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.



  1. Unless we significantly reform our entitlement programs (or drastically raise taxes) we are going to have to continue raising the debt ceiling indefinitely.

  2. Americans understand the issue perfectly. The government is spending more money than in it has, not by a little, but by alot, hence a huge federal deficit.

    The annual deficit adds to the skyrocketing debt.

    This situation is untenable.

    It isn’t any more complicated than that. The big question isn’t whether or not we should raise the debt ceiling, we must. The big question is why do we continually bump up against the new ceiling we set.

    Neftali nailed it.

  3. doc says “Americans understand the [debt ceiling] issue perfectly.”

    Yeah, sure they do. Never mind that Republicans demagogue the issue by talking about giving Obama a “blank check.” No, Americans are too smart to fall for that crap, right, doc?

    Americans perfectly understand that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t authorize the spending of a single penny that hasn’t already been appropriated by Congress, right, doc?

    Is it any wonder that doc votes for dimwits like Ron Johnson?

  4. You are in a nasty mood today little man. I was thinking you might have been on vacation during your little Applesauce hiatus, but if you were, it didn’t take.

    Raising the debt ceiling does, in essence give the government a blank check to continue spending, not Obama, but Congress.

    If the debt ceiling was not raised, catastrophe would ensue and radical spending cuts would have to be made to reduce spending/the deficit/the debt.

    By continually raising the debt ceiling, the wanton spending can continue. I think it is perfectly legitimate to raise the issue of the deficit each time the debt ceiling vote comes up, if nothing else to raise awareness.

    Kind of like an alcoholic considering AA everytime his current bottle runs dry and he has to make the choice to buy another.

  5. Au contraire, mon frere. I’m in an especially good mood. My “Applesauce hiatus” (as you call it) recharged my batteries, and I just can’t resist scoffing at your ridiculous claim that Americans understand the debt-ceiling issue. Most of them can’t even name the three branches of the government.

  6. I wonder why you are so fixated on making the American people out to be idiots? They may not understand the term or implications of the debt ceiling but they certainly recognize a fiscal house in disarray.

    I wonder who is a bigger idiot? An American citizen who doesn’t understand the special math that politicians like to employ when it comes to governmental budgeting or your average elected official who thinks that deficit spending and ever increasing debt is somebody else’s problem?

    Do you really think that our huge deficits and ever exploding debt are not a problem?

    Do you think the people of Detroit now understand how their reckless spending was a problem?

  7. The problem of the enormous (and ever growing) debt is real simple. Congress, to use Obama’s argument, ran up bills that it can’t pay. Obamacare being just one. Bush’s drug entitlement another. And, what Congress giveth, it can take away. And what facilitated the runaway debt is Congress’s refusal to insist on a budget, let alone a balanced budget, from The One. A budget being the only restraint to runaway spending on Obama. So it’s no wonder he won’t make one. He doesn’t want to make one, because he can’t make one. He’s operating on the ‘seat of the pants’ spending plan, where there’s no concern for or about the debt. Tim (the head) Geithner said that the administration has no intent to ever reach a balanced budget. Translation: we’re going to increase the debt to “pay” for our government and all it’s goodies. Fear of rising interest rates isn’t a reason to keep mounting the debt. The interest rates have been kept artificially low for years. The only way to “recovery” is for all that you (Pat) fear would happen to happen. We’ll then recover to a sound monetary policy with interest rates being market driven, as opposed to FED driven, lower our credit rating, take our punishment for being so irresponsible, and get over it. Only then, will everyone see what a mess Washington had gotten us into. Every action has consequences. It’s too bad, for us, that Obama is living in the big socialist government of the past era. We’re living in he wrong century to repeat the mistakes of the past. Ask any country in Europe how that’s working out now? Best thing that could happen outside of Congress to make this point, would be for China and Russia to stop buying our debt. We need a shock treatment for Obama’s (and Congress’s) mess.

    Yea, Obama inherited a lot of debt. So what did he do about it? He took it from 10 T to 17T, and climbing.

    What Congress giveth, so it can take away. And the sooner the better.

  8. Brian Opsahl

    As it turns out Doc, we can learn something from GW Bush..
    For instance I have learned Bush put millions of new workers
    on the goverment payroll, spend like a crazy man with his wallet on fire. Then when all the dust settles blame sonebody else…anybody else.

    Since 1980 republicans have brought you the Iran/Contra…the savings/loan dissaster
    Each time republicans have been in office I have lost tons of my retirement funds…
    Each time the democrates the had power I got all I lost back…hhmmm strainge…how that works..?

  9. Brian

    What is your point?

    I didn’t once mention a political party in my comments.

    Do you think the Democrats are going to fix the federal deficit/debt disaster?

    I wouldn’t be so confident in any our elected officials. They derive their power from spending our money and doling it out to various groups to solidify their power base.

    But it is still our money and they are still spending too much of it. All of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *