I Ask: What Do You Think Of The Debt Ceiling Crisis?

Guess what? There’s a debt crisis. Or as Jon Stewart says: Armadebtdon 2011

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?

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

17 thoughts to “I Ask: What Do You Think Of The Debt Ceiling Crisis?”

  1. There are several annoying things about this debt ceiling debate: First, it should be a seperate issue to the spending discussion because it is about paying our debts for $ already spent. Even conservative icon Ronald Reagan raised the ceiling 18 times in his two terms. Second, our debt is approaching our annual GDP. Some nations carry much higher debt; like Japan which has a debt twice their GDP. Third, the worst time to cut spending on domestic programs is during a recession or depression. This action will slow the economy even more. Fourth, the current economic crisis has nothing to do with public spending and everything to do with private sector greed and recklessness. Finally, the “shared sacrifice” message is a ruse into making us believe that old people, poor people, and workers should take the brunt of cuts. In fact, there has been a 30 year party going on for the super-rich in which the top 1% of the population has been increasing their wealth while median family income has lost ground. Now that the bill has come due, it should be the super rich who pay the tab. We could realize enormous savings by taxing the rich and corporations and by stopping our 3 wars.

  2. No you aren’t missing anything, and yes it is embarrassing political pandering. My husband (PhD in Poli Sci) and I have had a lot of discussions over this in the past weeks, which is surprising for me b/c politics usually puts me in a sleep coma. We’ve both discussed the possibility that this could be a tactic to make the president do something on his own that the Republicans are against and therefore make Obama look as if he’s going against the wishes of the masses. Basically, just one big tactic to make it harder for him to win the next election. At first, my reaction to that possibility was, “No Way! They wouldn’t jeopardize the well-being of our nation for that, would they?” But as we draw closer to the 11th hour, I’m starting to consider it as a real possibility. It’s rather deplorable really.

  3. I am so angry about this that my coworkers now know not to talk to me for the first half hour at work because I listen to NPR on the way in. To me it really looks like the republican party is willing to sacrifice the American economy and world standing to come out ahead in the 2012 election. And that makes me literally sick. I agree that fiscal responsibility is key. I agree that cuts need to be made. But I also believe that we all need to pay our fair share and any jobs that might be affected by raising taxes on corps and rich folks (or ending cuts or whatever) aren’t going to be saved by a national debt default, credit rating downgrade, and subsequent economic mayhem. THINK people (about more than your politcal standing). and the worst part, to me, is that they’re invoking MY name (as an american voter) as their reasoning. This is NOT what I want! I emailed all of my governmental representatives yesterday to let them know exactly what I do want, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

  4. The far right is making quite the habit of seeking wedge issues just for the sake of generating controversy. It’s like if they’re not fighting, they don’t exist. 72 times in the past 50 years the debt limit has been raised! This should have been a simple housekeeping vote, but instead Beohner et al decided to exploit it.

    And what are they exploiting? They are exploiting the bottom-line difference between the left and the right (I hate to use that overly-simplistic dichotomy but Carter wants to look for Origami books on Amazon so I’m trying to hurry.) and that is this: many in the US believe there are some people who are worthy and some people who are not. Social security and Medicare go to worthy people. Tax breaks for wealthy “job creators” (both people and corporations) and farm subsidies go to worthy people. Entitlement programs like food stamps and Medicaid benefit unworthy people. Public education benefits the unworthy more than it benefits the worthy (in the short term, in any case), and it’s almost always on the chopping block when someone wants an austerity budget.

    I won’t get into the worthy/unworthy thing because it makes me go all purple in the face and start sputtering incoherently.

    Of course, it’s all tangled up in race, gender, and a host of other things in addition to class, but I’ll stop here and go find those Origami books.

  5. Hi Alex,

    Your blog always tickles my funny bone! You put things in a such a humorous way, it can’t help but put a smile on my face.

    I am really upset at the ‘idiots’ we have elected to run our government. These greedy, self-righteous, pompous…. politicians can’t even act civil to each other, let alone do their job. They are making our country a laughing stock to the rest of the world. When did ‘democracy’ mean: fighting, greedy people, selfish people, ‘land of the wealthy and powerful’, home to the ones who can run the fastest.

