National debt ceiling controversy largely political, UA experts say

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The federal government faces a potential shutdown as Congress battles over whether to raise the debt ceiling. A political scientist and economist at the University of Arkansas both said the debate’s largely political rather than based in genuine concern over the national deficit.

Senate Republicans voted to submit the debt ceiling, defined as “the maximum amount of money that the United States can borrow cumulatively by issuing bonds.” Party leaders claim the Biden administration’s budget includes too much spending, fearing inflation or tax increases. Economist Jeff Cooperstein said raising the debt ceiling has historically been procedural.

“This is spending that’s already been authorized,” Cooperstein said. “In order to pay for this previously authorized spending, the federal government needs to issue more debt.”

Cooperstein said the U.S. dollar is heralded as the monetary standard, and the reason is partly due to the U.S. not defaulting on its federal debt.

“The credit of the United States is essentially perfect,” Cooperstein said. “You don’t want to give that up. It’s a tremendous benefit to us.”

There have been four government shutdowns since the mid-1990s. Cooperstein said they have consequences when not addressed or prevented.

“It’s not super severe as long as it doesn’t last too long,” Cooperstein said. “It is, obviously, problematic for people who are depending on getting a paycheck from the government, people who are getting services from the government.”

Dr. Andrew Dowdle is a political scientist at the University of Arkansas. He said historically, the debt ceiling was automatically raised in a non-partisan manner. Over the past couple decades, however, it has become a political weapon used by major parties, and factions rely on voters to misunderstand the federal budget.

Still, most don’t consider it the country’s biggest issue, Dowdle said.

“Voters don’t really consider it a high-priority issue,” Dowdle said. “They’re already likely to blame the other party in power.”

Cooperstein said the issue shouldn’t be political.

“If things don’t happen to allow the debt ceiling to go up, and we have any kind of default, then that could cause tremendous problems,” Cooperstein said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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