Quickly approaching the national debt ceiling, the United States government risks defaulting on its debt if the House of Representatives cannot make a bipartisan agreement to raise it. The debt ceiling is a statutory cap on how much money the US government can owe. Historically, the debt ceiling has been bipartisanly raised with the progression of time. This is due to the fact that as the U.S economy grows, the government will naturally have to spend more to support pre-existing government programs, such as Medicare.
In recent years, the debt ceiling has been politicized, and has been commonly used by Republicans as leverage to resist a Democratic President. The GOP has claimed that the debt ceiling is the only way they can control Democrat spending, despite the fact that government debt has increased under both Democrat and Republican presidencies. Republican politicians have commonly used the analogy of a credit card bill to explain why raising the debt ceiling would be bad for America. This analogy is extremely misleading, since it is using microeconomics (the credit card) to describe macroeconomics (the United States’ debt.) Republican politicians then capitalize on Americans’ habitual fear of personal debt, to create the narrative that America’s debt is comparable to the debt of a credit card, in that if it doesn’t get paid off, something bad will happen. This is fundamentally incorrect, since a government’s debt is considered healthy if it mirrors the estimated value of the nation’s economy.
This past year, the United States has had to spend an unanticipated amount of money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in the nation’s debt approaching the national debt ceiling faster than originally expected. Representatives of congress have already worked to pass a bill through Congress to raise the debt ceiling, however, the bill still needs to be approved by the Senate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has stated numerous times that no GOP Senator will vote to pass the bill. This is quite hypocritical, since in August of 2017, when a Republican President was in office, McConnell had publicly said that raising the debt ceiling was necessary, because America should never have to default on its debt.
The US defaulting on its debt would have catastrophic effects. Most importantly, it would affect the stability of the US dollar, sending world financial markets into uncertain territory, and the US into a recession. The US dollar is the anchor to the global financial system, so by putting the dollar at risk, the global financial system would be rocked. In addition, government programs such as retirement funds and medicare would likely be paused, having the largest effect on middle and lower class Americans. Although President Joe Biden signed legislation on October 14th that temporarily raises the debt ceiling, it only gives Senators two months to come to a consensus on how they will resolve the debt ceiling debate. For the long term, it would be inefficient for President Biden to keep having to step in at the last minute and raise the debt ceiling. In order to create sustainable debt ceiling growth that mirrors that of the economy, GOP senators must stop politicising the debt crisis, and collaborate with their Democratic colleagues to raise the debt ceiling.