It’s the Debt Ceiling, Stupid! A Factual Guide for Republicans

boehner-debtA few years ago the vast majority of Americans had never heard of the term “debt ceiling,” let alone cared much about it.  The reason for this was simple — it’s nothing more than a procedural vote done by Congress that allows the government to spend the money we’ve already agreed to spend.

It’s not about new spending.  It’s not any sort of spending bill.  It’s just a procedural vote that allows the United States to pay its bills.

Think of it like a credit card.  You’ve already made the charges.  You’ve used, or obtained, the goods or services which you charged on the particular card — but now it’s time to pay the bills.  Your bank needs an authorization from you to do so.  It’s basically you authorizing the bank to send payment for money you’ve already spent.  By not authorizing the bank to do so, you’ll be late on your payments, end up defaulting on your credit and ruining your credit.

Granted the debt ceiling is slightly more complicated than that — but not much.  That’s why most of us had never heard of the debt ceiling before just a few years ago.  It’s a procedural vote that should go off without a hitch, because it’s just that simple and straight forward.  It wasn’t until Republicans began using its vote as a mechanism to hold the United States economy hostage in an attempt to blackmail the president that the debt ceiling suddenly became nationally known.

In fact, let’s look at what the U.S. Department of the Treasury defines the debt ceiling (or debt limit) as:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments.  The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments.  It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.

Pretty simple.  It’s not about new spending.  It’s not about spending increases of any kind.  It’s simply a procedural vote that allows the United States to pay its bills—period.

Yet, while it’s a very simple vote, not increasing the debt ceiling could have catastrophic economic consequences.  It would most assuredly crash our stock market and leave us in another financial crisis which could end up being even worse than what we experienced a few years ago.

It’s such an important vote that the United States government has never, not even once, failed to increase the debt limit on time.

So when Republicans sit there and try and use this vote as some kind of leverage to blackmail the president into giving them something they want, they’re gambling with not just our economy, but the lives of millions of Americans.

To say their actions are reckless would be an understatement.

And it’s even more dangerous that many Republicans have blatantly distorted what the debt ceiling is and the consequences that could follow if we refused to raise it on time.

So once more–the debt ceiling is not about new spending, it’s not about borrowing more money, it’s not a spending bill of any kind. 

And it’s damn sure not something anyone, or political party, within our government should be using as some kind of bargaining chip.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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