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. ed

    We pay alot of taxes for their salaries. WT_.
    Do your job. If my company had a bunch of slackers that could not TEAM to resolve a problem, ALL would be fired.
    That's the REAL world.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Wildone

    The Republicans in Congress cause an impasse and then blame it on the President. They then hope to capitalize on their efforts to destroy the current administration so they can possibly regain power in 2012 and continue to represent the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. Our Government is broken and has no resemblance to what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created this Republic. And the people are such sheep that they don't care. "We are poor little lambs who have lost our way...Baaa, Baaa, Baaa."

    July 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Andre Williams

    Let the elected President govern the country. The Republicans would have you believe that he is the problem when much of the existing debt was brought about by them. They had no problem lifting the debt ceiling when they were in power. Bush left a mess for Obama to clean up. It seems that they are doing everything possible to stifle this government. In my opinion, the Tea Party is just a bunch of extremist Republicans with little political experience. I can't remember a time when a President made a nationwide address and was followed by the opposition given equal access and time for rebuttal. Show the man some respect as he is still the President so let him lead! The wealthy owe it to America to share the wealth they earned here, especially in times of difficulty. I suspect many of them are busy investing off shore. Where is the patriotism

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

      Much of the debt was brought on by both parties over many years, but with varying agendas.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rick

    I'm sorry, when is the public going to understand that it can NOT trust congress to do anything that it says it will do? Both democrats and republicans are at fault for where we are. The public is also at fault for electing the same people every year and then you wonder why CHANGE doesn't happen. Just like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that Obama and the rest of Congress got on TV and said how it was so wonderful for us and how big of a difference maker it was going to be for us. One year later and it's still not in effect!! Has only 38 of the 400 enforcement policies and no one in charge. A Balanced Budget Amendment is required so that it makes these lazy politican's work for the money and benefits they are being paid for.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rieckster

    It's not just a federal problem. They have to look at things locally and statewide too. They don't just fund things like the military, medicare, social security etc. They also fund things statewide and locally. It works it's way down. If the states and cities are overspending as well, then it really doesn't matter what the federal does to fix it. They can fix a larger problem short term, but until you fix those under them, you can't fix the problem as a whole.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |


    July 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Larry E Wilkinson

    I am a white republician. I support the President wholely on this matter. I really wonder why the white Presidents didn't have this big of a problem. Just a thought. Thanks!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • djwazu

      Thank you.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      SKIN COLOR has nothing to do with this debate. If we do not get our fiscal house in order, we are jeopardizing our future. Plus, even if the debt limit is raised, it is still possible that we will lose our AAA credit rating. Obama just happens to be the President. I don’t care if we had a pink, atheist rabbit in the white house, the problem would still exist; eEnough with race being brought into the mix.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • moutocs

      I agree with Don. It's no different than blaming Bush for the 9/11 tragedy and Hurricane Katrina. There's an uneducated populace among us that wants one person to blame, and the president is the easiest target.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Marta

    Dear President Obama and all those inept democrats in Congress,
    President Obama you seem to have forgotten to remind all those that supported George W. Bush policies...that the main reason we are in such a DEEP HOLE is because Mr. Bush decided to back the arms industry by executing the Irak War. You have forgeten to remind all those that supported George W. Bush that while we were supposedly purging Sadam Hussein by bombing Irak every night, we actually with every bomb and every american soldier that sacrificed himself/ herself was hemorraging money and feeding the greed of the oil companies, the arms industry...and all those behind it!
    You President Obama have forgotten to remind all those Republicans that pushed the will of the wealthy and work
    for lower taxes and all the good feed that favors them...the ones to blame.
    However, there are a whole bunch of Welfare recipients who are being supported by us tax payers...by staying home and decided not to work and instead pushing or consuming drugs. And a whole bunch of 'illegal immigrants' descendants who by the blessing of being born in the United States, their parents stay home...live in free housing, take food stamps and us tax payers keep feeding all the newborns that the illegals keep procreating!
    And believe me is not only the latino population but also orientals, middleasterns, central europeans and all of those who take advantage of our good heart.
    Make sure President Obama that whoever is going to receive welfare benefits does it because he/she is an american deserves to retire after working all their life, or he/she is really sick and can't work !
    Stop supporting the lazy people that have learn to milk the system and that's what the inept democrats members of Congress should be trying to do away with. Stop the loopholes to the rich, whom as owners of vast amounts of land and already filthy rich continue to milk the system thru farm subsidies like that Bachmann's Presidential nominee is doing. There she is in Congress making sure that she is there to create legislation to milk the system.
    Stop wasting the tax payers' money by only favoring those programs that benefit the really needy and curb the avarice of those who being rich want more and more!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • moutocs

