One thing Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to agree on is that the United States should not be a debtor nation. Let’s cut up the federal credit card. But first, let’s pay it off.

So picture this: You get a credit card with a $15,000 limit, and you put it to use.

You’ve got some outstanding loans and an overdue medical bill, so you take cash advances and pay those off. You need some provisions for a daughter who’s headed to college, and you finally get that broken garage door repaired.

You haven’t really splurged — no high-definition TVs or laptops. You’ve simply satisfied some financial obligations (in a rob-Peter sort of way) and provided somewhat for your family’s education and security.

But the credit limit has been exceeded. All things considered, you’ve fallen further into debt. So when the bill comes due, you decline to pay it, declaring, “We cannot continue to borrow and spend money we don’t have.”

You may have what it takes to be a congressional representative because this is, in essence, what many of them want to do.

Several members of the House –– including Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., whose “borrow and spend” quote we pinched directly for the paragraph above –– have declared they will vote against raising the nation’s debt limit.

Without such congressional action, the federal government would default on its debts sometime this summer.

On the one hand, lawmakers’ frustration is well placed. The federal debt ceiling is now $14.294 trillion –– with a T. If you’re in charge of budgeting something  — even something really big, like a nation — and you can’t get within $14 trillion of balancing the books, you’ve got financial literacy issues.

On the other hand, voting against raising the debt limit is not the responsible way to fix the problem — indeed, it will magnify the problem.

Reed & Co. will argue they are voting against raising the debt limit as a way to cut spending. But the spending has already taken place — Reed himself contributed to it to the tune of $850 billion in December when he voted in favor of the compromise bill between President Obama and Republican leaders that extended the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. What we’re talking about is not spending but paying.

This isn’t a case of borrowing more to spend more –– though Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner will spin it that way; this is a case of borrowing to meet spending obligations that have already been made. Like you and your $15,000 credit card, the time to cut spending is before the purchase is made, not when the bill comes due.

Smarter people than I (e.g., economists, political analysts, kids who drink from puddles) argue that defaulting on our debts would have grave consequences in the stock market, in the jobs market and in financial markets around the world.

I thought Republicans understood this. I thought they were threatening to oppose raising the debt limit to squeeze concessions out of the White House. Listening to Reed (“I want to be clear, I’m a ‘no’ on that proposal”), I’m not so sure.

So: Cut spending? Absolutely. The good thing about Republicans winning the House last fall was that it put spending cuts back on the national agenda.

But do it smartly. One thing Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to agree on is that the United States should not be a debtor nation. Let’s cut up the federal credit card. But first, let’s pay it off.

Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Canandaigua Daily Messenger in New York. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via e-mail at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.