Treasury Chief Calls on Lawmakers to Raise Debt Ceiling

Published April 21, 2017

After legal limits on the total amount of federal government debt were reinstated in March, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin called on lawmakers to increase the limits on the federal government’s authority to borrow and spend.

In November 2015, lawmakers waived the debt ceiling, a legal limit on how much debt the federal government could take on, until March 15, 2017. On March 16, the ceiling was reinstated, capping the government’s debt level at $19.9 trillion, or about $60,954.31 per person.

In March 2017, Mnuchin called on lawmakers to increase the debt ceiling so the federal government could borrow money to fund spending increases.

‘Extraordinary Measures’

On March 16, the U.S. Treasury announced the beginning of “extraordinary measures” to buy time for lawmakers to approve increased borrowing, such as delaying payments to government pension-fund investors.

Brian Wesbury, a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says it’s important to restrain federal debt and the spending it finances.

“The debt ceiling is an issue because the federal government has needed to borrow to operate for the past 15 years,” Wesbury said. “I believe the Congress should keep the debt ceiling in place as a constant reminder that they are choosing to borrow. The federal government spends too much.”

‘Spending Is the Problem’

Wesbury says government overspending is the root cause of the nation’s fiscal problems.

“Spending is the problem, not tax rates,” Wesbury said. “Our government cannot seem to live within its means.”

Predicts Disaster

Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, says lawmakers’ refusal to reduce spending is ruining the nation’s economy.

“We’re heading for a train wreck,” Edwards said. “We’re permanently lowering the standard of living of Americans in the future by building up this debt. Every dollar we borrow is a cost that is pushed onto young people in the future. It will directly reduce our standard of living. We will be working and an increasing share of our tax money will be going to pay off creditors. It’s a disgrace.”