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. RENEE

    Tea Party supporters i really hope you got what you voted for because you have not seen nothing YET! Repulicans and Democrats Watch Out!

    July 31, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jay Talmage

    The people that sent these tea baggers to Washington to save the government did't know that they were going to destroy it.. All you good people that really do want to save our country get out and vote for the democrats and get rid of these republicans that just want to get their own way no matter who it hurts..........

    July 31, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Your just getting a dose of your own medicine.

      you didn't see any problem with Dem's shoving health care down our throats with no bipartisan support.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Your just getting a dose of your own medicine.

      you didn't see any problem with Dem's shoving health care down our throats with no bipartisan support.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. Winston Blake

    Republican plan = cut, cap, balance

    Democrat plan = lie, cheat, steal

    bipartisan = twice as bad

    July 31, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • oldtimer38

      Below are some FACTS far more important than who is responsible for the current Financial Debacle, in this Nation, and should be considered by you and your friends.

      Long Depression 1873–1896 Started during the administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, ended during the administration of Democrat President, Grover Cleveland.

      Great Depression 1929–1939, Started during the administration of Republican President, Herbert Hoover, ended during the administration of Democrat President, Franklin Roosevelt.

      Recession of 1953 1953–1954, Started during the administration of Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower.

      Recession of 1957 1957–1958, Started during the administration of Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower.

      1973 oil crisis 1973–1975, Started during the administration of Republican President, Richard Nixon.

      Early 1980s recession 1980– 1980, lasted only 6 months, Started during the administration of Democrat President, Jimmy Carter.

      1981 Recession 1981- 1982, started during the administration of Republican President, Ronald Reagan.

      Early 1990s recession 1990–1991, Started during the administration of Republican President, George H. W. Bush.

      Early 2000s recession 2001–2003, Started during the administration of Republican President, George W. Bush.

      2007- 2009 Started during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush.

      That is the Economic history od the United States for the last 140 years on the DEPRESSIONS in this Nation and the history of the United States Recessions for the last 59 years.

      Those who fail to study history are destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over again, aren't they Winston Blake?

      August 1, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. Frank

    The Tea Party people seem to be terribly irresponsible and just plain stupid.

    July 31, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      You seem to be ignorant and void of accountability.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Winston B

    Frank, you are very smart! I wish I were as smart as you.

    July 31, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josephine Russell

    where were the republicans and the tea party activists when Bush started two wars that was not paid for, gave tax brakes to the richest 1%, why did they not demand that the budget be balanced for 8 years of Bush's administration; all of a sudden it became an emergency to balance the budget in a recession, and strip the working folks and the poor of their limited benefits. I hope that voters do not forget too quickly come election day how embarrassed and humiliated we felt on this day as Americans around the world. The republican party has lost all objectives as to what they were elected to do, it has become a popularity contest and about re-elections.

    August 1, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. Clark

    The bottom line is that the debt ceiling should have been raised a while ago. Never before has it been used as a bargaining chip for such demands toward our governments spending. It has been raised 72 times since the 1960s with no real political battles, democrats or republicans. The issue is since congress can't agree on ANYTHING. Whatever comes to vote doesn't pass. The years budget was passed(by both current dems and repubs) long before this all came about, knowing the debt ceiling vote would roll around. It is a game that no side can or will win if it continues, I think most Americans understand that. Look at the data yourselves and see the real problem areas we need to focus our attention on. Start with the Budget and Net Operating costs...Here's the governments link, the numbers they give you are not good so if that's the case one can infer our future outlook is not bright at the moment


