July 29th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

The debt ceiling: Where you stand in battle

House Speaker John Boehner's debt plan was put on hold Thursday night after lacking the needed votes to pass, but he may try again Friday. The frustration about the inability of Congress and President Barack Obama to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a possible government default has sparked a firestorm of anger directed toward Washington.

But there's no shortage of people who believe they have the answer to solving the crisis or who is to blame for it.

As Washington struggles to reach a deal, CNN is listening to what you have to say about the debt fiasco as well thoughts from influential voices, politicians and analysts.

iReport: Your message to Congress

What is the solution for fixing the debt crisis?

With the both chambers of Congress seemingly unable to come up with a debt-ceiling solution, constitutional law professor Jack Balkin wrote about three ways Obama could bypass Congress and try to solve the crisis on his own.

"We are having a debt-ceiling crisis because Congress has given the president contradictory commands," Balkin said in a CNN.com opinion piece. "Congress has ordered the president to spend money, and it has forbidden him to borrow enough money to obey its orders." But Obama may be able to save the United States from defaulting, he suggests, perhaps by issuing two $1 trillion coins or selling the Federal Reserve an option on $2 trillion in property.

CNN.com readers jumped right into the conversation, discussing whether it would be the right move for Obama to sidestep Congress. One commenter named svscnn said: "I don't know if I'm relieved or concerned about some of the revelations in this article. While they all seem a bit shady, I suppose it's good to know that there are still some executive options on the table to keep us from going over the brink that Congress has brought us to."

Marc J. Yacht said he thinks that Obama is being “held hostage” and that he should stand his ground in the debt-ceiling debate.

“Use your power of the executive order to break the impasse, if you can,” Yacht told CNN's iReport. “Not raisng the debt ceiling undermines this country's stability. Equity and balance has to be the driving force in this debate.”

Skip Wininge, another iReporter, got so fed up with Congress’ inability to reform the tax structure that he has devised a plan of his own. He uploaded his thoughts to iReport, explaining, “Don’t pay for wars and tax cuts on the backs of senior citizens who barely get by on Social Security and Medicare. They have already paid their dues."

Another solution? "If far-right conservatives can't listen to reason, maybe they will listen to Ronald Reagan," CNN contributor John Avlon argues.

"Because Reagan had stern words for Congress when it tried to play political games with the debt ceiling in 1987. They still ring true today...," he wrote before quoting the late president's exact words. "Congressional Republicans should read that paragraph (from Reagan's speech) out loud twice before going to vote on the debt ceiling in the next few days. It is essentially the same argument Obama has been making. But in our current hyper-partisan environment reason doesn't resonate across party lines. Instead, there is too often an overheated impulse to oppose Obama at any cost. Hearing the same argument from the Gipper might inspire a needed sense of perspective."

Candy Grossi has someone else in mind that Congress should call for help. She said she is weary of the “Washington political game playing” because she doesn’t think that politicians really care what average Americans have to say.

Her advice to Washington? Enlist the help of people who are used to balancing their household budgets.

“Advice for Washington: Bring some normal housewives who have to really work a budget, putting food on the table ... ," she told iReport. "Maybe then our budget will get in line. We need people who don't have any special interest. We need people who really care for the good of our nation, which means our people (all of us).”

CNN also asked former officeholders for their views on how to resolve the debt crisis. What do they think should happen?

Former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said he thinks Obama should hold in reserve the prospect of using the 14th Amendment to get around the debt ceiling.

“This extraordinary assertion of executive authority could be justified because the Congress has, in effect, abdicated its constitutional responsibility to agree on legislation through the bicameral conference before the drop-dead date leaving a vacuum which must be filled if the government is to function,” he said.

Ex-Reagan budget director David Stockman said, “The crisis lies in the debt, not the ceiling. Kicking the can with a six months' ceiling increase is the worst possible alternative because it allows the politicians of both parties to continue making the big fiscal lie.”

Former Sen. John Danforth said the real issue is the size of government. He urges Congress and the president to agree on raising the debt ceiling and to make the 2012 election a vote on the size of government between Obama’s plan for a government that spends nearly 24% of the gross domestic product and Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan for a smaller government, amounting to about 20% of GDP.

