Here’s a little bit of background in case you live in a hole in Montana. (PS. Please don’t bomb me.)
We have a debt ceiling, $14.3 trillion, which sounds huge if you think of the fact that if you stacked dollar bills you could do it to the moon and back. Twice. However, if you think of it in per capita, we each owe $50,000 and if we all worked for a year and our money went only to the debt, it’d be paid off. (and you can get fancier by only doing the workforce but you get the point). This number is “a cap set by Congress on the amount of debt the federal government can legally borrow. The cap applies to debt owed to the public (i.e., anyone who buys U.S. bonds) plus debt owed to federal government trust funds such as those for Social Security and Medicare.” It exists so we can take stock of how much we are spending and taking in because we need to borrow to make up the differences and we need to borrow to pay off debt. (source)
On May 16th, 2011, we hit $14.3 trillion (which had been set on February 10th, 2010. for real! we raised it just last year!), but the Treasury Department used it’s magic powers to shuffle around money so we have until August 2nd, 2011 to raise the debt limit (a limit set into law back in 1917). My understanding is on August 2nd, we will not have the funds to cover our loans, interest on loans, social security, federal employees incomes (I wonder if that includes Congress? because it should). Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will decide which bills to pay, and we will default on others. Congress needs to approve at least an extension in order for us to borrow enough to cover our debts. They have done this 72 times in the last 50 years.
Only once have we NOT been in debt. Back in Andrew Jackson presidency, we had one year of no debt. Then the states went crazy with their surplus cut and we went into a depression. Oops. So I think the idea of having no debt is like believing the tooth fairy might leave Bohner one million dollars for a pearly white.
However, the last time we had a balanced budget was back in the 90s under Bill Clinton. We used some of our surplus to pay down our debt. That was nice.
Congress is debating a few things:
1) Do we raise the debt ceiling at all? (I think there’s only two people debating this. With themselves.)
2) Do we raise the debt ceiling for x number of years? and work to balance our budget in the meantime?
3) What programs and funding should we need to cut so we don’t have to raise the debt ceiling again?
4) Do we also raise taxes to decrease our debt?
5) Who can hold the most press conferences?
I don’t truly appreciate what could happen August 2nd (wait, doesn’t that make me a tea partier?) I’m at least stockpiling water and buying a generator this weekend as we plunge headfirst into our decline as a nation, and I look forward to African nations arbitrarily deciding whether to forgive out debts in 50 years. Because that’s how karma works.
I find it confusing that a balanced budget discussion is going on now. Why does Congress only think we can have this debate when we are about to be the guy at the poker table who slips out the bathroom window?
Can’t we raise the debt ceiling and still discuss how to cut spending on August 3rd? It’s not as though we’ve never balanced the budget before. Everyone wants to be seen as fiscally responsible these days. And an election year is coming up. Oh wait, the Republicans can’t let Obama look good so I guess we have to have the debate now. Because our country’s well-being doesn’t equal votes except to the party in power.
And anyone who has been in any relationship knows that the best time to have an important discussion is not under duress. It’s when we are all well-rested, well-fed and can think clearly.
We are debating nothing but ideology and votes.
So I ask: where do you stand on the debt crisis debate? Am I missing something or is this debate just embarrassing political pandering?