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. tiredofsameosamegovt.

    first of all, some of this mess would not be here now if they would have bailed out the people instead of wall street. govt. should have made the banks and lenders to negotiate with the lendees and reduced the cost of the house. The houses were way over priced. People would have stayed in their homes and not left them sitting empty with not cash flow happening. On another note, which i am sure alot of you are going to find to be unpopular is first release all the people in the prisons that are there because of marijuana possesion and also find a way to legalize it and tax it. unreal that we are paying each day for the care of people who should not be in prison in the first place. I am sure it is costing us billions each year because of our stance on marijuana. 2nd of all and the one that most on here might have a problem with is the churches in our country and the tv churches are exempt of taxes. If money comes in, then it should be taxed. I cannot even begin to think how much money would be raised by making the churches pay taxes. It is sure to help

    July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grafixer

      I agree with taxing churches. We not have our tax money going to fund all kinds of religious-based groups. Some churches DO push their people to vote for things that then push them toward a candidate. They make a ton of money, many are nothing short of a booming business. They should pay taxes. I'm not so sure about the marijuana thing though. People are not spending time in jail for having some small amount. They are mostly large dealers. And, it is common that a dealer sells more than just pot. Reducing sentences – based on extent of the crime – might help save money though. The biggest problem I see is that we have allowed the corporations to take over our country. Lobbying should not be allowed. And, the Supreme Court needs to reverse their decision that Corporations can donate in secrecy without limitation to political campaigns. This is not the voice of the people. It is the money from the corporations that paid for the Midterm campaign propaganda from the right. It has to stop. It might also help if we took a look at rolling back all of the Bush expenditures that were not paid for. That would be the wars, the tax cuts, and big Pharma. Obama added them to his debt line, and it makes it appear that Obama spent it. If Bush had been made to add them to his bottom line, perhaps we would not be in this mess now. Perhaps Congress would not have allowed it to happen.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Penny V

    wanna get the budget settled? Kick everyone save the senate and house reps outta the hill, turn off there cells and computers and lock all the doors – tell em all they can not come out till its settled and watch how quick it will get done, and without the "i wont sign if you do add this" riders.
    Just the lowly opinion of your basic taxpayer.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • njm

      You forgot to turn off the air conditioning.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The list of republican teapartiers to VOTE OUT

    If your state is one of the states with teapartiers, do America a favor and vote them out!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. shawn

    Pass an immigration reform where they pay 10000 dollars in fine in next two years. Half the debt will be paid and immigration reform will be tackled too.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarknArk

      O...M...G... Are you serious or have you been smoking crack?

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

      Right, because illegal immigrants HAVE $10,000 to give. Back to your doodle board.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grafixer

      Just fine the business owners that hired the illegals. Fine THEM 1000 per illegal employee. IF they get caught a second time, confiscate the business and sell it to the highest bidder. The money goes to the Feds. If there are no jobs for them... If no one will hire them... they will go home. It is silly to try to locate and deport one at a time when we could get rid of the "dealer" of illegal jobs.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. certchief

    The Republicans are nothing but modern day Sheriffs of Nottingham – take from the poor to give to the rich!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kath W

    Roll back taxes to what they were in the Clinton years would be a good start.....

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike Brooks

    Push it into default, bankrupt the government! This government represents Wall Street, the elite, the corrupt monied interests and NOT the American people. We have lost more than 30 million jobs to their free trade schemes and "they" have ignored calls by the voters to put an end to outsourcing and guest worker programs, to reign in the big banks and put the crooks from Goldman Sachs on trial for their crimes. Instead, Obama took millions in campaign contributions from these snakes. The bailouts, debt ceiling, everything Washington does, is merely an act to refill the rough that the swine from Manhattan feed at.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. NBTexas

    Our system is hopelessly broken. We've allowed the position of elected official to become a career. As a result, these folks are over-insulated, unreachable and out of touch. Election cycles never really end. The best interests of the county are no longer the first consideration of Washington. I think term limits and state's rights make more and more sense as the days go by. If you have served two terms in Washington... thank you for your service. Go forth and do great things... in the private sector.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robert

    Ron Paul says it best, we are going to default no matter what, the question is how we are going to default.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ajd041

    I believe that instead of cutting so many people jobs why don't we just not pay those idiots for not making a decision in time it would save us billions

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jay Goss

    We need a balanced approach that reduces spending and adds revenue.

    In my opinion only (MOO) we need to reduce our spending that does not affect long term: 1) keep our investment in the things that produce jobs like Eisenhower’s interstate roads; and 2) reduce our spending on things that do not create jobs like foreign aid and our private military.

    In addition, we cannot rely of tax cuts to add jobs. As an example, look at the airline industry where taxes were cut (Congress inaction) which most of the airlines used to increase fares. I do not believe that continuing the Bush tax cuts will result in more jobs. I believe when first introduced the priority from these Bush tax cut was profit and the investment from reduced taxes was invested abroad in form of lower wages.

    He's concerned about the Debt Crisis. Getting reelected is a "cost" of the governing process.

    Politics obfuscates that we need a balanced approach that reduces spending and adds revenue.

    In my opinion only (MOO) we need to reduce our spending that does not affect long term: 1) keep our investment in the things that produce jobs like Eisenhower’s interstate roads; and 2) reduce our spending on things that do not create jobs like foreign aid and our private military.

    In addition, we cannot rely of tax cuts to add jobs. As an example, look at the airline industry where taxes were cut (Congress inaction) which most of the airlines used to increase fares. I do not believe that continuing the Bush tax cuts will result in more jobs. I believe when first introduced the priority from these Bush tax cut was profit and the investment from reduced taxes was invested abroad in form of lower wages.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ubandc

    Shame on you media for perpetuating the polarization just for the sake of profits. Shame on you politicians for being so incompetent that you do not understand that spending more than you have cannot be sustained. Shame on you voting USA citizens for being willing to tank the United States of America because you may be asked to reduce your individual government check. We need leadership not soundbites. We need to make sacrificial decisions not incremental partisan decisions. UBANDC

    July 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ScrewthePOORNOW

    All you low lifes who think the world owe you a living are WRONG. Get a freaking job and take care of your selves.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. steve

    If Medicare is a driving issue, then why was the unfunded prescription drug plan implemented during Bush's Presidency?

    I know Healthcare in the US is far more expensive than other countries.. Mediare reimbursemt levels are the driviing cost of setting/fixing of Healthcare fees.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Vicente

    RAISE IT you dolts, only takes one page like you did all the other times under all administrations. You want to tackle the budget fine the time to play that brinksmanship is when you are voting for BUDGET BILLS. Teabaggers voted for the budget bill to SPEND the money, now just don't want to acknowledge it and play games.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
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