“The appropriate size of federal spending as a percent of GDP will not be resolved by politicians without input from the American people. In other words, it will not be decided before the 2012 presidential election,” Danforth said.

Meanwhile, iReporter Valerie Bass, a Middleburg, Florida, teacher and the wife of an Afghanistan veteran, offers this advice to Congress: “This is not a game. Cut the benefits the politicians have as we can't afford them.”

Bass has a lot more to say in her impassioned iReport:  "My husband lost his health and his ability to have a normal life due to his deployment to Afghanistan. We also have two children in college and are counting every penny. We have given our future and our health for this country. We are the military families!"

Who's to blame for the debt-ceiling crisis?

Fareed Zakaria calls the government impasse a self-created crisis, saying the damage is already done.

"My basic point is that this is a crisis that we have manufactured out of whole cloth. We have created a circumstance in which the world doubts our credibility, rating agencies are thinking of downgrading our debt and the dollar's role as the world's reserve currency could be jeopardized," Zakaria writes. "Please understand that none of these things are happening because the United States is running deficits. There was no indication by any metric that the United States was having difficulty borrowing money one month ago. In fact, the world has been lending money to the United States more cheaply than ever before.

"We face downgrades and investor panic not because of our deficits but because we are behaving like deadbeats, refusing to pay our bills, pouting while the bill collector waits at the door."

Many iReporters said they are sick of the politics behind the crisis and want lawmakers to put aside their differences and just solve the economic problems.

Steve Rokowski said he is tired of elected officials “hiding behind statements” about how the American system of government works. Those elected officials are the most to blame, according to Rokowski.

“Compromise is essential to get things done," Rokowski told iReport. "We all have to do it daily in our lives; it’s more important for Congress as their decisions are supposed to be for the greater good of the country. Stalemate is not an option. I am tired of our government officials always hiding behind the statements that, 'This is the system our forefathers have put in place.' They didn’t set up a government that was this dysfunctional.”

Who's winning this fight?

Lawrence R. Jacobs, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, takes a look at the implications across the board and who could walk away a winner or a loser in this war over the debt.

He said that Americans are turning against the GOP in the debt debate because of the party's insistence on cutting government programs only without any tax hikes. And Democrats are winning the argument on Medicare and Social Security. Obama also has a lot at stake here. His talk about the inability of government to get anything done implicates him, too, Jacobs argues. Any talk of a dysfunctional government is hurting his cause, he writes.

"The president's flagging of Washington's 'dysfunction' reinforces the distrust of government that many Americans harbor, oddly making it harder for him to rally support behind government programs such as Medicare and Social Security," he writes. "This may help to explain why the GOP is losing the debt-ceiling debate and yet three-quarters of Americans favor a constitutional amendment to balance the budget."

He adds, "The lessons moving forward are clear. Republican leaders intent on winning the White House and strengthening their position in Congress need to steer their party back to the views of mainstream America or squander what may be setting up as a propitious opportunity in 2012 to run against the 'in' party in a time of deep discontent. As for Democrats, they need to focus like a laser beam on the concrete programs that many Americans rely upon and steer away from the sweeping conclusions about government waste and dysfunction that undergird a genuine philosophical conservatism in America."

But Jeffrey Miron, author of "Libertarianism, from A to Z," writes this public spectacle is a blemish on both parties in part because neither side will concede on their big issues. Democrats won't accept that Medicare is the primary driver of the fiscal nightmare, he argues, and Republicans won't distinguish between two kinds of tax revenue that from higher tax rates and that from fixing tax loopholes.

"Will the Democrats and Republicans be able to set aside their prejudices?" asks Miron, a senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies in Harvard University's Economics Department and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. "Alas, both parties are doing what their respective constituents seem to want, so compromise will not come easily.

"But something must change, and soon. Otherwise, nothing will stop the U.S. fiscal train wreck."

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Filed under: Budget • Economy • Finance • Politics • Taxes
soundoff (1,803 Responses)
  1. Centrist

    I stand before you ready to do battle. I am a level 17 dwarf in World of Warcraft. I hope we have french fries for lunch. That is my plan. French fries.

