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. Richard Croker

    There are no fifth grade solutions to Ph.D problems. If it's too complicated to fit on a bumper sticker the Republicans can't understand it.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Qaiser

      Exactly. It's too much to handle for Republicans.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick the Shuffle Destroyer

      How about I punch you in the neck....would you understand that??

      July 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • rdg18

      The easy way is to shut the out of control government down!!!

      July 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleta

      If the republicans are so dumb, how did they get so rich?

      July 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emanuel Contreras

      Bring our troops back for a day, raise taxes, knock off 20% of the rich's wealth, replace the people who should get aid with those who are destroying the system, and replace jobs with those who are more qualified = a better damn idea than Congress is putting out and in the longterm, would probably save a buttload of money.

      Think about it, if you only brought EVERY American back home for a day without blasting it to the entire world, imagine the money we'd save. *sigh*

      July 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emanuel Contreras

      Cleta, they sucked the corporate dick, that's how.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Please. Your statement highlights your simplicity and ignorance. This is our system and until there is agreement between the two houses of Congress, who were elected BTW, a bill can't be sent to the President to either veto or sign. Don't act like a herd animal and attack people who have a legitimate disagreement with the Dems. I am not a Republican. It seems to me attacks such as these are a sure sign of a person that can't offer anything of value to the debate.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Qaiser

    Stupid Republicans and Boehner.... I am sick of them

    why not more taxes on rich people, cut spending and start living within our budget? It's simple. But Republicans are not giving up at all. They need to learn how to work as a team when you have divided Congress.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • rdg18

      demorats will never stop spending.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Like when the Dems controlled both houses and the Presidency using that influence to shut the Repubs out of the ObamaCare debate and ramming it through without a vote? Hummmmm

      July 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dave clinton

    I own a small business and must live within the means the businees contributes to support our activity which includes payroll,taxes, reinvestment and profit. Where and when in the world did we give the government the right to mortage generations of our citizens well being to spend and borrow 140% of all the government outlays. No where in any society can the individual or a business act in this reckless manner. Why the conversation includes the requirement to borrow and spend more money is lunacy. There is not enough earned income at any level of wealth, even if we confiscated every $$$ of everybody's income to support this fantasy spending binge.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nick the Shuffle Destroyer

      No one cares you own your own business....no one cares....shut up...just stop......stop before you hurt yourself.

      July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spydyee

      You are missing the point here totally. I don't know what type of business you have but let me explain how it works in the type of business I ran for years. I ran a restaurant. When I opened my doors I had a line of credit to buy my food to prepare. I ordered food and opened the doors. I sold meals. At the end of the day I had to pay my workers out of what we made that day, pay (set aside) the money out of that day's income for my rent and utilities, and buy new food. I ordered food on my line of credit and whether I had made enough that day to cover everything or not because I had to have food to serve the next day. Ultimately, the bills came due and during the first year I was in business I had to go to the bank and borrow money to pay these creditors. Eventually that turned around because I raised revenues to my business and I cut spending. However, I never would have told my creditors that they would not get paid unless my employees agreed to having their hours cut in order to lower my expenses. I would not have refused to pay them because I could not guarantee that I would make enough on a daily basis to cover my expenses for that day. A restaurant has to have the personnel there and the food there when the customers walk through the door. I had to spend money in order to make money and in the long run save money by eventually not taking out loans because I made enough to pay my bills. What I did not do when my profits increased and I had a surplus of income was give it back to my customers. I paid off my debts. When George W. Bush arrived in Washington we had more income than outgo so we had a surplus of funds in the treasury. Instead of paying on the national debt he decided to give the money back to the taxpayers. So now we still have the debt that he could have paid on plus all the debt that congress has agreed to spend over all the years of his administration and the current administration and we do not have the revenue to cover the approved spending so we have to borrow money to pay the approved spending just as I had to borrow from a bank to be able to pay my creditors for my food when the bills came due. We do not get to stop paying our bills for any reason. We need a balanced budget, we need spending cuts, we need tax reform, but we do not get to hold out paying our bills while we debate how to accomplish those things and that is what is happening here.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emanuel Contreras

      Spydee, thank you. An intelligent, well-put response. I've been looking for a response from business owners like this one for a long time. It's been long overdue.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nick the Shuffle Destroyer

    Love it or leave it people.......You think logging onto CNN.com on your MAC, while sipping on some gay Starbucks mocha penis frapacino latte makes you a qualified politician? Shut your pie holes. Get mad.....

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Benji

      I'm mad as hell and ain't gonna take it no more!!! Arrrrrggghh!!!

