Dancing on the Debt Ceiling

Dancing on the Debt Ceiling

You’ll be reeling by the politically odd couples we caught dancing on the debt ceiling. Welcome to Strange Bedfellow Wednesday. Which roles were for and against using the 14th Amendment as a fail-safe to avoid a catastrophic debt default? Updated: 1/10/2024. Let’s dish, but first…

What is the
Debt Ceiling?

The debt ceiling is Congress’s legal cap on how much the federal government can borrow. It’s a financial fence meant to keep spending in check.

It is a chance for a reconciliation between the two parties for all the party favors they gave out to their constituents when they were in power.

Should we invoke the 14th Amendment
to avoid a US Debt Default?

The 14th Amendment states, “The validity of the public debt…shall not be questioned.” This clause suggests the President has the power to override the debt ceiling to ensure America pays its bills.

Legal scholars argue the President can invoke the 14th to prevent economic calamity if Congress fails to raise the debt limit. Unilaterally raising the debt ceiling using 14th Amendment powers remains controversial but may be necessary to avert catastrophe.

More responsible budgeting is something all four sides of the table can agree on, but in the meantime, there’s a crisis to handle.

Why Care?

The economy was hurt the last time the Government shut down. Workers, professionals, small business owners, and the stock market were harmed.

And this time, we may default on US debt, which is about the same as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

A debt default risks the dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. 

Perhaps the stupidest thing the world’s top superpower could do to itself. 

Is there a
Debt Crisis?

The US total net worth is $150T. The debt is $33T, but $7T is intergovernmental, so $25T is owed to others.

Of the $25T, about $7T is held by our foreign country trading partners (they have to put the dollars we give them somewhere).

The remaining $18T is held by Americans wealthy enough to buy US treasury bonds and notes.

The average US household has a net worth of $750,000. The average household debt is $100,000. So that’s a $100,000 / $750,000 or 13% debt to net worth.

The US total net worth is $150T. The net US Debt is $25T.  So, that’s $25T/$150T or 17% debt to net worth. 

Does this sound like an emergency so dire as to risk the full faith and credit of the United States of America?


This week’s political flap started with our Monday Puzzle Drop article. On Tuesday, we detailed the hardest-to-call roles in the Tiebreaker. We gamified our One-Page-Narrative Tool, and you can show off your role-playing skills at PolicyKeys.com.

Four Odd Couples

Leaning IN-FAVOR

Party Favor Democrats (29) &
Party Favor Republicans (29)

  • Party Favor Democrats: Tickled pink, they favor invoking the 14th to maintain their preferential treatment.
  • Party Favor Republicans: Embracing the blues, they also want a stable government not to rock their lucrative ship.
  • First Fight: Party Favor Democrats worry that Party Favor Republicans will steal their jam, and vice versa.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: A shared commitment to stability quashes their differences.

Shopkeepers (29) &
e-Platforms (29)

  • Shopkeepers: Like a coupon code, they see invoking the 14th as a way to keep consumers spending.
  • E-Platforms: Optimistic, they add the 14th to their cart for more online sales.
  • First Fight: Shopkeepers grit their teeth when they catch consumers price-checking on their phones, turning their aisles into showroom floors.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Eventually, they swipe right (status quo) on each other, agreeing that a crashed economy means no one’s checking out—either online or in-store.

Urban Professionals (25) &
Rural Professionals (29)

  • Urban Professionals: Coffee-fueled and relieved, they back the 14th for job security and market stability.
  • Rural Professionals: Grateful, they agree to business as usual.
  • First Fight: Rural Professionals might be concerned that policies will continue to favor urban areas and vice versa.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Let the good times roll.

Big Tech (13) &
Sanitation (9)

  • Big Tech: Eager, they see the 14th as a way to avoid bugs in their innovation code.
  • Sanitation: Flushed with relief, they believe it will ensure public funding.
  • First Fight: Sanitation worries that Big Tech’s advancements could replace them.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Sharing is hard, but it’s softer than a market crash.

Four Odd Couples

Rural Full Time (24) &
Landlords (14)

  • Rural Full Time: They fear inflation more than a recession.
  • Landlords: Frustrated, they oppose the 14th, fearing higher taxes.
  • First Fight: Landlords raise an eyebrow at Rural Full Timers potentially rallying against rent hikes.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: They desire fertile ledgers and livelihoods.

Corporate Lobby (22) &
Taker States (28)

  • Corporate Lobby: Suites-and-ties worried. They think the 14th could supersize government and eat into their profit margins.
  • Taker States: Tractor-pulling concerned, they fret that the 14th might jack up their taxes.
  • First Fight: Taker States squint at the Corporate Lobby’s oversized influence on policies that may not serve them.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Both groups get hitched to the idea of a downsized federal government that still keeps their juices and favors flowing.

