Making Sense Of The Debt Ceiling Crisis, Sort Of

Rachel’s Team Pick:

Ordinarily the debt ceiling crisis is the kind of thing that is important enough for us to write something on, like healthcare reform was. We actually tried to write something on it, going so far as to read several news articles and open up numerous other Chrome tabs on the same subject. But ultimately, it was really hard to decipher what was going on beyond a lot of adults acting extremely childish, and also reading anything about it required looking at a lot of  pictures of John Boehner, and the President made an address about it on the TV but none of us really own them and my mother didn’t send me an email about how I should watch it so I didn’t. Anyways, I found this Visual Guide to the Debt Ceiling Crisis, and having viewed these helpful infographics, I feel much more able to fully digest and comprehend what our current financial situation is as a nation. I hope you feel the same way.

Infographics via the Visual Guide to the Debt Ceiling Crisis from John Methven at the Awl.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Oh shit, dude. Gabrielle Giffords just came back to vote in the House. It passed. We’ll see what happens next. Mixed emotions about Giffords returning. Happy to see her being strong. Sad because it’s clear she’s never going to be who she was. Cynical because I wonder if it was Giffords or her staff/colleagues who brought her there and wrote her released statement. But overall amazed and encouraged by her ability to come back from what happened to her.

    The debt ceiling is very complicated and I’m not sure what’s going on. I do know that if we don’t raise it, the cost of everything will go up and our country’s most vulnerable who need help will stop getting it. I also know that, like most problems in recent years, Bush is mostly to blame. Iraq, Afghanistan, tax cuts for the rich = debt like whoa. Click on the second graphic on the left: I really think Bush needs to be punished for the many ways he fucked this country up. This is helpful in explaining what all the disagreements and dealing is about:

    • I’d like to add, raising the debt ceiling is a pretty routine thing. I forget the exact number, but it’s been raised like 100 times or some large number in the past 50 years. Normally no one would ever notice. When Republicans controlled everything under Bush, they raised the debt ceiling to record highs. It just so happens that this is an election year, we have this force of assholes known as the tea party, the three branches of government are divided, and assholes thought the threat of destroying our economy was serious enough that it would make a pretty good bargaining chip for their demands. This is a 100% manufactured drama for politics. It’s a pretty disgusting display when you think about it.

      • The debt ceiling thing is making me so mad I can’t even type a comment. Well, I can, obviously, but still. Raising the debt ceiling is something that we have done for YEARS and it’s the way that the government pays its bills. It’s the Republicans being huge bullies and trying to make the White House look stupid. The whole cap, cut whatever plan is BULLSHIT. You cannot propose something that requires a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT when you can’t agree on something that you’ve passed for years. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck

        • Well the thing is, how are they going to pass a constitutional amendment requiring trillions and trillions dollars worth of cuts if they can’t agree on what to cut? Isn’t it putting the cart before the horse; is anyone other than the Tea Party really going to agree to a balanced budget amendment that will basically end Social Security and Medicare without actually working on a plan to make Social Security and Medicare more solvent over time? They wanted to force a discussion that will take months of research and compromise into a matter of days. This certainly was designed to force the deep spending cuts they want to tout + make Obama look weak.

  2. Although hard to understand at times, Paul Krugman is my go-to guy in situations like these.

        • Okay fair warning, I am a nerdy student working on my masters in Economics. So I apologize if I geek out a little, talking economics is like my favorite thing to do.

          O Keynesian economists! No arguing that Paul Krugman (aka PK) is a gifted economist. I have read his nobel prize winning work on New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography. However in the economic circles PK is considered gone of the deep end. What started out as a “yay! We have finally found one of us (economist) who can talk to “normal” people and communicate to them whats going on” has now turned into a political talk head as well. Read his stuff before 2000 and your mind will be blown. Read his NY times articles and all you are going to here is “Bush this, Bush that, it’s Bush’s fault” when in fact its not that simple. Try gaining some perspective by reading up on Milton Friedman. I am going to stop myself now because I could nerd on this for hours, maybe days if I start drawing grafts.

          • We should be friends. I took a a killer grad school class on economic thought and theories (in a philosophy department, no less), and now I’m hooked on economics. Go figure.

  3. The more you think about money, the sillier it gets. $100,000 is more money than I can imagine; trillions and trillions of dollars are more numbers on a page than actual amounts. Then all the questions start…
    Who leant the money? Why do they need that much interest on it? Do the International Bank have a team of people come over and break your kneecaps if you can’t pay back everything you owe?

  4. trying to learn about this debt crisis has made me insane, hate money more than i already did

  5. So as far as I can see, Obama was like ‘we need to raise the debt ceiling’ and the Republicans were like ‘NO’ and then the Democrats were like, ‘okay whatever, bet you can’t come up with a better idea!’ And then the Republicans shared their ideas, and the Democrats said ‘NO’ and shared their ideas, and the Republicans said ‘NO’ and then everyone started screaming and then Obama sat in the corner and cried. Amirite?

  6. This debt ceiling/crisis business also made me a bit hysterical at first. Every time I tried to read about it, I become overwhelmed and need to take a snack break. We can’t believe the mainstream media, since they are owned by major corporations that have a vested interest in what the tv says to us. After I started thinking a bit more rationally, I realized the US was never going to default. I was quite pleased when I found a website (Mother Jones) that broke it down for me in a way I could understand; they had a great “basics” section at the top and more information at the bottom with updates all day. This helped me understand the general situation a bit more clearly, which allowed me to form my own opinions on what was going on in the media. Once I started thinking about it and reading other people’s theories, it made a lot of sense. I’m going to quote someone from tumblr (squee-gee) because what they said helped turn the lightbulb on in my head: “There’s a method to the madness. Hype up the news, stocks start to dip, people panic, the marked takes a severe dip, mom and pop lose big, while the rich scoop up prime stocks at bargain prices.”

  7. i was legit about to formspring you to ask if you were going to (pretty please pretty please) write something about the debt/bill scenario

    (rachel you’re the only one who can explain things to me so i understand)

  8. The idea of a gravity tax is a disgraceful example of bleeding-heart liberals trying to take money from the hard-working, ground-bound Americans. The only SANE way to deal with it is to cut gravity instead! A 75% reduction in gravity would be far better for the country, and who cares if the jobless parasites the left cares so much about end up floating away? Only namby-pamby-lefties, that’s who.

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