    I must stop before I ’embarrass myself’ by saying something really bad. Let’s just say, I’m so fed-up with our government, that I might just not vote in the next election! Just Kidding! However, I wouldn’t vote Republican if they had “God Himself” running!

  6. I think they don’t ever think about the people which can’t help themselves, the poor, the disabled, etc. They need to take care of those that can’t help themselves!!

  7. I am embarrassed that our politicians are acting like drama queens rather than getting something accomplished. Warren buffet suggested that if the debt to income ratio were too high, no elected official should be eligible to be voted back into office. I think there’s some merit to that. But, as you said, this isn’t the time to debate. Everyone is crabby. Let’s get it done and they can discuss fiscal responsibility when we know the government wont shut down.

  8. Read the article by yourself called WHY AREN’T THE WEALTHY CALLED FREELOADERS? and put it on billboards. Thousands of job cuts are already going on based on the debate going on. States have also put themselves in a quagmire, and do you know who is behind it? The super rich like the Koch brothers who have seven bazillion dollar mansions between them and don’t pay their workers enough. The govt. has raised the debt ceiling many many times. Sure, we can do it. We also might remember that the budget was balanced during the Clinton administration. Remember who unbalanced it and how. How about having a WPA-type program which would put folks to work? Then they would have money to spend which would bring in revenue. Also we might try raising the taxes on the super rich, many of whom have even said TAX US, WE NEVER ASKED FOR A TAX BREAK. Rant rant.

  9. and furthermore, (I read the other posts) what this is about is the SUPER RICH against ALL THE REST OF US. (Remember the top 1% of Americans are the wealthiest own how much?) Give me stats on “Why trickle down economics doesn’t work.” My Tea Party friend swears that it does, while she complains about the problems with Social Security. Google Bernie Sanders. Watch his speeches. He is GRAND. I wish he were president.

  10. Ready for another fun bit?

    If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, it’s going to impact our loans. And my “our”, I mean the loan on my Nissan, my Chase card, my Old Navy credit card and for those who have ARMs, their mortgage interest rates.

    And because you rock, I’m going to cite a source:

    The whole situation is completely ridiculous. I’m sick and tired of every single vote being turned into a debate. The truth is the Republicans are brilliant political strategists who have somehow conned their base into thinking Obama and the democrats have put our country in financial jeopardy rather than the fact that our country went to hell in a handbasket years before he was elected. They’re re-writing history. And the people are letting them! UGH!

    And if one more person says that the wealthy are “job creators”, I may just scream. If they’re job creators and their tax breaks are supposed to create jobs, then why is our unemployment rate so high?

    In the meantime, interesting story, I’m a government employee who has a job on the chopping block every year. Because I work in education. With foster and homeless youth. And we’re apparently pigs at the public trough.

    I’m going to stop now before I get off topic and REALLY fired up.

  11. I don’t think we are alone, the same situation is going on in Europe as well. What usually happens is that there is a solution but it is kept under the table because it will be politically very unpopular. Meanwhile we are presented with an even more uncomfortable solution, which gets voted out and the solution that the politicians wanted all along magically comes out from under the table and we are forced to accept it.

  12. I really appreciate Timothy and Bill’s comments which shed a lot of light on the issue for me. I have no opinion because I live under a rock in Montana. I mean France.

  13. A a private company ran it’s books like the federal government, somebody would go to jail.

    Example: If wants to increase spending on say, social security and they increase spending by a lesser amount the following years it’s listed as a “spending cut” or “savings”.

    Example: The “cuts” proposed by Harry Reid in the bill just past is that they will ask for less money to support the war. Money they never planned to spend. It’s like you decide to not buy a new car and then expect find $12,000 in your checking account.

    The Clinton “Balance Budget” always cracks me up because I can balance my budget by not including bills due today and saying that we’ll pay them next year.

    Both sides of the aisle play these money games so I advocate a “Green” Congress. We should recycle all of them.

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