The United States is the only country in the world with a “debt ceiling”.
Congress has approved a budget in which revenues are insufficient to cover expenses (thanks in part to extending Bush era tax cuts to Millionaires and tax loopholes for hedge fund managers, oil companies, ethanol producers and companies which ship jobs overseas). Simple arithmetic tell you that if Congress commits to a level of expenses without providing adequate revenue, then the debt will as a consequence expand. By denying the expansion of the debt already implied by the budget Congress has passed into law, Congress defies not only logic and mathematics, but the United States Constitution itself.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked by Mike Allen about the negotiations over default and the debt ceiling. According to Geithner, a debt ceiling requirement is unconstitutional:
Geithner: I think there are some people who are pretending not to understand it, who think there’s leverage for them in threatening a default. I don’t understand it as a negotiating position. I mean really think about it, you’re going to say that– can I read you the 14th amendment?
Geithner whipped out his handy pocket-sized Constitution. Allen tried to brush it aside.
Allen: We’ll stipulate the 14th Amendment.
Geithner :No, I want to read this one thing.
Allen: It’s paper clipped! [Geithner’s copy of the Constitution was clipped so that it would open directly to the passage in question.]
Geithner “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion” — this is the important thing — “shall not be questioned.”