It's debt-ceiling season again! In 2011 Congress raised the debt ceiling to $16.7 trillion, an increase of over $2 trillion. Based on projections from the U.S. Treasury, the federal government will hit the limit again in mid-October, much sooner than anticipated.
According to Jack Lew, secretary of the Treasury, Obama is unwilling to negotiate over a raise.
However, raising the debt ceiling is unpopular. Seventy percent of Americans oppose another raise in the debt ceiling, according to public opinion polls released by Reason-Rupe on Thursday. Even if this move would result in a default, 55% would still support not raising the debt ceiling. Furthermore: "If equal spending cuts accompany an increase in the debt ceiling, 45% say they'd support raising it and 46% would oppose. Thirty-five percent favor raising the debt ceiling in exchange for cutting off funding to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with 56% opposed."
Before the last debt ceiling raise in 2011, Gallup released a similar poll. Forty-two percent wanted their member of Congress to vote against the raise, 22% wanted their member of Congress to vote for the raise, 35% percent were not sure. It seems raising the debt ceiling has become less popular than ever — but o n the other hand, Congress has never failed to raise its debt ceiling.
The debt ceiling was first imposed in 1917 amid cries for accountability before President Woodrow Wilson led the United States into World War I. Before the debt-ceiling raise in 2011, James K. Galbraith summarized in Salon:
"The debt ceiling was first enacted in 1917. Why? The date tells all: we were about to enter the Great War. To fund that effort, the Wilson government needed to issue Liberty Bonds. This was controversial, and the debt ceiling was cover, passed to reassure the rubes that Congress would be “responsible” even while the country went to war. It was, from the beginning, an exercise in bad faith and has remained so every single second to the present day."
It has been raised dozens of times since its inception and 14 times since the turn of the century. It is a meaningless formality.
Despite the unpopularity of another raise and demands for a stricter budget (as the Reason-Rupe survey also demonstrates), we will see faux sparks fly between Democrats and Republicans in October, but ultimately the ceiling will be raised.