did maintain the nation's triple-A credit rating, the highest possible. If Congress makes a hash of the funding process yet again in the new year, Moody's is poised to knock that down as well.

That, in turn, could provoke the country's creditors, who buy Treasury bills and notes, to demand that the government pay them higher interest, which only adds to the annual deficit, the tab we taxpayers are ultimately responsible for.