Divided Opinion on Raising the Debt Ceiling: Cutting Programs vs. Raising Taxes and Fees

The debt ceiling, or the total amount of money the federal government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, has been set at $31.4 trillion.[0] The U.S. Treasury Department has resorted to “extraordinary measures” to allow the government to continue borrowing money to meet its obligations, as the debt limit was reached in January 2023.[1] American voters lean in favor of raising the debt limit, but are divided on how to pay down the national debt, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.[2] Fifty percent of respondents expressed a preference for mostly cutting programs and services, while nearly the same amount (46%) favored raising taxes and fees.

When it comes to reducing the debt, survey respondents were split on whether Congress should focus on cutting programs and services (50%) or increasing government revenue through taxes and fees (47%). Seven in 10 people said politicians should compromise to find solutions, while only 28 percent said they should stand on principle.[2]

Raising the debt ceiling will not give the federal government additional funds to spend; however, it will enable the government to pay back debts incurred from previous expenditures.[3] Should Congress fail to extend the debt limit, the services and benefits provided by the federal government may be compromised or postponed.[4] Beyond X Date lies an ominous mystery.[5] We've never been there before in the modern history of our country and we just don't know what some of the reactions to that action would be.[5] What are the markets going to do?[6] What will happen to interest rates?[6] What impact would the economy have?[6] What are the functions of credit rating agencies?[6] Those questions do not have definite answers.[6]

0. “Our U.S. Congress and the debt ceiling” Rio Rancho Observer, 22 Feb. 2023, https://rrobserver.com/our-u-s-congress-and-the-debt-ceiling

1. “Rep. Trone Calls On Congress To Raise The Debt Ceiling” WFMD, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.wfmd.com/2023/02/21/rep-trone-calls-on-congress-to-raise-the-debt-ceiling/

2. “Americans want Congress to deal with the debt ceiling. How to do it is complicated” MPR News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/23/npr-americans-want-congress-to-deal-with-the-debt-ceiling-how-to-do-it-is-complicate

3. “URI prof: Failure to raise debt limit courts fiscal crisis” The Westerly Sun, 21 Feb. 2023, https://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/westerly/uri-prof-failure-to-raise-debt-limit-courts-fiscal-crisis/article_776d3280-b186-11ed-8ef9-bb3f8f4596bc.html

4. “Politics, Deficits, And The Debt Limit” Seeking Alpha, 20 Feb. 2023, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4579939-politics-deficits-debt-limit

5. “When is the deadline for Congress to come up with a solution on the debt limit?” KALW, 20 Feb. 2023, https://www.kalw.org/2023-02-20/when-is-the-deadline-for-congress-to-come-up-with-a-solution-on-the-debt-limit

6. “How the debt ceiling deadline is determined and what happens after : Planet Money” NPR, 18 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1158035090