      July 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • datruth

      Stop it!!! (slap!)You are embarrassing yourself

      July 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • srd

      nick, go back to watching your hero glenn beck, dbag

      July 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. True1

    Minimizing the use of debt and repayment of debt is important, but using critical thinking skills to generate long-term solutions that address the root cause of the problems, in a balanced and responsible way, should be the goal; seems the current crisis is more over political leveraging for the 2012 election. Instead of focusing on job creation and rebuilding of a healthy economy (which would increase cash flow to government coffers) both parties are taking steps to damage our economy further. This intentional political brinksmanship over a manufactured crisis is in effect treasonous as intentionally damaging one's country is the definition of treason. Who will be held to account for this?

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. We111nformed

    I totally agree with President Obama. Rich people should pay more taxes than the middle class and poor. If a rich person can go afford things while shopping that the middle class and poor cant afford thene then they should be able to afford more taxes.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carol

      It's not even about them paying more...it"s about them paying what they owe instead of having so many loopholes they end up paying less than their housekeeper...

      July 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleta

      50% of Americans do not pay any taxes. If we share the wealth, we should share the responsibility.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rdg18

    I for shutting it all down!!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. John

    Listen the President can't spend any money without the Improvement of Congress and the Senate. SO THEM SAYING THEY DON'T WANT TO GIVE THE PRESIDENT A BLANK CHECK just Isn't True. All the Republican are doing Is wasting time and that Is something America Is running out of. All they are doing Is just dumb. The Republican have wasting two day now on John Boehner plan, One day that he couldn't even get his own party to pass It and now they are going to try again today to get It Pass by his own party. The hole time he know It won't pass the Senate and If It do the President all ready say he would veto It. All of this just sound dumb to me and Is just wasting time that we don't have.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joni

    Teaparty do not give in. I'm still waiting for Y2K, unemployment will not go over 8 % This is just another one of the lies to scare the people

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. www.infowars.com

    I am from canada and I say let them burn! we could have been rid of the fedral banks years ago, imagin a world with no tax, no debt, no interest whatsoever. It is possible. peace love.

    http://zeitgeistmovie.com/

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anarchist

      (A) – no masters, no gods, no managers...the only thing we have to lose are our chains

      July 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debby

      I'll second that!!!!!!!!!

      July 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. davidjmharrison

    I took the time to post my thoughts but it got lost in the mail. Who's editing posts today ... Ms. Agenda?

    July 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Che

    Vive la revolucion!

    July 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Midiman

    While I'm at it, force drug companies to charge Americans the same price they sell their products for in other countries. There is no reason why Americans should be paying 1000 times more for the same pill.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mike

    BEST SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM.

    I have the solution to this massive debt crisis and really I think this message should be relayed to Washington. This is a long term fix to the financial term oil that our country is in whether you see it, or beleive it, or not. This plan will have many benefits, and I would like to know what the downside is. Here's my plan. Its time for everyone to wake up and open your eyes, use your brain, not your first ignorant reaction. READ THIS.

    Legalize Marijuana, with full cooperation of the federal laws. Instead of how most of the states policies are now, make it your freedom as long as you are responsible, similar to alcohol, maybe with an AGE requirement. However, since you will be given this freedom, we can create a policy similar to a 3 strike rule. If you get into any trouble with the law, after 3 times, or however we decide to govern this, the government will be able to take back your "Marijuana Freedom Card" similar to your drivers license being revoked. This will create responsible users. People that try Marijuana, were going to try it whether its legal or not. Its the truth. And its just ridiculous that you do not have the freedom in the U.S. of all places to smoke but you can drink which causes much more harm and is much more dangerous, we all know it whether you can admit it or not. This will be huge for all of the people who benefit from its use for medical condtions as well as the fight in our drug war. The benefits will heavily outweigh any risk. I do not have the room to type all the benefits and the details but I would hope maybe somehow the right reader gets this and considers it. I would be glad to go over the benefits and details. I am not a marijuana smoker, I can assure everyone that this will not create more drug users, especially because the government will NOT promote that it is beneficial unless they decide to, but I do know that by doing this instead of playing with our taxes and our future, we can go back to being what AMERICA is all about. FREEDOM.

    Mike, 30, from philadelphia, PA

    CNN PLEASE GET THIS TO WASHINGTON TO DEBATE.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      CNN Also, the financial end of this for our country is un-imagineable. We can make this just like a drivers license, and cost money to obtain, and however the government makes money of drivers license. And then there is all the sales and sales taxes, and jobs we will create. And for the SHORT-TERM, I have already thought of ways to make our country money right now so we can make a payment by Tuesday. I have too much to say and will be glad to explain for anyone. This is a powerfull move and should be done. I would love to see us rebound as a country and open a whole new industry that could make us the strongest country again by far. Please CNN, somehow get this started as a serious debate and get this to Washington.

      Mike

      July 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gail

    Bring American jobs back to American soil. If we just stop giving tax breaks to the big "boys" and start taxing, enough so it hurts ,for EVERY outsourced American job -this debt would not B a problem AND Americans can get back to work and spending money ! Funny noone has suggested this solution. Washington is a sea of clueless clowns !!

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