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Explaining the debt ceiling and why you should care

Happy Groundhog Day!

Funny thing — when I think of Groundhog Day, I think of that Bill Murray movie, where he is forced to live the same day over and over and over.

Sometimes, Congress can feel that way, too. Especially when the latest crop of extremist Republicans think they have come up with a new way to slash important programs that the American people depend on — but it is the same old thing: the "debt ceiling".

This is a really important issue — one that could become a national crisis in a few months.

Here is what you need to know:

What is it? The debt ceiling is the limit, set by law, of the US government's total debt. We run a deficit nearly every year, and so, the debt grows nearly every year.

What will happen if we do not raise it? Catastrophe. The best analogy is that it is like a family's home mortgage. Families borrow money to buy a house. If you do not make the payments, you lose your home.

When it comes to the US debt, we have already borrowed the money. We spent it to do (mostly) good things for the American people. We have to make the payments on the debt, or bad things happen. Interest rates and inflation will skyrocket. Unemployment will explode. Social Security, veterans' benefits, and other payments will be delayed. The value of the dollar will collapse. The stock market will crash.

Congress can and should debate how much we should spend and what we should spend it on. But we simply cannot default on the debt accrued on the money we have already spent.

Why not just raise the debt limit? We should. Eventually, I am confident, we will. But some Republicans in Congress want to provoke a crisis. They hope to use this crisis to force steep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits, and other critical programs.

This is economic hostage-taking. They are threatening the stability of the global economy and every single American family in order to get what they want.

President Biden is right: We are not going to negotiate with economic terrorists.

That is what this fight is about: Are we going to protect critical programs that help American families? Or are we going to let right-wing extremists get their way?

I know what my answer is. I bet I know what your answer is.


Posted on February 2, 2023.