Whenever there’s a big news story, it can be hard to get behind the headlines and find useful, unbiased and verifiable information on that particular issue. The news often ends up being dominated by talking heads with an axe to grind. So we’re always delighted when the folks at “Journalist’s Resource,” run by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, offer up a collection of research to help us understand the issue.
Here’s an excerpt from their latest roundup of research on the debt ceiling, which is really helpful for filling in the background on this important, politically charged conflict:
What is the “debt ceiling” and why does it matter?
At the most basic level, it is the limit that Congress places on the U.S. Treasury in terms of how much debt it can issue. The Treasury has been at its technical limit — $16.699 trillion — since May, but it has been using certain budgeting tactics, so-called “extraordinary measures,” to get around the stated limits. But those measures will shortly no longer be viable, if Congress does not act.
The American public has heard increasing talk among policymakers in Washington of the possibility that the United States might default on its debt obligations because of a failure to reach political agreement. Currently, $11.9 trillion of the debt is held by the global public; $4.8 trillion is in government accounts.
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