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. Roy

    Never before has the nation's debt ceiling been "tied" to the deficit. In my opinion, the hard line "extremists" in the Republican party are solely using this in an effort to try and oust President Obama in 2012. They are putting politics and their political agenda ahead of the country; efectively playing Russian roulette with the country's credit and economy.

    This country was built on the priniciple of compromise. It is precidely the construction of divided government that dictates that compromise is the only path to a viable solution when posiitions are disputed. As far back as the
    Declaration of Independence, compromise has been utilized to gain consensus. Why not now?

    July 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I don't see this as a Republican or Democrat issue. In fact I believe that they are all the same. The only interest that any of our elected officials in Washington DC have is how they are going to keep the lobbyists happy so that they can be reelected.

      July 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      The republicans or are playing a rough game to show Obama they are the boss not him. It doesn't matter to them if the whole world suffers from this...they think it is worth it to them. Sad isn't it? I never have been for republicans but they are going to far this time. They make George Bush look like a saint..sad thought. I thought is that I have noticed the rich always gain when many others struggle and this might have something to do with it. I don't think republicans want things to get better. They definitely don't want it to get better when a democrat is in office. I don't usually like using race but I think for many republicans having the first black president on top of being a democrat is a big slap in their face and they don't want him in the history books as a great president. Think I am right?

      July 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. usafirefly

    Default. The Fed will keep spending and start all over again. Who are we kidding? People can't even afford their mortgages and high rent and yet they are expected to 'Pay' for this? This is laughable. I would laugh except the 4.87 Trillion they owe us on the Social Security they've 'borrowed'. They'll pay us back right? Now that's 'laughable'.

    July 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    Seems there is no agreeing in politics but there paycheck is still there. I have always said that the American people are not equally represented. How can a rich man know how the middle or bottom feel. The middle class and the working class make America run so how come all politicians are wealthy. I think if we stop letting people from other countries come here file for social security get approved (the money I paid in for 40 years of hard labor work) then turn. around and send it back to country there from. If we ask the guy living on the street if he wants to help fund a new war or help every country in crisis his response would be : can I get some help!

    July 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    The question I have for each and every member of Congress is this. Give me a list of government programs in your district that you will cut or eliminate the funding for and how much will the reduction be? Before you answer a cut is not a reduction in the projected rate of increase. It is the amount less than what is currently being spent on this program. Question #2. If you are serious about this will you introduce and sponsor a bill in Congress to make your list of cuts law?

    July 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. michael sniatenchuk

    There should be severe cuts to get back in shape....it is just a reality...if the Democrats were more that way maybe the Rep.would think about some tax hikes...I agree there should be tax hikes...but there should be huge cuts...get back into shape now not 10-15 years from now..that is dangerous approach...and will likely be unsuccessful...

    July 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tommy ross

    typical liberal cnn coverage. The ball headed foured sob on follow the money puts both the tea party and the conservatives as the bad guys. I am an Independent but can see right through both reid and pelosi. They are so afraid that those in thier districts that are here illegally or just too damn lazy to work wont get the benefits that we taxpayers fork over. Washington has a SPENDING problem. I try to give cnn the chance to be fair and balanced but that is not going to happen.

    July 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      I think you should understand that of course both sides are always at odds with each other but the people put them in office to work with each other. Everyone can have the digs into each other but when it comes to our whole country they need to act like adults. This is not the time to fight, most want this resolved and resolved right now. Hate democrats..that's fine, but this one is on the republicans for trying to be pigheaded and wanting to be the boss. It is not right..I think they will suffer politically for this. The debt ceiling needs to be raised and that's all there is to it. Fight about the rest later. This is what they do everyday...argue and fight with each other. If this was our kids at home they would be in trouble. I don't think the politicians should act like bad children.

      July 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Terry Albeyta

    Congressional Democrates and Republicans listen up! We the people of the United States are getting tired of the political stances that are currently being paraded for the world to see. It is TIME for all parties to work together and fix this problem. No single party is going to get everything they want, but to STOP a bill as DOA, without even debate is unexceptable! You need to work together and pass a bi-partisan bill NOW! The 2012 elections are right around the corner and if the American citizens are smart will vote the whole lot of you out!