    July 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dymon Deb

      I stand before you ready to do battle. I am a level 17 ogre in World of Warcraft. I hope we have onion rings for lunch. That is my plan. Onion rings.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • FattyMcUSA

      I for one welcome Centrist's new plan. It's clever, attainable and tasty at the same time.
      Please super-size those fries and increase our WOW mana Congress!

      July 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dymon Deb

      Wait...they can super size french fries? Can I have some? I get hungry when I'm being all gop-ish. :)

      July 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Synapse

      You guys ARE intellectual dwarves [no offense to Little People].
      CNN posts garbage like this- & doesn't post thoughtful comments [Willa's / mine]- in the SoundOff section of an article about the most important issue of the day?!?!?!

      July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • LadyAnon

      Beat you on that one: 85 Druid...Rawr

      July 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • LadyAnon

      Ya know, now that I think about it, I was watching CSpan earlier – they're not actually going to do a house vote until about 7 or 8 EST on the 'The thing that can't be passed so why bother wasting everyone's time when there's so little of it left to waste' bill.

      I've seriously spent a lot of my time worrying/wondering about what's going to happen with this debt issue and will it be resolved before the deadline. I've sent e-mails to both Congressmen in my Red State asking them to compromise with the Democrats. One of the Rep. Congressmen I do actually like, have respect for and agree with on several fiscal issues (he's not a Tea Party member and I actually thanked him for that) the other I absolutely do not. I sent an e-mail to my district House rep. who's a freshman TP...got a form letter back that an aide obviously wrote. (Roughly, it's ok, little voter, we know what we're doing – you just sit there at home and let us do what the American people sent us here to do.) UGH!

      There's really not much else to do but watch and wait.

      But speaking of World of Warcraft...Great way to get out frustration while waiting for them to do something.

      July 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CSnSC

    Thats a better plan than the House's.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bobcat2u

    Where I stand is with everyone else that stands to be affected by the republicans insistince that their bill be tied to our SS benefits. Are you happy now you teaparty supporters ? I know there are bunch of republicans out there that need their SS just like the rest of us do. I don't think they expected grand ole party to do that to them. Be careful what you vote for. You just might get it.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      sadly, people vote with their emotions and not their brains - hence the GOP & TP can act irresponsibly...

      July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • refuse2fail

      Well stated, but you can't reason with most of these people. Their minds are totally warped.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      Very well said Abby. It is truly a shame that a minority of the people can make decisions that affect the vast majority of the people. If you teaparty followers feel you made a mistake with your last vote, please, please, please take the corrective steps in the next election. Let's just hope it's not to late for all of us.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Willa

    A comment is not a duplicate if it does not appear the first time.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Synapse

      They just did the same thing to me, Willa- I guess they're ok with posting threads on World of Warcraft players... but not comments from folks who want to respond to the most important issue of the day'

      July 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albert Friday

      Where is Obama’s plan?

      July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Howard

    Obama can't even vote present, like he did 129 times in the senate, because now, he's not even showing up !!!

    July 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bored

      Wow beautiful argument. Just shows your hate, nothing more.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Looking Glass

      Now, you mention Obama . . . where were you when he was the "Lone Ranger" Champion for your rights as Middle class Americans. Trying to put policies in place to ensure your future. At every turn, his attempts were undermined and foiled by the republican party and some of his dems. as well. Stand up and show your president support. It's your life that's at stack, The republican party do not give a flying elephant dung about the little people. They are responsible for the sh*&&^ that we are in and they are responsible for this debt crises we are in today. Why did they not just raised the debt ceiling? Wake up and get your thumbs out of your asses because lord help us if you cough because it would be elephant dung all over the place.

      July 30, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Willa

    CNN...Where's my comment? No rules were broken. How come this post appears without a problem? Why won't you post my original comment?

    July 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Scott

    Obama has not ideas and blames, blames, blames everyone else.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvard

      English is a tough language, eh?

      July 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bored

      Yah. Unfortunately these are the kind of people Fox News loves.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Looking Glass

      You know better, this debt crises is the republican fault, all the way. Like every thing else, the republican party creates a chaotic situation and then (LOL) ride in on a black horse painted white yelling, white americans to the rescue. Don't be afraid to pull back the curtain of truth. You may just find yourself in the republican Ozz.

