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. Joann

    This crisis has brought to the front burner that politicians do not care what is best for the country, only what will give them the most leverage in the next election. They must raise the debt ceiling immediately and utilize a combination of cuts and controlled tightening of the loopholes that have given major corporations record profits. WE, THE COMMON PEOPLE, must get a term limit amendment passed to stop the DC dictators from destroying everyone in their quest to destroy each other.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rich

    These people are an absolute disgrace. Republicans, Democrats, Independants, Tea Party and the President. Its really ashame that these elected officials can not figure this out. Why do we even have them there? These people are ruining the country. It would be a great thing if we could RECALL every last one of them. One a day until they figure this out. I'll bet my last $5.00 that they fix it in a day. Come election day no matter what you believe or no matter what party you associtate with these children need to go. It's time to put people in offiice who can act like adults and get this nation back on its feet. With leadership like this we are doomed and by keeping these folks in office we are all to blame!

    July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Todd

    wow.....you guys in Washington STILL dont get it......the american people are fed up with this kind of crap from both parties. Hopefully we will send yet another message to BOTH paries in the next election....you cant do your job- lets try someone new......

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

      Couldnt agree with you more. These people are children and need to go.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nick

    I think the republicans are trying to put the blame on obama for this one when its the whole governments problem and the old farts that run washington. There really needs to be a change of generations in our government.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Peikovian

    In the last ten years, Republicans have learned the Democratic way of spending, and Democrats have learned the Republican art of war. Both parties have enlarged the deficit, and deficits require borrowing, which is why more and more funds are supporting the government and are not being reinvested in the economic recovery of the private sector. As with any business or personal budget, short-term borrowing and long-term belt-tightening is needed. It's the President's administration. Other Presidents have worked with opposition. If he fails, it's because he can't do the job.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Floyd

    Boehner is pulling a hard right, reinserting the moronic balanced budget amendment. it makes good common sense, but it fails horribly on economic sense. if GDP is made up of consumption, investment and goverment expeditures, during a recession when consumption and inverstment go down, government is supposed to step up (with unemployment insurance, tax breaks, funding of construction jobs etc) to keep the economy from falling off a cliff. if they have to balance the budget in those hard times, revenues fall so they have to cut expenses, fire employees, not take on new projects to get employment back up, so unemployment increases, tax revenue fall and the cycle feeds itself into oblivion.
    Scrap the balanced budget amendment, it's poor economic policy on a good day. infact, Boehner needs to cut the tea party loose, write off those 90 reps and move back to the center, work on getting enough of the 190 democrats and holding the moderate republicans to get something like the senate gang of 6 through.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Carol

    This is what happenss when you have radicals take over a party. When the people you elect do not know how the government is supposed to interact with each other, and then treat their country like High School children would trying to have their group's ideas rule the day.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ron

    Hello everyone! Is anyone out there listening? Are you paying attention? I think it's time we call for a total REVOLUTION byu all Americans in this Country of ours! We need to send a FIRM and FAST message to the total jerks in congress. Get out of your childhood sandlot and FIX THIS PROBLEM NOW! I can tell you one thing for sure: If the Social Security Checks are not in the mail by August 3rd for 55 plus million Senior Citizens all HELL is going to break loose! It's time for a REVOLUTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mdmooser

    Just for comedic relief................................Nuke the teabaggers, then let's get with Jerry and do this. I really enjoyed his content. Social Security always makes money, period. Cut back spending, GRADUALLY is something I think needs to be emphasized. Apparently the tea bag party is like a screaming baby. It would burn the house down screaming and fighting and not even know why. after it is destroyed and NEVER, EVER compromise. You know babies you have seen it a million times while growing up. A good life to all and a good day.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Wilson

    Boehner are gambling with Nation's finances to achieve party goals!

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dave

    I keep hearing Boehner talking about how the American people want this and that. But think for a moment. What American people would he be talking to? Big business, the Koch brothers, oil company executives, hedge fund managers. Surely not the mill worker, the cop, the teacher, or the REAL small business owner. I really feel the Republicans want a default for purely political reasons, which in my mind borders on treason. And I was a Republican for 40 years. I am ashamed of the party, which is why I have gone with no party affiliation. Want change? FIRE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES! Vote them all out. I guarantee the Senate will wake up. The House is elected every 2 years. WE THE PEOPLE have an opportunity in 2012 to put our government on notice. What are YOU going to do?

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. patrick

    Solutions:
    1. stop importing goods from China or elsewhere.
    2. Stop outsourcing.
    3. Start manufacturing here in America. this will get jobs and consumer spending.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Chuck

    Does everyone realize just how damaging not raising the debt ceiling will be to the US economy and it's citizens? The US dollar will crash which will cause a spike in gas and food prices. The stock market may even rise because the dollar that it's based upon will be worth less. Maybe not worthless... but getting there.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. m

    I’m not the most well spoken political person in the world.
    So here it goes.

    Solving this problem through compromise is the way to go.
    Both sides have good ideas just do what is right for the country.
    Do what it takes so U.S. government will not default on loans and debits out there; raises the debt ceiling then cut the budget.

    I say stop spending on stupid causes that really have nothing to do with the America.
    Stop and see what you are actually purchasing when buying materials and goods.
    Tax the super rich a little bit more.
    So if they would follow these simple steps to save money then they can take that money and pay down the deficit.
    Can’t keep spending what you don’t have.

    Also I hear the government guys want to higher the interests rates on the credit cards…the worst idea ever.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ron

    One word: REVOLUTION!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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