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. karen

    As a retired person on SS the thought of not seeing that SS security check in my account on Wednesday is disturbing. However, if Tuesday rolls around without a debt deal in place I will take my remaining funds out of my checking account so I can at least buy food for August. (I have an automatic house payment coming out on the 5th) Not an easy choice to make but I have to eat even though it could come at a financial price for me down the road.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brett

      Karen, don't buy into the "fear mongering" from our "great leader". No matter what happens, your SS check will arrive as usual. Even the "great one" can't afford to p**s off that many voters.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • dirtystone

      I see you like many have bought the lies. SS checks pretty much HAVE to go out for at least several months because it would take computer recoding to stop them...on top of that it is not as if ALL of the obligations will stop being paid....SS will of course get paid, as will the military, as will our crappy politicians....other things will be cut first

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

    The solution is a bit embarrassing due to its simplicity. Not much different than a family budget. Lift the ceiling to avoid a default, balance the budget and execute a planned program of spending cuts and revenue stimulus. There is plenty of fat in the budget as long as you have no sacred cows, are willing to take on the special interest groups and don't care if you lose the next election. Hmm, on second thought it may not be so easy.....

    July 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • wendel archer

      Excellent

      July 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Way to go Ed! Right on the money!

      July 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Alan C.

    YOU ARE ALL A BUNCH OF MF'ING IDIOTS !!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • shachar

      And you are . . . . . a nut a squirrel refuses to harvest.

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

    Obama's version of compromise is.. "do it my way or I'll veto it".
    Harry Reid's version of compromise is "go ahead and sent the bill – It's Dead On Arrival – and i won't let the Senate vote on it".
    That's puke politics by the Democrats.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kiki

      If you think the Republicans have offered any real compromise you are deluded.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheWorst

      You cannot be serious...you don't really believe the bull you speak, do you? At least have the common sense to admit that you don't believe it, but you're a far right conservative and you just want to win. Nothing else matters to you people, especially not the health of the country.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dont do it

      And the Republican solution is to take drugs and dream uip fantasy bills that have no hope of helping anyone but their fellow millionaires and ask the rest of the country to close their eyes and take the punishment because its good for them. At least the rest of us are living in reality!

      July 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frantz j Larece

      Unfortunatly, for you, C TYLER his plan will be better for everyone. In case you've been hidding under a rock, or just ignorant. We can't effort to pay the dept with just cuts only, which is what the republicans are suggesting, it would be a disaster you can't put the burden only on people who are trying to better themself by going to school etc, who are trying to become better tax payers. Everyone have to come together, the wealthy, the middle class, & the poor, and make some sacrefices for our country & the future generation

      July 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kiki

    There have to be deep cuts AND tax increases...both sides are going to have to compromise.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Frustrated

    The majority vote is what counts. How many Tea Party backed members of Congress are there? It appears to everyone else on Earth except for this "minority" group understands that a compromise is the only solution. However, if the GOP is so vulnerable to a minority group within its own party then maybe this small group should be put in its place. The unemployment line!!! When the full impact will reach everyone in the United States. Tea Party people included. This might be a good thing! It will put the GOP on the road to extinction.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Felipe

    Give illegals a road to fix there status in the us. charge a fee for for example 5000 per person. 11,000,000 immigrants x $5000= $55 000 000 000.00. first have to pass background checks. 11 000 000 more people paying taxes. a good start

    July 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • C Tyler

      Illegal aliens are criminals, they have stolen our jobs using stolen ID's which is a felony. They plunder every dollar possible from welfare and medical care to food stamps and the only thing they deserve is jail time and deportation.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Polly

      do you imagine how much they will cost you in "Social services"?We already paying for their children do you want to pay for mothers welfare too?

      July 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    Congress doesn't work either, so it makes sense that we follow their lead. I am looking forwards to fat paychecks for doing nothing, a painted house, and good carpeting inside, a well stocked kitchen, and cable TV for entertainment.

    Thank you democrats for all the good free stuff and that we don't have to work anymore to get anything. I like that idea, after 30 years of working, I am tired of fighting democrats and want some time to relax and goof off like democrats do. It will be fun.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jackie Treehorn

      You go do that and see if it's the rose garden you think it is. Drama queen.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lee Sterne