    August 1, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tschrny Wolf



    August 1, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Optimus Prime

      you are the worst possible kind of IDIOT

      August 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rhonda Welk

    I am all for compromise, but feel the president and fellow elected leaders didn't really listen to the American people as noted in the polls, tweets, etc. One of the facts people really wanted to see is tax reform for the wealthy, such as paying there fair share in taxes as the rest of us, closing loopholes, so on. How is this compromise going to offer and supply more jobs? Looks like alot of giving on democrat side, not on the other. Sounds like a deal just enough to get us through, but lacks the american people voice of what they wanted to see happen. Just remember when all of you are up for re-election will remember how you all voted for this. Very disappointed as a voting American on what has transpired over the last few days. Remember its not about if its "Boeher's idea or Reid's idea, its should be about the people you are representing and who put you there to speak for us!!! Just bring in some real people off the street during your debates, and listen to their stories from the real world and maybe by listening to their concerns and real lives of how this debate really affects their lives, it wouldn't take you hours and hours and hours of discussion and it would remind you of why you all are really there. Not for yourselves, but for the people you are suppose to be representing. Sorry President Obama, ( voted for President Obama) that your many speeches of what imput the American people were tweeting and texting to you about was not addressed, and you gave up alot just get this all done before aug. 2. Even if you have more committees later on to address more issues, who is to say they can't reach an agreement? Never ending cycle. In Election year 2012, maybe be a rethinkable decision for me. I vote because i look to those people to help represent our views on different issues, and do what is best for us a whole, but after seeing all this this past week, makes me rethink are these people really there to represent us or is all about them or is it about looking out for number one, themselves?

    August 1, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. Nancy McMahon

    My father used to say that it was rare that honorable and intelligent men and women run for public office, especially at the national level, and that more often than not, when they do they rarely win. He equated intelligence with knowledge in the renaissance sense of the term and by honorable he meant individuals who act with integrity and wisdom. However, as an attorney, although he would never act for a client in a way that was contrary to his code of what was right, he was wise enough to know how to compromise when it was necessary and he knew how to bring people together.

    Above all, he believed in service, to the community, to organizations in which he believed, to the arts, and to education. In addition to serving his community in many capacities in Seattle, WA, where he lived and practiced law as a tax attorney, the latter for over fifty years, he put his money where his mouth was and gave generously to the many organizations which he supported. To do so, he was content to live rather modestly, in comparison to the other partners in his law firm. When any of his three children complained about the taxes they paid, his response was quite simple: "Be glad that you live in a country where you make enough money to pay the taxes you do.

    I tell you all this because it explains a code by which my brothers and I have tried to live. I tell you this because if ordinary citizens live by these rules, I must ask why can't our representatives? I must conclude that if this be the case, they do not represent us, despite any mock vote. Unfortunately, the leaders for which we have voted have proven my father right. They are neither wise nor very intelligent. They are content to hold the people of this country hostage to their posturing. Their arrogance defies description, especially those of the so-called tea party, a group of individuals who lack every single quality necessary for leadership, and outlined above.

    That a group of individuals who are fortunate to earn an excellent salary which can by raised, not by some employer, but by a vote of they themselves, a generous pension for time served, and a healthcare plan that millions of Americans would love to have, in addition to the many perks that come with the office – all of this paid for by the American taxpayer
    – are quite willing to let the people they supposedly serve suffer without. I refer to the millions of us on social security
    (My husband and I are dependent on social security and a small teachers' pension.) and dependent on medicare, the 7% of the population who live below the poverty level, the millions of homeless which include members of the military who have been willing to risk their lives for our country, and the millions more who have lost their jobs, the latter due to the excesses of the Bush administration in involving us in two wars, in lowering taxes to a level unprecedented in decades, and allowing banks, corporations, and Wall Street to continue to do business unchecked and without proper regulation leading to the biggest recession we have ever experienced since the depression.

    The disparity between the wealthy, in many instances a wealth so great that it is downright vulgar, and the middle class continues to grow and not just because so many have lost their jobs and their homes. There is absolutely no proof that lowering taxes on the wealthy increases jobs. It hasn't, while corporations and banks not only continue to thrive, but have posted tremendous earnings this past year. Any intelligent, educated person knows that there has never been a single society that has flourished without a strong middle class; that good health care for all, in the end saves money and benefits all; that a good education system not only strengthens the nation, but it also contributes to a decrease in crime. There are not a lot of inmates in our prisons with a college education. Has congress been willing to address these problems? We know the answer to that. Instead our representatives and senators worry more about their own careers, their own re-election. They happily spend money on pork and on programs that no one wants, e.g., building planes that even the military does not want, are subsurvient to the lobbyists, special interests, and corporate America. Now they are willing to bring this country to the brink of a national disaster.

