Raising the federal debt ceiling: the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time


The recurring obligation to raise the federal debt ceiling was scheduled to coincide with the end of the current fiscal year on September 30 to give GOP hostage takers some leverage with passing next year’s budget.

It does not appear remotely possible that a budget will be ready by the end of this fiscal year, so once again Congress will wind up approving another short-term continuing resolution (CR) when it returns from its August recess.

GOP leaders also may have lost any leverage they hoped to gain from holding the federal debt ceiling hostage for their budget. Congress may have to act before the August recess.  The Washington Post reports, Trump administration warns tax receipts are coming in slowly, government could run out of cash sooner than expected:

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday said that tax receipts were coming in “slower than expected” and that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than it had thought.

Mulvaney’s comments, which came during a House Budget Committee hearing, resurrected an issue that Congress has mostly ignored in recent months but that will soon force some tough political decisions.

A few hours later, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed these concerns, telling another House committee, “I urge you raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer.”

“We can all discuss how we cut spending and how we deal with the budget going forward, but it is absolutely critical that where we’ve spent money, that we keep the credit of the United States as the most critical issue,” Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee. “It is the reserve currency of the world.”

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans, said later Wednesday it opposes an increase in the debt limit without further cuts to the budget, potentially complicating negotiations this summer. “We have an obligation to the American people to tackle Washington’s out of control spending,” the caucus said in a statement.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was a member of the radical-right House Freedom Caucus when he was in Congress, otherwise known as the “shutdown caucus” that supported a government shutdown over the federal debt ceiling. When the government last shut down in 2013, Rep. Mulvaney said he’d rather let the government shut down than pass a measure to raise the debt ceiling. In other words, “default on the debt, wedon’t care!”

The government runs a budget deficit because it spends more money than it brings in [due to our tax policy] through revenue, and it borrows money to cover that difference by issuing debt. There is a legal limit on how much debt the government can issue, and this limit must be raised by Congress.

Congress has a constitutional duty to preserve the full faith and credit of the United States and to not default on the debt. The radicals in the House Freedom Caucus do not understand nor care about this obligation. They prefer to burn down the financial house of the country — burn, baby, burn!

In 2015, the Obama administration and Congress agreed to suspend the debt ceiling, but the extension expired in mid-March. Now the Treasury Department is taking emergency steps to suspend certain payments so that it can cover all of its bills, but it can do this only for a few more months.

Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center, which analyzes federal receipts and spending, warned that the federal government could have difficulty making a substantial payment that is due on Oct. 2. The government is expected to put between $70 billion and $80 billion into the Military Retirement Trust Fund that day. As of Monday, the government’s cash balance was $164.9 billion, a figure that will be slowly drawn down over time.

Mulvaney and Mnuchin met Tuesday to discuss the debt ceiling and are planning to meet with White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn when he returns from President Trump’s current foreign trip.

Mulvaney said that the White House did not have a “stated policy yet” on what Congress should do about the debt ceiling. Mnuchin has in the past urged Congress to raise or suspend the debt limit, a sentiment he amplified Wednesday. Trump, before he became a presidential candidate, ridiculed lawmakers for raising the debt ceiling, and Mulvaney — when he was a member of Congress — opposed efforts to increase the debt ceiling, saying then that Congress should do more to restrain government spending.

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.36.35 PM

If tax receipts are coming in slower than expected, that could increase pressure on lawmakers to raise or suspend the debt ceiling by the August recess. Such votes can be politically unpopular, but many business groups have warned that failing to raise the debt ceiling could lead to a financial crisis because the U.S. government might not have enough money to pay its bills.

Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), said lawmakers were committed to address the issue soon. “The U.S. will meet its obligations, and we will address this issue with our colleagues in the Senate and the administration in a timely manner,” he said.

Similarly, Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) said Congress must act on the issue. “We should have resolution on this before we leave here this summer,” he said. “It could be a calamity for the country” if Congress doesn’t act.

So what is the reason for the recent slowdown in tax receipts? The greedy investor class is banking on more tax breaks from their lickspittle Tea-Publican servants in Congress:

Donald Marron, who was a member of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the tax-receipt slowdown could be the result of investors waiting to sell their assets in the hope that Trump and Republicans in Congress will reduce taxes, allowing them to pay less when they realize their gains. For instance, the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act would also eliminate a levy of 3.8 percent on gains from investments.

“You have some investors that are out there saying: ‘Huh. If the health-slash-tax bill goes through, taxes on capital gains go down 3.8 percentage points,” Marron said. “Maybe there’s a chance that tax reform would go even further.”

While detailed data on federal taxes is not yet available, reports from Connecticut — which many wealthy investors call home — support that theory. The state is in serious financial difficulty, with officials saying collections are 30 percent below expected levels this year. They attribute the shortfall to quarterly income returns, the kinds of payments often made by investors. (Workers who earn wages and salaries, by contrast, pay with each paycheck as their taxes are withheld.)

We don’t have enough tax revenues now to pay the bills because of previous tax cuts to wealthy investors and corporations, and these greedy bastards want to dig the structural revenue deficit hole even deeper with Trump’s promise that their tax cuts  “will be bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever. Maybe the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had!” This is reckless, irresponsible and insane.


  1. Obviously the debt ceiling needs to be raised. The Democrats should be consistent and vote to raise the debt ceiling, but ONLY if the Republicans vote to do so. The Republicans can raise the debts ceiling without a single Democrat vote, and they control the budget process. If the Republicans refuse to vote to raise the debt ceiling, despite being in total control, or supply only a few votes to do so, then Democrats should not assist them. That would force the Republicans to either have the US default on its debt or engage in massive tax increases and/or spending cuts, sending the economy into a recession. Republican hypocrisy on this issues needs to end once and for all. Ideally, the Democrats should use their leverage to demand the complete repeal of the debt ceiling in exchange for their votes. That way this charade would end once and for all and we would not have this debt ceiling nonsense. Note that almost no other countries even have debt ceilings. They issue debt as needed when taxes are insufficient to cover expenses.

  2. remember when democrats used to denouce republicans for not want to raise the debt ceiling and being irresponsible. I do.

Comments are closed.