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. Brian

    The Republicans have created this crisis by refusing to pay for the wars they voted for under Bush. Because they have proven themselves unfit to govern, just pass a clean debt bill or use the 14th Amendment. The Republicans won't raise taxes on the rich, so why should we cut programs and cripple the economy? That is, after all, what they want. They are entirely Party before Country and deserve to be voted out in droves.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulyballgame

      Hey Brian, you do realize that the Democrats also voted for the wars, right? Also, how would cutting government handouts cripple the economy? It's ignorance like yours that makes me question why there isn't an IQ test required before voting.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Brian: "The Republicans won't raise taxes on the rich, so why should we cut programs and cripple the economy?" Which taxes on the rich won't the Republicans raise? Since Income Tax is based on Income, not wealth, we assume you are not talking Income Tax. And the highest income earners inthe country are currently paying the vast majority of Income Taxes, please tell us which taxes you are referring to.....

      July 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      I'm also ok with sedition, terrorism and treason charges tossed at every GOP member.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulyballgame

      AGeek, while I'm sure you didn't read the entire blog on the Huffington Post suggesting that Republicans should be brought up on treason charges, please enlighten me as to what they have done to deserve such a charge.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • clark beyer

      This is not the time to install a balanced budget amendment. Paying down the budget to fast will create a tidal wave of economic destruction. It is however time to get our debt under control. We need to start reducing our spending and raise taxes. The rich can obviously pay more and most of us could pay a little more. The rich can be taxed at a much higher level, but then we should turn around and let them have somewhat lucrative tax advantages when they use that wealth as investment tools to grow more wealth.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Yes, Brian is correct. It is the Republicans. who want Obama out, who have manipulated the process. Making the tax phobic believe that the debt was caused by Obama, when it was Bush who drove up this massive debt going after those "weapon of mass destruction" in Iraq. The bad economy was also caused by Bush. Obama has the unfortunate job of having inherited their mess. You can sum up the Republican's concern in Cantor's smirk, oblivious to the real damage no resolution would cause - or welcoming it..

      July 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jen

    Stacey S well said.

    Will these clowns still be getting a check if nothing is done by next week? The congressional payroll should cease first.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • expat


      July 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Narina

      What do you have against clowns?

      July 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LD

    Name calling is so helpful in a discussion. Are you signing up to pay more?

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

      You'd be shocked at the number of people who are willing to pay more taxes for the good of their country. Not everyone is like you, the rich, and the rich-wannabees.....putting self before country. People in the middle and lower classes sacrifice their children in wars for the country. You rarely see a rich person sacrificing their child for the country's good. Why shouldn't they pay more taxes than the rest for just having the perk of not having their children killed in wars?

      July 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • LD

      Not rich AAron, I just don't expect that someone else should always be responsible for ponying up more because I'm bitter that they have more and I don't believe our government is here to make sure that I'm taken care of. The thought that someone who is successful either has ill gotten gains or owes it all to their country is so ridiculous it makes me ill. My wife and I both work, pay plenty in taxes federal, state and local, volunteer in our community and try hard to keep a roof over our heads while trying to save for our childs education and retirement knowing that by the time we get there Social Security will be gone. We have the utmost respect for those who have served in the military including our own relatives and kids from our town and support them and believe they deserve more than they are given.

      Stop whining and expecting someone else to foot the bill for perpetual overspending!

      July 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Midiman

    Get the money out of politics and political campaigns. the NFL's "on any given Sunday" theory should apply. Ordinary people with good ideas ought to have a chance. The role of "elected official" can no longer be limited to the nation's billionaire club.

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

    I want every person that got one of those checks from George W. Bush because of the "surplus revenue" we had to write a check back to the treasury department for that amount to pay on the national debt. I did not get one because I would not take that money from the government because I know we needed to apply it to the national debt. Go look back in your banking records and find where you deposited the check and send it back.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joe

    The T partyers will never vote for any increase in the debt; Those left in the house & senate with the interest of our nation & fiscal security at heart should pass a bill to increase the debt ceilling. Then we can get on with dealing with the problems facing our nation – Unemployment; Rising deficits, fixing are income tax system while ensuring the most vulnerable among us taken care of.......

    July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Paulyballgame

    Are people really still holding Obama blameless in all of this? While he doesn't deserve all of the blame, he certainly does deserve some of it due to his actions in the senate and the white house.

    Also, doesn't it bother anybody that Obama is trying to put off the "heavy lifting & dirty work" that is really needed to fix this crisis until after the election?! Wake up people! This guy is a disaster and now his plan is to delay the really big disaster until AFTER people are stupid enough to re-elect him.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      I agree. All he has said the entire time is "let's come together and solve this"... in order to be a leader and bring people together you need to have a plan. And present it. He has nothing.

      As for house republicans.. I think they are using the only leverage they have. I've got to admit though, the senate hasn't really done much to provide any type of solution.

