New poll shows that many Americans still don’t know the real meaning of raising the debt ceiling
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released this morning shows that 44 percent of Americans are opposed to raising the federal debt ceiling (see HERE), which comes as no surprise given the political dynamics of the situation.
This issue has arisen again with a deadline looming next month, after which the government would default on its debts if the ceiling is not raised. In that event, a fiscal disaster would ensue.
But, as was the case the last time we faced this problem, lots of Americans simply don’t understand the fundamentals of the matter. They seem to think that raising the debt ceiling would allow the Obama administration to spend more freely, to come up with more programs that will cost taxpayers ever more money.
That myth was fostered a couple of years ago by irresponsible rhetoric from the likes of House Speaker John Boehner, who warned against giving the president “a blank check.” Boehner knew that term was bogus, but he also knew that it plays well among the boobs who don’t understand the first thing about what the debt ceiling is and how it works.
Here’s the real deal:
Raising the debt ceiling only allows the government to pay the bills it already has incurred. It does not allow Obama or anyone else to spend even one penny that Congress has not already appropriated.
Spending bills emanate from the House of Representatives, which currently is controlled by a Republican majority. Obama simply is not free to conjure new spending programs without specific consent of the House (and concurrence by the Senate). To suggest otherwise is to lie to the American people.
And yet, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said this in 2011: ”We have worked for months to back the President and Congressional Democrats away from their demand for a blank check to keep spending.” Cantor’s intention, of course, was to create the impression that Obama’s request for a hike in the debt ceiling amounts to a request to create new spending programs.
In another example of this same kind of dishonesty, the Republican National Committee launched a fundraising effort in 2011 with a mass-mailing that bore this headline: ”Stop Obama’s Blank Check.” Recepients of the letter were asked to contribute whatever they can spare to the RNC to aid in its efforts to take away that non-existent blank check.
The danger in not raising the debt ceiling is that it would result in America defaulting on its financial obligations. The consequences of that would include a lowering of the government’s credit rating and an increase in interest rates, which would make it more difficult for ordinary Americans to buy homes or cars and more difficult for businesses to expand or retool or otherwise take steps to create more jobs.
Most Republican politicians understand the truth of this matter. But they also understand that false rhetoric about blank checks for the Obama administration gets the Tea Party troops all excited and more likely to support the Republican cause.
They’re playing a cynical game.