Congress Sucks Harder Than Your Mom: The Debt Ceiling, Wonksplained

Congress is literally throwing money away because they are dumb.

It’s that time of year again, kids! The leaves are turning, students are back in school, and Congress is threatening to drive our national car right over the fiscal cliff. Buckle up, because Republicans are already costing us millions just by threatening to not raise the debt ceiling. Whaaaa? Yeah, that’s right – the GOP is gonna add to the deficit by playing chicken with its own goddam responsibilities. Let’s wonksplain.

We all know that Congress sucks balls harder than Rick Santorum going down on Lindsey Graham in row 69 of Reagan’s Air Force One. But this debt ceiling brinksmanship bullshit has to be one of the stupidest fucking ideas in the history of the multiverse. We’ll start with the basics.

What the hell is the debt ceiling?

The debt ceiling was created by Congress to make it easier for the country to borrow money. Before the debt limit, Congress would pass specific legislation outlining how much could be borrowed, and through which means. That got complicated, so Congress abdicated responsibility and said to Treasury, “Fuck this noise, borrow however you want, just don’t go past X amount.” The first debt limit, in 1939, was a quaint $45 billion. Over the years, Congress regularly raised it to pay for things like "keeping us safe," and since Republicans want low taxes for the uber-wealthy, but wars cost money, it is now somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 trillion.

That debt is divided into two parts: public debt (thanks, China!) and “intergovernmental debt,” which is basically money our country owes to itself. Stay with us – this shit is important.

Why the hell is this happening?

As the country hurtles toward the debt ceiling, Treasury can start taking extraordinary measures to avoid crashing our economic car like a drunk GWB on a coke bender. These "extraordinary measures" are literally stopping payment into federal government workers' retirement plans (the Thrift Savings Plan G Fund and the Civil Service Retirement & Disability Fund, for you nerds out there). While they are called “extraordinary,” they have actually been happening since March of this year. Because Congress would rather do nothing than something, these measures are becoming decidedly less "extraordinary."

Just to clarify: Treasury is constitutionally restricted from spending ANY MONIES unless Congress gives explicit permission to spend said monies. And Congress limits how much Treasury can borrow to meet the obligations that Congress itself has demanded Treasury meet. And since Congress won’t raise the debt ceiling, we are literally stealing from workers’ retirement plans. We’ll pay it back – WITH INTEREST – whenever Congress gets around to wanting to pay its bills. Since that money is now “off the books” (Enron-style accounting, bitches!), we can borrow more and make it until November or December. Quick, someone dial up China!

What the hell should we do about it?

The logical solution: Why doesn’t Congress just automagically raise the debt limit each year when they pass spending bills? Hahahaha, you and your stoopid logic! OF COURSE THAT WOULD MAKE SENSE BUT CONGRESS SUCKS GIANT GOAT BALLS, REMEMBER?

Republicans decided to use the debt ceiling as a hostage, because assholes. So as we careen toward a giant fiscal disaster, rational human beings begin to panic because they look over and realize that the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is driving. Folks who usually buy our debt are hesitant to buy anything that matures around the time the debt ceiling is supposed to hit. So then Treasury has to offer a higher interest rate to get some sweet sweet cash to pay for programs that Congress demanded they pay for.

How the hell much are we talking about?

The GAO did a study and figured that Republicans in Congress cost us upwards of $70 MILLION last time we played this game.

Yep. Congress brought us all the way to the debt ceiling brink because it didn’t want to pay the bills that Congress racked up, and it cost us up to $70 million. THAT IS LIKE A FUCKING STUPID TAX. A Stupid Tax on Red State America for deciding that Tea Party goatfuckers what hate Nobummer and have ZERO experience governing should be elected to Congress because wahhhhh poors are getting health care from the black Muslim. And it is an Apathy Tax on lazy-ass lie-bruls who don't bother voting in mid-term elections and just let the GOP take over.

And now it is happening again. We’re currently in the midst of "extraordinary measures." Investors are nervous that Congress will shut down the government because of fake lying schmasmortion videos. If Congress ends up passing a stopgap bill for funding through mid-December (which is likely), we could have both a government shutdown AND a debt ceiling fight, just in time for our War on Christmas. That's like a punch to the nads AND a dick in your eye all rolled into horse turd sandwich.

What the hell should do we now?

It’s time to break out the good whiskey – not the stuff in the big plastic bottle, but the good stuff in the small plastic bottle.

Want to learn more about extraordinary measures? Watch the MOST BORINGEST 3-MINUTE VIDEO WE HAVE EVER SEEN (sorry-not-sorry BPC), but be sure to drink like a billion cups of coffee first:

[Congressional Research Service / Bipartisan Policy Center / GAO]

Follow DDM on Twitter (@Wonksplainer) where he likes to combine nerdy policy stuff with dick jokes. 


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