      July 30, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. coy4one

    Does anyone look at the possibility that the Republicans WANT to see the US default. If the government defaults, the Republicans can boast that the Democrats were responsible for the default. IF the economy defaults, regardless of the perils Americans have to suffer through, it levels the political playing field. It would then be a "he said, he said" campaign and the chances of Republicans gaining ground would be better than if there is a compromise now and a default is avoided. Don't assume at this point that logic plays into this political game. The Republicans are desperate, and because they are backed by big business and special interests, they would fare better in a collapse. That's my opinion.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      McConnell has already said that he and his party and the Tea Party people will not "deal" with Obama while he's president - they are more than willing to let the American people and the economy crash and burn in their efforts to destroy Obama and the Democrats.... that tells us that they care more about power and money than the American people, than our nation....

      July 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Litterboxrox

      That is 100% what is happening. The gop is going to demand that Obama cut funding for SS and Medicare or they will fly the plane into the ground. That way when election time comes around they can say Obama cut funding for SS and Medicare. Limbaugh even said it right after the election. "I hope Obama does fail," which means the gop will destroy the country to see it happen. The gop is the biggest threat this country has ever seen.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCDimon

      I think the Tea Party Repubs are more concerned with getting Obama out of office than with running the country. The fact that they don't want to compromise, are practically in full revolt with the senior leadership in thier own party and seem to talking as though they are in the right and everyone else is wrong shows that they aren't interested in running the country. They only want to stick it to the President and to hell with how it affects the US. And to be honest, I sort of what to see them succeed and keep the debt limit where it is. Then when the crap hits the fan they'll be remembered for that and be ushered out of office just as quickly as they were ushered in.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark L.

    TEA PARTY = FASCISM !!

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Miller

    The Tea Party is more dangerous to our country than Al Queda

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark L.

      @ Robert Miller – I couldn't have said it any better !! You are 100% CORRECT !! The Tea Party is a FASCIST Party !!

      July 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      Extremism is dangerous whether it be left, right, or religious -

      When extremism makes inroads, the paths lead to destruction.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      I agree!! These fascists think the federal government spends too much money and that it should spend less!! What a ridiculous notion. They should all be thrown in jail!!

      July 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      That is such an ignorant statement. This is our system and many of the freshmen in the house were voted in promising to cut spending. Keeping campaign promises is a novel approach don't you think? "The problem with Socialsim is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money to spend" Margaret Thatcher. The big O voted against raising the debt ceiling when it was to his political advantage Stop being a Dem herd animal.

      July 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCDimon

      @Pete – the problem is that the issue isn't future spending. It's current spending that's been agreed to and passed as the US Budget. As with any organization the country builds a budget that looks at income and spending. This has already been done and agreed to – the debt limit is to cover the gap between what we make and what we spend. Having the discussion now about how big that difference is just stupid. That train has already left the station. The time to have this discussion is before the next budget is passed/built. It makes sense then. Now the tea baggers are just being obstructionists and basically hold the rest of the republicans, and the country, hostage to their unreasonable demands. I agree that medicare and social security are big drains on the country and need to be overhauled. Hell, I'd agree to slashing eligibility to the bare bones. But trying to tie this to the debt limit debate on money needed to pay a lawfully passed budget is just wrong.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Litterboxrox

    Last year GE paid no US income taxes. How many jobs did these "job creators" create? None, here. They are shipping them to China.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jough

    We elected these people to represent the people who elected them, not their parties. The way I see it, they are afraid that they will be eaten alive by their opposition in the next election if they cave on their party's hard-line stance, but they fail to realize that no matter what they do at this point, they will look incompetent no matter what they agree to.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Robert Miller

    The Tea Party is more of a threat to our country than Al Queda

    July 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richard

    I do not care if your a Republican or Democrat, we all live by basic principles and that is "you don't spend more than you take in." We are an embarassment to the world.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Looking Glass

      Get a clue, if the government did not spend, this economy would be in worst off then it is now. Raise taxes already and cut some wasted spending that won't hamper this economy.

      July 30, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jack Be Humble

    Get a debt ceiling increase passed without doing significant damage to ourselves. Take a week off to relax. Get back to work and develop a worthy FY2012 budget that sets a proper course toward fiscal sanity.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
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