    July 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      I know how you feel Terry..they are being unreasonable. I personally think after watching this stuff almost everyday of my life since Bill Clinton was running for office the first time...that the republicans are digging in their heels at our expense. They have a real beef with President Obama..more than usual. I think this is personal for most of them even though no one will ever admit it.When it becomes more than a job it gets dangerous. I hate to say it but I think we are in real trouble because of it. For the first time I think they are wanting to hurt Obama as much as they can even if it means destroying America to do it. They think it will make Obama look bad and teach anyone who dared put him in office a lesson. Many might think I am wrong and i am sure I will hear about it from some..but I am calling it as I see it. The debt ceiling has never been such a struggle anytime in history. This is something that needs to be done for what we already owe not what we want to spend. That is a whole different issue.

      July 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Optimus Prime

    President Obama and his administration have nothing except bail out failing Corporations and have not left the free market alone. Why should we let big companies like Bank of America know that in this Country there is no such thing as failure. Life has two opposite poles and they include success and failure and sometimes we must fail. Obama's big government agenda is destroying this country.

    July 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      The tea party are not the same as republicans so you say but they are a divided group of republicans. I think they are a harder core republican..maybe even a more crazy republican.They take republican ideas to the extreme which is scarey. Willing to ruin this country to show they are fighters for their cause. It is a revolution that could destroy America. This country was built on caring for others and I see no caring when they are willing to let our country suffer and many people in it just to get theur way.

      July 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |

    news FOR u,It's too effin late.14th amendment byObama and pass a real budget lincluding huge taxes on those who profited on the ten years of suffering and wars including missilemakers,electronicsmfg,banks,stockfunds,etc.
    And never vote for a lying Republican again.

    July 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime

      you're an idiot

      July 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. abracadabra

    I feel like I'm watching the planes crashing into the World Trade Center again! On 9/11, we didn't know what was happening. The House Republicans have been saying for weeks they will crash the economy if they don't get their way. They are holding everyone hostage. They are terrorists and traitors and should be dealt with as such. It's time to
    send in the SEALS!

    July 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peggy

    This is a horrible situation on our hands as Americans watching a train wreck and we can't do anything about it. Arguments caused by the republicans in office has went to far. Sure it is good to have discussions and back and forth opinions but there are times like this when the whole country is at stake for the republicans to just let it go. This is not the time for grandstanding. there will be other times for them to stand their ground but when it is down to the wire like this it starts looking deliberate and cruel. It is like they are trying to ruin President Obama and the democrats at any cost including ours.

    July 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. angel tackett

    how did we let tea party crazies take over this country? the republican party has truely gone off the deep end they want to take from the poor and middle class and give the rich more well how much more do they really need?and when will it be enough .they are willing to let our country default that says alot they are out of control why cant the republican congress give up thier pay and bennifits?and live like we do ?

    July 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime

      What are you talking about?! The Republican Party is about the middle class and small businesses. PRESIDENT OBAMA BAILED OUT LARGE CORPORATIONS WITH TAX PAYER MONEY!!!!! He wants to take hard working American's dollars and give to those who "USE" the system to pay for things that are not within their means? You have got to be kidding me. You need to educate yourself a little more. KEEP OBAMA AND HIS BIG GOVERNMENT HANDS OUT OF OUR POCKETS!

      July 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Optimus Prime

    FYI: the Republican Party and the Tea Party are not the same either...

