#039–What is this “debt ceiling” thing I keep reading about?

(Image by Bob Englehart from 2011 that I like)

Okay, I have been too busy trying to catch up on sleep and working every hour I can get my hands on, but I’ve seen enough that shows people frustrated on both sides. Democrats and Republicans are seemingly annoyed and I can’t quite understand why–I have missed a lot, but what keeps popping out of the feed is the phrase “debt ceiling.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? What is the debt ceiling?

Now, there are a few interesting tidbits from the media that are trying to educate about the debt ceiling–at least in part–but I’ve never heard of that phrase before, so I have no frame of reference. Nothing I can find gives a good description of what it is and how it’s supposed to work.

At first, I thought that it was a cap on the amount of national debt we can accrue. I thought there was no limit to that sort of thing after decades of war and such that took a surplus and threw it in the toilet.

Okay, I also consulted the Oracles of Schoolhouse Rock–not as helpful as I thought, but nice bop-a-long tune.

So, this phrase debt ceiling has confused me. From what I’m getting, it’s a cap on the amount we can borrow from other nations.

Okay…again, I’m confused, because we’re in debt to so many nations for so much. What was the cap to begin with?

That’s why I’m so confused. I thought we’d just borrow, borrow, borrow.

That’s all we’ve been doing so damned long.

And so, it looks like the debt ceiling is like a college student that gets close to maxing out their first credit card, so they apply for another one and start spending on it. They pay a trifling amount on each, then when they run it up again, get another credit card.

I say that because according to an infograph on wikipedia (I can’t believe I used ’em, but I was desperate), it seems the ceiling’s been increased dozens of times, “74 times since March 1962,” and who knows how many before that?

I just wonder, if it’s so seemingly useless, if the kid with the credit card has no brakes put on them, no control, why bother? It’s like spending without a budget at all.

At least, that’s what I’m getting from the little news I’ve been able to find.

And if it’s so useless, what is going on that’s causing so much annoyance, anger, and upset…or is this actually the peripheral issue and there’s a bigger one that this happens to be a part of.

I’m trying to play catchup, but confused as hell. So what’s with this debt ceiling thing, and what’s with the anger?

Oh, I’ll keep reading, but I’m still confused. I feel like half the pages were ripped out of this story.

3 thoughts on “#039–What is this “debt ceiling” thing I keep reading about?

  1. dover1952 says:

    It is a specified dollar amount (as a goal) that some politicians like to set at some arbitrary level (informed by economics) to keep the national debt (about 20 trillion dollars) from going higher. Used in a sentence: “We need to ensure that our spending this fiscal year will not exceed the 22 billion dollar debt ceiling we established last fiscal year.

    Republicans worry out loud about the national debt a lot because they duped the public into worrying about it in the 1980s—and it worked like magic for them. They coined this maxim: “The national debt is just like your finances and debts at home.” They usually trot it out only at election time or when they try to pass a fiscal year budget or tax cut.because the people they have duped eat it up like a dog pack on a ribeye steak. They are fond of talking about the enormous weight of debt laid on your future children and grandchildren—and oh woe is them—-they will never own their own homes and be reduced to eating nothing but carrots because all the money they earn will go to paying off the national debt.

    The Democrats do not worry out loud about the national debt because they know what the
    Ph. D. economists know: “The national debt IS NOT just like your finances and debts at home.” The Republicans know this too—only they cannot say it out loud. If they did, all the supporters they have duped would cease to support them and cease to be duped. This is why both Republicans and Democrats quietly raise the national debt every year like there is no tomorrow and will continue to do so for decades to come.

    Here are a few final points:

    1) A national debt is a resource that can be sold and bought—unlike your debt at home.

    2) If you do not pay the monthly installment on the debt for your new Kenmore refrigerator, whoever gave you the loan (debt) will come to your house to repossess your fridge. Foreign countries who loan money to the U.S. government cannot repossess its fridge because you do not repossess the fridge of a man who has 7,000 nuclear warheads. You do not even go near his door, and no collection agency can be hired to call or go near your door.

    3) Foreign countries will continue to loan money to the United States. When the 800-lb gorilla in the room says: “loan me 2 trillion dollars,” the lenders in the room say “gladly!!!” This is why the United States is NOT GREECE.

    4) The American people are the owners of most of the U.S. national debt. However, truth be known most investment dollars are by definition dollars that the loaning party can afford to lose—and debt is not a tangible thing. It is numbers in a computer and a promise of a return on an investment. Numbers and promises are not really tangible things. This is why the International monetary Fund is always forgiving trillions of dollars in debt around the world for third world countries that are in so much debt they would otherwise never be able to pay it back.

    5) When you buy a house for $125,000 on a 30-year loan, you actually end up paying about $750,000 for that house by the end of the 30 years. In interest payments alone, the base principal of $125,000 on the house has been paid back to the loaner in just a few years. So, the loaner gets his money back right away. The remaining $625,000 is merely “interest promised.” If the loan goes bad, after a few years, all the loaner is really out of is a few promises floating in the wind.

    I could go on—but this is why neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are worried about the national debt nor the debt ceiling for a given year. This is why they both quietly run the national debt up higher and higher with each passing year. Both know that in reality—the United States is not Greece and the national debt is NOT just like your finances at home. The Republicans trot it out at election time because they have to put on a political show for the ignorant voters they duped back in the 1980s—and claim that the Democrats are responsible for the “awful national debt that is killing us”—-when in fact—both parties are responsible for it and neither party gives a flying “F” about it—not really—because it is not awful and it is not killing us—and it never will kill us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheChattyIntrovert says:

      Wow–tons of great info there–I was super curious because it’s that topic that comes and goes (yes, just like around election time), but nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I just know that people make a big bruhaha about our national debt (usually as talking points against someone they despise that’s in power). It sounds serious, but they treat it so lightly that it made me wonder what the heck the deal was if they don’t seem worried about running it up into the stratosphere (though somebody says otherwise only when convenient for them)


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