The thorny issue of raising the national debt ceiling to cover wildly escalating government expenditures is once again capturing the attention of the nation’s citizens. The purpose of having a debt limit is to introduce a certain amount of discipline into the spending of taxpayers’ money by Congress. But the need to raise the debt limit to almost unfathomable heights and so frequently exposes the continuing fiscal irresponsibility of the entire U.S. Congress.
The annual federal deficit (amount by which government’s expenditures exceed its tax revenues or income) for fiscal year 2009 was the largest in history at over $1.4 trillion. The national debt, which is an accumulation of the annual federal deficits and other government debts, now stands at precisely $12,081,709,382,532.35. By the time you read this, it will have climbed even higher. The national debt now amounts to about 90 percent of the size of our nation's gross domestic product for one year!
The current national debt limit stands at $12.1 trillion and predictions are we’ll smash into that on New Year’s Eve -- Happy New Year! When the debt hits the statutory limit, the U.S. Treasury would be unable to borrow more money, and wouldn’t be able to pay the interest on government bonds. If Congress had been exercising fiscal responsibility during the past year, there wouldn't be this emergency need for a debt limit increase.
Congressional leaders had been planning to raise the debt ceiling by another $1.8 to $2 trillion this month, which they hoped would be large enough to avoid another politically unpopular vote on a debt limit increase in the election year of 2010. However, some centrist Democrats have recently vowed to vote against such a large debt increase unless it would be tied to the creation of a new commission that would consider ways to solve the federal deficit problem.
Since Congress can't avoid raising the national debt before the end of the year, the latest plan is to vote on a smaller increase, $290 billion, which would get the federal government through another couple months. The House is voting on H.R. 4314 today to increase the national debt ceiling by $290 billion with the understanding that another vote will be required to raise the debt ceiling again in a couple months.
We need to take advantage of these votes on debt limit increases to pressure Congress to restore fiscal responsibility now. Click here to send an email message to your representative and senators telling them to vote no on any bill to increase the debt limit ceiling unless that bill, or a companion bill that would have to be passed at the same time, would restore fiscal responsibility by requiring Congress to have a balanced budget for fiscal year 2010 and each year after that.