Democrats, Get Rid of the Debt Ceiling Before It’s Too Late.


by Saqib Bhatti, Co-Executive Director — ACRE

Photo by Suzy Brooks on Unsplash

Republicans weaponize the debt ceiling every time there’s a Democrat in the White House, and Democrats fall for it every single time. Now, it’s happening again. Democrats must eliminate the debt ceiling once and for all, while they still have time.

The debt ceiling must be raised to keep the global economy functioning. As Jonathan Chait argued yesterday: “Leaving the debt ceiling in place invites political chaos and creates the risk of a global economic meltdown with absolutely no benefit whatsoever.” The existence of the debt ceiling allows right-wingers to leverage it to push for policies that ultimately line the pockets of corporations and the rich.

We must begin to ask: Why do the Democrats allow the GOP to lead the narrative on this time and time again?

No one knows more about the struggle over debt ceilings than President Biden. He was there with former President Obama when speaker John Boehner tried the same tactic: offering to lift the debt ceiling in exchange for cuts to Medicare and Social Security payments coupled with modest tax increases. The deal ultimately fell through.

The US national debt does not matter because of the dollar’s critical role supporting world markets. Republicans know this and ignore it every time they have the White House, growing the debt by leaps and bounds through regressive tax cuts for the wealthy and out of control military spending (in fact, they grow it way more than the Democrats). Most recently, when Trump was in office the GOP raised it three times in partnership with the Democrats without any fanfare.

This chart clearly shows the GOP have raised the deficit more than the Democrats when in power.

But during Democrat-led administrations, the GOP and conservative Democrats use the debt ceiling to block progressive priorities that will directly improve people’s lives. Now they are using it as a bargaining chip in an effort to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Unfortunately, democratic leaders are so steeped in neoliberal ideology and Wall Street cash, they happily fall for this every single time. It’s almost as if they like the debt ceiling merry-go-round, as it provides them a handy excuse not to deliver on programs that help those who need them most.

If the debt ceiling is kept in place, it will ultimately be used to make deep, unforgivable cuts to Medicare and Social Security — with bipartisan support. Leaving the debt ceiling in place makes this inevitable.

Eliminating the debt ceiling would take Medicare and Social Security off the chopping block for good. It is therefore irresponsible not to get rid of the debt ceiling while Democrats have a trifecta. The only responsible thing to do is to get rid of the debt ceiling.

Democrats, do it now, before it’s too late.



ACRE: Action Center on Race and the Economy
Breaking Down The System

The Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) is a campaign hub for organizations working at the intersection of racial justice and Wall Street accountability.