      There's just enough ignorance in our nation to keep this broken record going. If you think Bush is the reason for our debt crisis, then you may also believe that Aliens built the Mayan pyramids, and a mystical deity is watching us from above.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • WW

      It was Congress who told the Executive Branch to spend the money. Now Congress does not want to pay the bills. The 80+ Tea Party members in CONGRESS need to mature & grow-up – and pay their bills, pronto.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eliza G

    Just felt the need to remind everyone that the bills we're in danger of not paying if we don't raise the debt ceiling are for spending that CONGRESS ALREADY AGREED TO IN THE BUDGET PROCESS. This is "fiscal responsibility"? It's like if you or I bought a car, started driving it, then said we weren't going to make payments unless XYZ conditions were met. Utter bs.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Phillsane

    Obama needs to announce that the two houses of congress need to put a plan on his desk that he can sign by 5pm Monday. If not, he will issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling by 2.5 trillion dollars. That's it. If they don't like it they can take him to court. Bush did it all the time. Time for Obama to get tough.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pat

    Why are Mitch McConnell and John Boehner smiling/laughing? Do they think this is just a funny game? Maybe to them it is, but to the American people it's serious business. Let's see if they are laughing after the next election. I say vote the bums out!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Fidget

    Doesn't matter who is too blame – the Republicans spend too much on wars and the Democrates are too sympathetic to people who should be fending for themselves more. Bottom line is you cannot spend more than you bring in and things need to be cut to reflect that. Sorry, I think times need to be tough for a few years until things get back on track. After all, none of us should be living on out of control credit and that goes for the government too.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • WW

      It was Congress who told the Executive Branch to spend the money. Now Congress does not want to pay the bills. And 95% of our fellow Citizens cannot switch gears on a dime – going from credit-based to cash-based (as many people think can be done). It just cannot be done quickly! Banks need to lower their expectations so businesses can expand & hire and only then we can get our economy moving again. This all focuses on TARP. But we need teamwork... not a tight leash and balanced budget amendment as the GOP has proposed. And the 80+ Tea Party members in CONGRESS need to mature & grow-up – and pay their bills.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danise

      Hey WW, it is always humorous to me how so many people try to place the blame for this nonsense on the poor, while giving a pass to those who are greedy and has worked at every turn to try and destroy this Nation. What do you people who lay blame on the poor and disadvantaged have to say about the corporations who have, in their search for more money and cheap labor, taken all the manufacturing jobs overseas??? What jobs are there for the people who want to work and earn, not a McDonalds wage, but a wage to fed their families. Seven dollars will not fed your family and pay your bills...I am a nurse now, but I have been there and done that...and it does no work...So lease stop demonizing the poor while the rich get richer...it is not yours nor those who complain concerning the raising of the rich taxes, that will have to pay, so why do you people keep complaining over money that is not, and will PROBABLY never be, YOUR???

      July 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MARK

    Let me call my creditors and let them know I need my debt ceiling increased. Why should I live within my means when our goverment can't.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • stowell

      let alone how are we going to pay it back?

      July 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ed

    In the REAL world. Such employees would be fired. Have you folks never heard of TEAM.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Don

    Before any consideration is even given to revenue increases, all excess and wasteful spending must be reduced; and that includes the DoD budget. Furthermore, start reducing the number of Government bureaucrats, particularly the number of DoD Government employees. In-sourcing has been a complete failure. Now if after all wasteful spending has been reduced, then and only then should revenue increases be considered. Unfortunately, the more money the Federal Government gets the more it will spend. Start by completely redoing the tax code and implementing a flat tax. Many will disagree, but if EVERYONE was paying taxes and had a stake in budget, maybe they would not be so quick to call for tax increases. I am sorry, but I have no doubt that the any tax increases would impact even those making much less than $250K. As it is now, with the proposals put forth by Sen Coburn and the new fees resulting from Obama care, I could end up paying over $10K a year more with just with these increases, and this does not even consider any possible tax increases.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
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