The Debt Ceiling Crisis

The Debt Ceiling Crisis

The Senate has agreed to put off debt ceiling. Yesterday, the Senate voted to approve a measure that suspends the U.S. debt ceiling which translates to our country being able to at least temporarily pay bills.

However, two amendments touted by Republican Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) were voted down by Democrats who control the Senate. These were supposed to stop some of the chaos in these debates.

The bill, passed by the House previously last week, suspends the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling so that the U.S. can pay bills. Mid-April is the new deadline to make a budget; if not done by this time, lawmakers do not get a paycheck. The last vote was 64-34.

Portman desired to add two amendments to this bill: the first one would necessitate that Congress would cut spending first before being able to raise the debt ceiling, and the second one was hoping to avoid upcoming government shutdowns. Discretionary programs would still be paid for even if Congress didn’t pass bills to pay for them by the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st.

There was also an enforcement clause: If Congress missed this fiscal year deadline by 120 days, there would be 1% deducted from money for those programs. An additional percentage point would be taken every 90 days.

In the Senate, the vote was 52-46 to table this clause. Three of the Democrats were in support of this.

Since 1997, Portman claims, Congress has not been able to come to an agreement on spending bills. There were government shutdowns in some years, such as 1996.

Also voted down was a proposal by Portman to require any presidential proposal to raise the debt limit be linked to a proposal to cut spending over the next ten years. With such a request would of course, come a request to raise taxes on at least some Americans.

Portman says his measures are one way to take care of the rising amount of unsustainable debt.

Portman also voted against suspending our debt ceiling in order to reduce spending, and therefore, taxes, and prevent the United States from overspending and casting the burden onto our children and grandchildren.

Should they Abandon the Alternative Minimum Tax?

The AMT or Alternative Minimum Tax is that rare thing – a part of the tax code that most people agree on irrespective of their ideological or political leanings. It was originally established in order to make certain that the richest citizens in the US were going to be made to pay their own fair share of the national tax revenues, but most people now think that it is unfair it has not been adjusted along with inflation which in effect means that an ever growing percentage of not quite as wealthy Americans are falling within its remit and finding themselves the recipients of bigger tax bills.

In recent negotiations on the debt ceiling, one of the considerations under discussion was that Congress remove the Alternative Minimum Tax. Whether this was a bargaining chip or a genuine suggestion is uncertain but it does rile many people that a tax that was put in place to place extra tax on the rich has now ended up including 65% of all US taxpayers. How is it fair that 65% of all taxpayers are required to pay an extra tax over and above what the rate charts require? On the other hand, some people might suggest that 65% of all taxpayers are now wealthy and that the gap between rich and poor is growing.

Certainly most people agree that something needs to be done. Whilst the gang of six in Washington managed to avoid handling the thorny issue of the AMT there are calls for action to be taken almost every year and the continuing back and forth debate as well as those regular year on year fixes have gotten to be too much.

Alex is a freelance journalist and financial blogger. He loves to write about baseball and jazz but spends most of his days writing about mortgages, credit cards and umbrella companies .