    I DON'T KNOW IF WE CAN FIX THIS PROBLEM. COMPROMISE REQUIRES GIVE AND TAKE, AND ONE SIDE (THE REPUBLICANS) WON'T GIVE AND CAN'T EVEN SEEM ABLE TO TAKE.
    THEY HAVE DONE NOTHING BUT PLAY GAMES.
    FIRST, IT WAS "KICK THE BALL, CHARLIE BROWN": I'LL NEGOTIATE, REALLY I WILL: HA HA, I WON'T.
    NOW IT'S "RUN OUT THE CLOCK": WE'LL KEEP ARGUING ABOUT WHAT WE WANT UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. THEN OF COURSE, IF YOU WONT ACCEPT IT, IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT.
    THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA: IT WOULD CRIPPLE EVERY FUTURE GOVERNMENT IN DEALING WITH THE UNEXPECTED. CUT AND CAP IS EQUALLY BAD: IT WOULD DO THE SAME THING, PUT FUTURE GOVERNMENTS IN A STRAIGHT JACKET.
    AND AS FOR BOEHNER'S PROPOSAL TO DO A SHORT TERM EXTENSION AND REVISIT THE ISSUE IN SEVEN MONTHS, DOES ANYONE BELIEVE IT WILL BE ANY EASIER TO FIND A CONSENSUS THEN THAN NOW? I SEE IT AS A CYNICAL PLOY TO KEEP THE COUNTRY TIED UP IN KNOTS. IF HE GETS HIS WAY, I PREDICT THE SAME GRIDLOCK FOLLOWED BY ANOTHER SHORT TERM EXTENSION THAT WOULD LEAVE US IN THIS PREDICAMENT JUST PRIOR TO ELECTION.
    i'M CONVINCED THAT THEY THINK THAT A BAD ECONOMY IS THEIR BEST PATH FOR THE NEXT ELECTION. THEY SEEM WILLING TO DO ANYTHING, CONCEIVABLE OR INCONCEIVABLE, TO KEEP THINGS MESSED UP.
    TODAY'S REPUBLICANS ARE ECONOMIC SABOTEURS: OR PERHAPS ECONOMIC TERRORISTS. THEY ARE DOING INCALCULABLE DAMAGE TO OUR COUNTRY, AND THEY RECOGNIZE NO INCENTIVE TO MEND THEIR WAYS.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. steve umbreit

    I THINK CONGRESS NEEDS TO GROW UP AND START WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE AND ( STOP TAKING CARE OFF ALL OF THE PEOPLE OVERSEAS. WE HAVE PEOPLE IN THE US WHO ARE WORSE OFF. AS FAR AS SS THAT IS OUR MONEY THAT WE PAID INTO AND WORKED FOR. THE GOVERMENT TOKE MONEY FREM IT WHEN RAGAN WAS IN OFFICE AND THEY SAID THAY WOULD PAY I BACK AND NEVER DID , SO GROW UP OR GET OUT OF OFFICE.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tim

    Working on a balanced budget is the only long term fix for our problems, raising the debt limit just puts off trying to fix the problem now, raising taxes only tells the politicians that it's ok to the people that they can say it's just a few billion dollars, spend it where you want. Cut spending, NOW! Work on balancing the budget, NOW! I'm surprised I didn't hear the president say babies and puppies will die if the other side doesn't play the game that Washington plays.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Circe

      If your checking account is down to zero and you need to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, you don't say let's not borrow money, let the house be foreclosed on, and let my family starve. If you can, you borrow money, create a realistic budget that includes getting a job to raise money. The government needs a budget that includes spending cuts and more revenue in the form of a realistic tax code that doesn't penalize the middle class like our tax code now. Why isn't anyone else angry that someone who makes $500,000 per year pays a smaller percentage of taxes than someone who makes $60,000? The rational thing to do is raise the debt ceiling and create a balanced budget with cuts and increased revenue and stop trying to reason with crazy people that would have the United States be the national equivalent of a homeless, dead-beat dad just because he didn't want to pay the mortgage or child support. We need to stop listening to these irresponsible, childish people and act like adults.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Maggie Burkhalter

    What happened to the center in politics? If the moderates in both parties would work together to a reasonable compromise, then the country would not be held hostage to the extremists in both parties. Neither extreme speaks for me and the middle seems afraid to challenge them.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Moira

    I wonder how any of these Republicans can ever be elected again. They are throwing away the country for their own political futures or just to stick it to the President. The American people want balance, but what we are getting from the house would kill our standing in the world, and what is being proposed by the senate democrats is not much better. I would love to just see all of them out of there.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Alger Heights Dave

    Before everyone gets too upset about the state of our political leaders, lets remember a few things: 1 – A couple of countries around the world are now in serious trouble because of their national debt, and more will likely have similar problems. People are protesting in the streets and dying in some cases in these countries – we're certainly not there nor do we want to go there!; 2 – Our leaders have rightly seen this debt ceiling increase as a chance to bring some correction to an unsustainable government budget (everyone agrees it's unsustainable – it's just on how to fix this that we differ).; 3 – They've been seriously trying to fix a mess that took us years (decades really) to get into, during the past few months. Everyone is worried that just lifting the debt ceiling will create a situation where the real problems once again are not addressed properly. Yeah, we might go past the 8/2 deadline, but we've got to put this in perspective – it's probably the biggest fix to the US budget problems our generation will see – and we need to get it right.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Hammerer

    People are screaming that the Tea Party are a bunch of crazies.
    The politicans are hysterical because the tea party supported congressmen are not playing by the establishment's rules and not playing their games. The old guard's playhouse is being challenged and the washington elite does not like it.
    The new congressmen came to town to change the way washington politics operated, by the way that was a promise that Obama made, and they are standing their ground to make good on their promise.
    The washington elite and the welfare crowd are calling them every name in the book because they are afraid that the change created will riun their gravy train.
    Next election will bring more congressmen to help with this battle to bring accountability to washington!

    July 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JAKE JEOFF

      If sitting there and doing nothing is "shaking up Washington" then you are right. The Tea Party is a Koch brothers funded propaganda machine set to bring down all government regulation. Congratulations you've been duped. Find a political organization that is looking out for YOUR interests and not those of multi-billion dollar corporations who would gladly give you the shaft and move their operations to China.

      July 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
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