Remind Me Again Why We Have a Debt Ceiling?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


About a million political analysts have reminded us lately that it’s crazy for the United States to even have a debt ceiling. No other country does, after all. And it doesn’t make any sense: Congress incurs the debt when it passes a budget. Why bother with an entirely separate restriction on the level of debt? It’s just goofy.

So here’s my question: Since this is almost universally acknowledged, why do we have a debt ceiling law? Why wasn’t it repealed long ago by a majority party tired of the opposition using it to score political points? My seat-of-the-pants guess is that repeal could be passed as part of the budget reconciliation process, which means you wouldn’t even have to worry about a filibuster. You just need to control Congress and the presidency, and both parties have done that on a number of occasions over the past few decades.

So what keeps it around?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest