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. MICHAEL

    The lesson to learn from this is to keep business out of government ! If you don't learn this then it will happen again and no matter what you do know makes no difference!
    Sorry to say G.O. P is big business that uses the parts of the church like a Trojan once it in –its business as usual all the hype about stopping abortion is just a political statement to get in the gates!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • jacob

      I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CoolCent. com

      July 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don

    How soon will it be after the US government goes into default that a military coup becomes a real threat in the US? And to all you who will scream "idiot", "moron", "imbecile", "nut job", etc., you are deluding yourselves if you think it can't happen here.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    Angry... very angry! It appears a fair number of folks in Washington have forgotten that legislation requires compromise. No one gets everything they want. If they don't like compromise and negotiation, they should never have taken the job and come the first opportunity, I will do everything I can to send them packing!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sprikle

    Balance the budget, ALL new tax should be paid toward the debt. The US is bankrupt financially now, we must live within our means and pay down our debt.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. PatriotDemocrat

    The President and Treasury Secretary have FULL AUTHORITY to PRIORITIZE federal payments in case the government shuts down or the US goes into default...

    THE SOLUTION IS SIMPLE:

    - withhold ANY PAYMENT TO DISTRICTS OR STATES reps/senators (mostly Republicans and tea party) who put us into this situation

    - pay ONLY federal money to DISTRICTS OR STATES reps/senators who vote to raise the debt ceiling

    It is normal that they should feel the pain and anger of their voters!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. D.R.

    The last one out of the United States, please turn the lights off.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. MiketheElectrician

    I say in order to run, you must have all your personal assets frozen, paid minimum wage, and receive health care like a small corporation, not in the federal workers plan. Boehner (you can mispronounce his name, and it makes more sense, LOL) and the other GOP are doing what they did last December, they say they are fiscal conservatives, but can't seem to tax their rich buddies, or take the large 4 trillion dollar deal, instead they want to save around 900 billion.. it is laughable!. I also say, that the teabag supporters would be required to refinance their homes after Aug 2, and see how they like paying higher interest rates.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Donio

    Demand an elcetion Monday and put politicians in office who can fix the problem Monday night and leave them in office.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Shirley B Dean

    I both hope and pray that after this grand mess is concluded, all of us – Americans – recall that the drama we see now is but symptomatic. The cause of this problem is that voters tend to have short memories and fail to "kick the bums out." This issue should never have reached this point. Congress has abused the freedom Americans entrusted them with. Congress needs a serious overhaul and every American should have opportunity to input in that regard.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Todd

    Hopefully the american voters remember this DISGRACE on election day and vote anyone standing for re-election OUT of office. Send a stong message to this bunch of losers...if you cant do your job- then we will replace you.....

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. mdmooser

    Oh yeah, as much as I have loathed the Rep and Dem elections every year, seems like so many steps forward so many backwards but it was kept together somehow stumbling forward, until..................tea baggers. Other blog is right on the money, cut the 90 or so teabaggers loose and move back to center and keep pulling the country back from the sub prime brink. Period. Tea baggers have their day coming, believe me, and they will not like it. Life dictates you create trouble it finds you somehow.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sjboatwright

    Reverse Bush's policies, namely his tax cuts and the two wars that went unpaid for. It's not that hard; they weren't paid for so they should be the first to go.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Frank

    The selling of US stockpiles of gold would be one solution – we have enough in Fort Knox and based on the current extreme value per ounce would have enough to probably cover ALL of our debts...

    July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Karen

    I view it as a dysfuntional marriage. It appears to me that the Republicans, and specifically the tea party members of the party, are intent being "right" and will not compromise or obtain input from the other party. If you must be right in a marriage without compromise, you will end up alone, but you can say that you were right. So, good luck with that ideal.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mark

    Outsource Congress to China, that will save us money.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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