Understanding U.S. fiscal policy

In the fall of 2013, the Republican caucuses in the US Congress escalated their long-running feud with President Barack Obama by threatening to allow the government to go into default if Democrats did not submit to major spending cuts. Their leverage was the debt ceiling, a law that puts limits on the amount of money the government can raise for itself through the sale of bonds and other securities. By keeping the debt ceiling at the same level, opposition lawmakers would have prevented the Treasury from meeting the obligations already incurred by Congress. The immediate crisis was averted in February of 2014 with concessions from Republican leaders in both houses of Congress to remove the borrowing limit, without any caveats, until March 2015.

The nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation is dedicated to promoting solutions to America’s long-term fiscal challenges to ensure a bright economic future. Through collaboration with financial experts, elected officials, and the public, the foundation strives to build consensus on federal budget policy.

Throughout the fall of 2013, as lawmakers argued about budgetary technicalities and Americans grew bored and frustrated with the debate, we worked with PGPF to create a series of infographics explaining our current economic woes and governance challenges. The pieces encourage Congress to reach an agreement on closing the budget gap without endangering economic recovery. And they urge our elected leaders to raise the debt ceiling, stop playing games, and focus on protecting our economic recovery.