Debt Ceiling 101: Explainers, Analysis, and Commentary

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The debt ceiling! We've all heard about. Many of us have spoken about it. But what the heck is it? Why does it matter? What can be done about it?

It's A Free Country has all the answers:



For starters, the debt ceiling - what is it? Read our explainer here. Still not too clear? You can hear Dan Gross, columnist and economics editor for Yahoo! Finance explain it to Brian Lehrer here.

The president and Congress are at an impasse, with the Republicans demanding deep spending cuts white refusing to allow any increase in taxes. Its A Free Country breaks down the drama here. Congressional Quarterly senior writer Joseph Schatz discusses the impasse between Congressional Republicans and the White House with Brian here.  

The deadline for decision is over, but it's worth looking back. What were the president's options?  Well, he could've invokek the Constitution. Listen to Jay Wexler, law professor at Boston University, blogger and author of the forthcoming book The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions, discuss Section 4 of the 14th Amendment with Brian here. Would that really work? How? Here's an explainer.

What would've happened if the U.S. did default on its debts? Senior financial analyst at Greg McBride said it would be bad. Bloomberg columnist, MSNBC analyst and the author of The Promise: President Obama, Year One Jonathan Alter agrees. You can hear him talk to Brian about it here.

On the other hand, maybe it's all much ado about nothing.


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Comments [6]

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Jan. 12 2012 07:15 AM

I think it should be against the law to have someone like Grover Norquist (who seem to be the most powerful man in government but considered a mere lobbyist)tying the hands of the Republicans to a pledge not to tax the rich. That is what holding this Congress back. They refuse to break the pledge. He has said that the Democrats should never be given a chance to run on a Democratic agenda. That's why the Republicans always tie up the White House with their agenda when there is a Democratic President. Why isn't this front page news?

Jul. 26 2011 02:30 PM
Nick from pissed off in NJ

I just listened to Mr. Obama on the pending credit default of the USA. I have not been this frustrated since the RayGun years. The President keeps pretending (deluding himself?) that he has reasonable opposition on the right instead of an ignorant rabble bent in his (and the country's) destruction. He should have said "Give me a clean debt ceiling bill without strings or I will veto it. And when I do, the impact on the world economy, the stock market, social security and interest rates will be on the heads of the Republicans. And when you lose your job, or your veteran's check doesn't arrive or your mother's social security check doesn't get deposited, I want you to remember that it is the Republican party that has brought this mess on." He blinked and the right knew he would. And worse yet, he probably lost what was left of his base.

Jul. 25 2011 09:54 PM
nancy sherman from NYC

Two points: One - The strong partisanship here is, in particular, about the determination of the right to force a 1-term presidency for Obama. And it seems fiercer and more angry than I have experienced in my lifetime (even considering the terrible roadblocks put before Clinton, some of which he created himself). 2- The supposed "job creating" billionaires and corporations have done little to change the poor job situation for the great majority of people in this country, though that seems to be the cry for why they so strongly oppose a change in the tax codes. I am ashamed of my country which, it seems to me, is clinging for dear life to racism and a caste system economy. Eventually, I do think that progressive changes will happen, but I was hoping that the evidence would be in my lifetime.

Jul. 25 2011 10:50 AM
Barbara Himber from Flemington, NJ

Rex Nutting of the WSJ wrote on 'Market Watch' today an excellent commentary. Part of it: "Congress can pass just the buck to Obama. This is the plan proposed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggests a legislative sleight-of-hand to make President Obama be responsible for the debt ceiling. Sorry, Mitch, but if you read your Constitution, you’ll find that Congress is responsible for the debts, the spending, and the taxes. Man up.

So what should Congress do?

It’s pretty simple. Pass the increase in the debt ceiling so we can pay our obligations in full and on time. Then have lawmakers do their damn jobs: Talk, negotiate, bargain, plead, threaten, bluster, pontificate, legislate and cast votes until they’ve figured out in a transparent and democratic fashion how to stabilize our public debt at a sustainable ratio, setting spending, taxing and borrowing at levels that we can live with. And then face the voters on Election Day. Repeat as needed.
Good show, Brian

Jul. 25 2011 10:25 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

The GOP Congress would rather NOT reach a compromise. This puts the President in a position to ORDER the ceiling increase and the GOP would use his unilateral action to gin up their election chances. They may even attempt to impeach him for it...good luck on that.

If am BHO, I hold up on Executive Action until the consequences of default are clear AND it is likewise clear that this has all been caused by GOP intransigence.

Long-term, eliminate ALL deductions; broaden earnings subject to FICA; public campaign financing.

Jul. 22 2011 02:20 PM

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