Why Raising The US Debt Ceiling Is Not As Simple As It Seems

Political parties have to work together to find a solution to raising the debt ceiling, whether it be increasing taxes, or making cuts somewhere in the federal budget.

By Tori Hook | Published

Debt ceiling

The last time Congress faced a divide in opinion over raising the debt ceiling was in 2011, as the country was recovering from the Great Recession. At that time, only 25% of polled American supported it, but now 52% of voters are in favor. According to NPR, much of the divide comes, unsurprisingly, along political lines.

According to NPR, 8 to 10 Democrats support raising the debt ceiling, while 7 in 10 Republicans oppose it; it’s unsurprising that the divide in opinion is political, but, in this case, it may cause more problems than usual. Though parties may have a hard time coming to an agreement, the general approval is much higher than it was in 2011. Arguments over the debt ceiling have made the country politically more unstable than it has been previously.

With the debt currently sitting at more than $30 trillion, a solution must be found—and soon. But Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse when it comes to exactly how to solve the issue of the debt crisis. Even Republicans, though, are undecided when it comes to which corners should be cut in order to reduce the country’s substantial debt.

50% of those who want to reduce debt rather than raise the debt ceiling want to cut government programs and services, but 46% said they’d rather the government raise taxes and fees. The stark divide, both between Republicans themselves and between parties, doesn’t leave a whole lot of space for negotiation. Almost half of the country’s debt is Social Security and Medicare, both programs that the government is not considering cutting.

The U.S. defense budget also makes up almost half of the country’s discretionary spending. Democrats are largely in favor of cutting the defense budget, but Republicans won’t budge on it. However, if the government doesn’t make cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or the defense budget, there isn’t a significant enough area to make cuts in to affect the country’s debt at all.

Interestingly, many young Americans are in favor of increasing taxes as opposed to cutting services. Like many less capitalistic countries in the world, the America that young people hope to see in the future has higher taxes but more government services available to its citizens, including things like free college or universal healthcare. Though we are a far cry from a more socialist nation, the hope of many is that more socialistic programs will even the playing field in the United States, after capitalism has widened the class gap so significantly.

Congress has its work cut out when it comes to finding a way to deal with the country’s staggering debt, with polar opposites both fighting equally hard for their solution. The real question is whether or not the parties will be able to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. Either way: the debt ceiling has to be dealt with; whether Congress raises the debt ceiling, increases taxes, or makes cuts somewhere in the federal budget, the effects will be hard to predict.