      Grow up. Pass the republican's bill. It's really not that bad when you look at it.. We can't spend more than we make.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulyballgame

      In Obama's defense, he also did ask people to go on Twitter and express their support for Reid's plan via tweets! Tweets! Really? That's how this "President" leads?!

      Seriously, how can people even take this clown seriously anymore?! He's a fraud. He's like a kid who cheated on his entrance exam to Harvard and never considered the fact that he would actually have to be able to handle the workload once he got there. He's in way over his head and the people who voted for him are too ashamed to admit it.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      I don't think he said he wants to put off the work until after the election. He doesn't want the debt ceiling argument to surface again in a few months because the uncertainly is bad for the economy.

      People won't like anything that's done to address the deficit...not raised taxes if they have to pay them and not cuts if they feel the results of them. So it will be necessary for both parties to share the responsibility of doing the 'heavy lifting.'

      July 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paulyballgame

      Jean, do you really believe that Obama isn't trying to delay the inevitable until after the election? Even the Democratic pundits agree that he is doing just that and that it's a smart political move. And there lies the problem, all he has are political moves, sound bites and posters. He is not a leader and has done irreparable damage to this country in just 2 1/2 years. Who in their right mind would want him for 4 more years?!

      July 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BobNYC

    Here is what is going on: The House is going to vote on a more extreme version of the bill they couldn't pass last night because that they KNOW IT WILL NOTt pass the Senate.

    Why? Because some House Republicans want the nation to default. Instead of helping fix the economy, they would rather intentionally tank it so they can attempt to pin it on President Obama.

    And Karl Rove is heading up that strategy with millions in attack ads. We need to stop this from happening. This is nothing more than a high-stakes political game that wreaks of Karl Rove

    July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. galileo

    The House Of Reps in my mind is guilty of treason against the American people. For their own political gains they have sacrificed the good name of America over and over again. Guess what the rich do not want to pay for the poor any more than the poor want to pay for the rich. Its called shared sacrifice for a reason. Raise taxes on the rich by a few percent. Cut programs for the poor at the same time. Streamline medicare and social security by a few percent. Get the economy going and then maybe we will vote your sorry a*/&#*'s back in. Americans are finally paying attention. The next election will show how awake we are... I feel bad fore Boener if he does the right thing he loses his support. Then again who would want the support of the right wing wackos of the tea party. I have an idea lets sell Texas to Mexico (before they secceed) and use the mone to pay off the national debt. The Texans will be able to sell thier guns directly to the drug cartels without worrying about Customs and we wont have to listen to those facist wannabees any more. Solves all our problems. I hope i offended you. You have been offending descent Americans for years now.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick

      this is a very naive statement.

      July 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • kimberly

      deport the poorest 20% of the country, they are worthless anyways

      July 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MARY

    I wish they would have some private citizens (of each persons opposing party) sitting in the negotiations to see if they would be ashamed to act like junior hiigh kids and see if they would be able to COMPROMISE (to use a dirty word).
    We have to many Republicans and too many Democrats and not enough American congressmen.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sitsky

    Everyone is way over dramatic on this. Something will get done that no one will like 🙂

    July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jerry Mayer

    It is ridiculous that after the worst recession since the Great Depression and a very slow, jobless recover we are on the verge of another economic hit, this one caused by the failure of the GOP to compromise with the President. As a registered member of the Republican Party this makes me sick!!!!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Neecaps

    Lead By Example!!! The first group that should not be paid until the current Federal Fiscal Fiasco has completed is the politicians and their respective staff. They must continue to work while gaining NO compensation to the President, Vice President, All Cabinet Members, the House of representatives, the Senate and ALL their staff – with no obligation to provide back pay. Additionally, revoke their automatic pay raise; make them pay for health care (like the rest of us do), remove the retirement plan (as they have done to so many military and government workers) and allow absolutely no gains of any kind from any lobbyists or special interest groups. Our government is supposed to be – of the people, by the people and for the people however, seems to be more like – of the wealthy, by the special interest groups, for the special interest groups and wealthy.

    It is time to speak up America and tell these people to Balance the Budget and get our country back on track. It is OUR country, they should answer to us and together we can fix this problem.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lightning

    All the Pols, should step back and take a look at themselves, It would make them sick! Get down to the business at hand, running the country and not appeasing everyone they are beholding to. What ever has happened to the art of negotiation,(read compromise)?
    This is not the playground as they seem to think. We need big people to run a big country and it seems we don't have that, -sickening!

    July 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim

    I truly believe that our nation has outlived the need for a dual-party system. If all elected officials were independent, this mess would have been settled long ago. For years policticians have given, given, and given to get elected to the point that our citizens have become dependent. Now we're at a point where we can't afford all of these programs but no one has enough gumption to try to eliminate any of these programs lest they lose an election. I can't help wondering how many times Franklin Roosevelt must have rolled over in his grave when he discovered everything that social security pays for now. Oh, by the way, I went to see my banker to see if I could raise my debt limit by $50,000. He laughed at me. Guess I should have asked for two trillion.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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