    I repeat, the members of the United States Congress do not represent us, rather they are destroying this country and slowly replacing our system of democracy with a theocracy wherein the wealthy have replaced a god. While I put the blame on all the members of the House and Senate, in the instance of this economic crisis, the Republicans, in their unwillingness to compromise, especially those ignorant and mindless idiots of the tea party movement who don't understand anything about politics or economics, must be held responsible for this current economic crisis. They weren't worried about spending during the Bush years. I firmly believe that the Republicans have but one goal – to use the issue of the debt and the deficit to bring down President Obama. Any fool (I thought) knows that in cutting expenses, you must increase revenue. The President and the Democrats have not only offered more in the way of cuts, they have taken the issue of raising taxes off the table. There is no honor among Republicans; the tea party isn't worried about their principles, they are only concerned with rendering the Obama administration ineffective.

    The self-righteous complacency of Congress is the "new face of terrorism" in the United States.

    August 1, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      It's the short sighted Liberals who put us in this debt crisis with the Health Care debackle that the majority of voters where against.

      August 1, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I couldn't agree more Nancy. You type several paragraphs, well thought and constructive, and then get a teabagger's typical reply:
      "It's the short sighted Liberals who put us in this debt crisis with the Health Care debackle that the majority of voters where against."
      Charlie, go do some research. The healthcare "debackle" isn't the sole cause of the debt crisis and the healthcare bill that passed legislation was stripped and watered down by Republicans who are in the pockets of big business.

      August 9, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. bill r

    Nobody pays attention to data. I mean real data, not polls. The data shows where this nation is headed – a two class society. These debates are mere camoflauge. Americans best pay attention soon, or these right wing surrogate organizations for the corporate wealthy will destroy this society.

    August 1, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lobo Mal

    Hi, Obama! Please start the "War on American Poverty" – the sooner the better!

    August 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David S

    I recently watched a CNN broadcast where the host started showing what we could and could not afford in "domestic" programs. Why must we first cut domestic programs, lets cut the international programs first! Cut what cash we give to foreign countries, generally this money gets us nothing anyway! Countries should receive a bill for our military support presence and protection, enough with the free rides!

    August 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |


    REAL SHOOTING IN UTOYA or NORWEGIAN "AFTERLIFE" $$ FLASH MOB !!? http://stateofterror.blogspot.com/ or http://stateofterror.wordpress.com/ REAL TEARS OR TEAR GAS AND PURE THEATER ON FACES OF MANIACS !!? OSLO POLICE or COMMUNIST/LIBERAL CRIMINALS WHO WERE PREPARING FOR ACT OF TERROR AGAINST NORWAY AND EUROPE ALMOST HALF DECADE(collecting proofs and photos) AHEAD !!? WILL THERE BE APOCALYPSE NOW(total obedience or trans in abomination) OR TOTAL RESISTANCE(civil war against multyculturalism) !!? No doubt about bombing in Oslo, but what about shooting in Utoya !!!?

    ARIZONA = UTOYA and STOLTENBERG = BREIVIK (90 minutes vs 30 and for government vehicles or police even 20 minutes the most) !!!

    August 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IAmThatStrange

    You all should listen to yourselves. Everyone else is at fault, it's the republicans fault no it's the democrats fault no it's.......

    It's our fault.

    August 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron Enfield

      Our fault? I didn't vote for politicians backed by millionaires and billionaires whose only desire is to get more money, no matter who it hurts in this country. I didn't vote for $2 trillion dumped into the desert in Iraq for nothing! I didn't vote to cut taxes for the "job outsourcers" (oops, job creators). Learn your facts before you start smearing everyone with blame that rightly belongs to a few.

      August 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
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