    July 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wanda Davis

    To President Obama and the American People: I am truly TIRED of the REPUBLICANS and others say they want to make sure the President is a one term president. Well the Republicans may get their wish when they constantly try to make the President look bad and they do not want to compromise because they want to see him fail. And I am sick and TIRED of hearing the American people say to the President that if you cut Medicare and Social Security we want vote for you as President next year. Well for the ones who are making thiis statement then you need to GET OFF YOUR BUTT and get out there and SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT and if you don't want Medicare and Social Security cut then DO NOT VOTE FOR HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER PLAN. President Obama is exhausting himself trying to make sure that Medicare and Social Security don't get cut. He is doing his best trying to show support for the Middle Class, the Senior Citizens, and the Poor. BUT people of America President Obama cannot do it alone. PRESIDENT OBAMA IS NOT A ONE MAN SHOW. So everyone STOP putting all the blame on President Obama.GET UP AMERICA...GO OUT AMERICA AND SUPPORT PRESIDENT OBAMA PLAN. People of America the REPUBLICANS want to see the President fail and because of this of course there want be any compromise. How in the HELL you are suppose to work with someone who HATES YOUR GUT or is willing to go out of their way to make sure the President don't succeed. People of America if you don't want Medicare and Socialy Security cut START SPEAKING OUT AGAINST HOUSE SPEAKER BOHENER PLAN and START SUPPORTING THE PRESIDENT PLAN. American people remember that it want be the Democrats, the Republicans, Congress or even the President who will be hurt by this Debt Crisis IT WILL BE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. And if the American people suffer because of the Republicans plan then everyone will stop pointing the finger at the President and next time maybe they will appreciate him more and start respecting him as a person. PRESIDENT OBAMA THE WAY I WOULD SOLVE THE DEBT CRISIS IS TO LET THE AMERICAN PEOPLE VOTE. LET the American People VOTE on which plan they would perfer. THEN Everyone would STOP blaming you for everything. MR. PRESIDENT SET IT UP AND LET THE AMERICAN PEOPLE VOTE FOR YOUR PLAN OR HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER PLAN THE CHOICE WOULD BE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE CHOICE. And Mr. President I am praying for you and your family and THANK YOU for all of your hard work IF no one else appreciate you I DO. AND let me add one more comment RACISM STILL DOES EXIST SOME PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO SEE A BLACK MAN IN THE HOUSE HOUSE NOR WANTING A BLACK MAN TO LEAD THE COUNTRY THAT IS WHY THIS COMMENT KEEP COMING UP AND THE COMMENT IS...WE WANT TO MAKE SURE PRESIDENT OBAMA IS A ONE TERM PRESIDENT...BUT I KNOW THAT GOD WILL HAVE THE FINAL SAY HALLEJUAH! Thank You all for listening and may God Bless All of You. Sincerely, Prophetess Wanda Davis....

    July 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      Good for you Wanda. You took the words out of my mouth! I am tired of everyone tearing down our country and blaming President Obama. I think he is a great President and I would do anything in my power to support him. I have always had faith in him. I think the republicans hate having a black man as a President and it has became personal. It is dangerous to have people in office who are so vindictive and out to destroy our country to get Obama out of office. I think everyone needs to see through all this and understand...it is okay to be for the republican side if you want but how can you support the republicans in office right now who are evil and want blood at the expense of us all.

      July 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime

      America is about being a hardworking member of society and industrialism. Being at the top, not having everything handed to them. If we allow hand outs to be the topic of discussion and not allow a bill to pass, then America loses. It should not matter whether you are poor or are in the middle class, which the middle class is soon to be non-existent. What matters is that we are all American. People do need to stand up, they need to realize that big government does not work. Anyone in this country has freedom from the day that they were born. They have freedom to get a public education, they have the freedom to then graduate and attend any College in the land(given they actually tried in school). They then have the freedom to go for any job in any field they chose given how hard they have actually tried to get there. It is about working, it is about pouring out your blood, sweat, and tears. Then at the end of the day you can look yourself in the mirror and actually feel something. Not about being handed something from a government that has completely changed since the day this country was founded. As President John F. Kennedy once said "Ask not what your Country can do for you-Ask what you can do for your country" -JFK. We have the opportunity to be individuals, to create a family and actually be parents to our children and see to it that they make the right choices. In turn we will be granted the society we are all wishing for. Stop the arguing and smile on your brother, let's all stand together and realize that Mr. Obama is a very good man, however he is not the President that we all need.

      July 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wandas' Therapist

      Wanda you're off your meds again aren't you? You know we talked about this in your last session. OBAMA IS THE DEBIL!! I INVENTED THE INTERNET. Now I have to go because PEGGY is here to see me....P.S. she has more problems thn you've got

      July 30, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Christy

    If we go into default, every member of Congress should have his/her pay withheld till further notice PLUS each should be fined $1000/day till they clean up this totally self-inflicted mess. Plus, as a special treat for all the frothing-at-the-mouth Tea Party members, they should be required to undergo a colonoscopy for every day of the delay. I'm only half joking, believe me.

    July 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tea Partys Colon


      July 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
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