the debt ceiling can-can

For those who may have tuned out the politicians once more in this (nice) non-election season, one of the looming situations is another debt ceiling fight. Allow me to say it in the words of Declan Garvey, editor of The Morning Dispatch:

“Welcome, esteemed guests, to this year’s performance of the debt limit dance—a cherished congressional tradition wherein lawmakers wrangle over whether to allow the Treasury to take on enough debt to cover the spending Congress has already approved.”


The debt ceiling is the maximum amount the U.S. government can borrow to meet its financial obligations. It doesn’t authorize new spending; rather it’s what the government needs to borrow in order to cover their existing expenses. 

The current national debt is approximately $31.46 trillion dollars.

(For emphasis sakes, that would be $31,460,000,000,000.)

To raise or not to raise the borrowing limit is the core question of the current/ongoing debate. Remember: the act of raising the debt ceiling doesn’t cost taxpayers more in the moment. It simply allows the government to borrow more money.

So the problem from indeed, very much a layman’s perspective, is that it’s a larger mess that no one has yet had the moxie to actually solve. 

This is arguably, therefore, a glaring manifestation of what it means to “kick the can down the road.” We have lots of leaders who are quite comfortable with the kicking dance.

Pending where one sits — and whether one’s desire is to raise or deny the limit — dictates where one stands. Politicians camp in partisan corners, proclaim their unquestionable correctness, simultaneously sharing how they are so selflessly looking out for the good of the country.

As said, where one sits, dictates where one stands. Whether one wishes to raise or deny, depends on power possessed. For example, as Garvey notes:

“Established by Congress in 1917 to help the federal government borrow money more easily, the debt ceiling has long proved a convenient political soapbox whenever the time comes to raise it—for both sides of the aisle. In 2006, for example, then-Sen. Barack Obama voted against lifting the debt limit to protest President George W. Bush’s ‘reckless fiscal policies’—a stance he regretted dearly when faced with his own debt ceiling battle as president a few years later. But in the past, lawmakers tended to resolve these squabbles relatively amicably. The fights were ‘partisan, but not perilous,’ said Laura Blessing, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.”

But sadly, our leaders seem to collectively no longer be able to resolve these squabbles amicably. 

That, my friends, is not stewarding one’s leadership well. Regardless of the consonant after their name.

So my desire this day is less about any current can-can dance and more about a long term solution. This pattern of massive spending (and massive spending and more massive spending) is unsustainable. It cannot last.

Which thus brings me to two more deeper desires…

… for our leaders to solve the bigger problem.

… and for each to act a little bigger in the way they treat one another.

I don’t believe either is too much to ask.