Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, said if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the “impact on the economy would be catastrophic.”

“I don’t see why anybody’s playing chicken with the debt ceiling,” Goolsbee said today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “If we get to the point where we damage the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”

The government is slated to hit the legal limit on borrowing, $14.3 trillion, early this year. Congress must agree to raise that ceiling or the U.S. could be forced to default on its obligations.

After candidates supported by anti-deficit Tea Party activists were elected on pledges to rein in government spending, some lawmakers have said they would demand budget cuts in exchange for voting to raise the debt ceiling.

The U.S. has a $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit. President Barack Obama’s debt-reduction panel failed last month to agree on its chairmen’s recommendations for ways to reduce the annual deficit to about $400 billion in 2015.

The plan would have increased taxes by $1 trillion by 2020 by scaling back or eliminating hundreds of deductions, exclusions or credits such as those allowing homeowners to write off interest on their mortgage payments. It would also have cut individual and corporate income tax rates.

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