Free Press (20) &
Border and Order Republicans (8)

  • Free Press: Alarmed, they oppose the 14th, fearing it undermines checks and balances.
  • Border and Order Republicans: Anxious, they think it bypasses legislative authority.
  • First Fight: Border and Order Republicans resent media portrayal of border issues.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Both sides decide that Congressional integrity is the headline worth exploring.

Social Media (20) &
Republican Hawks (2)

  • Social Media: Shy, they worry the 14th could expose their algorithms.
  • Republican Hawks: Jealous, they think it might allow unchecked executive power.
  • First Fight: Republican Hawks are skeptical of social media’s pacifism.
  • Why They Kissed and Made-Up: Both share a passion for legislative oversight and drama.

By The

The 14th Amendment to
Protect the Full Faith and Credit of the USA
Nonpartisan Score
Near Consensus

POLI found NEAR CONSENSUS support. Our editors agreed. We predict an 84% ±2 (6 roles) NEAR CONSENSUS of roles in this country to support the 14TH AMENDMENT TO PROTECT THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT OF THE USA, including a majority of each of the four sides of the political tablemaking this a US Public Policy Leaderboard (US-PPL) worthy idea. 

90% and up Near Unanimous
75% -79% Vast Supermajority
67% – 74% Strong Supermajority
60% – 66% Supermajority
50% – 59% Majority


SCOTUS’s approval rating is 41%,
the media is 32%, and
Congress is 15%.

Do we expect you to agree with the supermajority on all the rankings? Of course not; you’re human, not a political parrot.

We think you’ll agree with the leaderboard about 3 out of 4 items on average. Why?

The average score of the policies on the PolicyKeys™ US Public Policy Leaderboard (US-PPL) Sweet Sixteen is 76%, with many above 80%Politics 4.0 is already a 2x to 5x better model of US political sentiment and direction than politics as usual.

is based on the
Four Kinds of Love 

Self-sacrifice is giving of one’s self with no expectation of reciprocation. Think of a firefighter rushing into a burning building. 

Nurture is enjoying helping someone grow into their potential and keep up their momentum. Think of a coach, a parent, or a mentor. 

Tough-love is being able to invest in the personal pain of watching someone learn from their own mistakes. Think of a boss, teacher, or a loved one drawing a line in the sand. 

Self-love isn’t narcissism. It’s knowing you can’t love another until you take care of yourself. Think about putting on your oxygen mask in an airplane before helping someone else. 

It’s ironic how much hate there is arguing about what kind of love should be in a public policy.

It takes all four. One nation with liberty and justice for all.

The Four Dark
Political Emotions

Envy in Politics

  1. Consumers: Jealous of luxury, some support luxury taxes, disregarding potential harm to small businesses.
  2. Workers: Envious of higher pay, some advocate for wage caps, ignoring potential skill disincentives and loss of professional standards.
  3. Professionals: Chasing perfection, they may push for rigorous industry standards that, while well-intended, can limit consumer options.
  4. Owners: Coveting government influence, some call for privatization liberty, causing less justice for others.

Spite in Politics

  1. Consumers: Upset with corporations, some call for tough rules, forgetting that this can increase costs for professionals and themselves.
  2. Workers: Angered by robots taking jobs, some want trade barriers, overlooking the risk of trade wars that hurt consumers and their own job prospects.
  3. Professionals: Unhappy with industry shifts, some cling to old ways, missing the chance for growth and innovation that owners can bring.
  4. Owners: Annoyed by unions, some move their businesses, neglecting local workers and weakening demand for their own products.

Sloth in Politics

  1. Consumers: Unhappy with product quality. Some abstain from political action, allowing poor regulations to persist.
  2. Workers: Dissatisfied with wages. Some avoid labor unions, missing an opportunity for change.
  3. Professionals: Aware of flaws, some stick with the status quo, risking harm.
  4. Owners: Frustrated by red tape, throw up their hands instead of standing up.

Greed in Politics

  1. Consumers: Drawn to low prices, some support import policies that risk local jobs.
  2. Workers: Attracted to job security, some back grandfather clauses harming new hires.
  3. Professionals: Eager for profits, some lobby for lax regulations that compromise ethics.
  4. Owners: Focused on the bottom line, some advocate for lower safety standards, risking worker well-being.

Love Extremes

When taken too far, each political strength is prone to a political weakness.

Self-Sacrifice – Envy: Individuals who prioritize the needs of others might be prone to envy, as they may feel overlooked or undervalued compared to those they’re helping.

Nurture – Spite: Those who nurture and care for others may be more susceptible to spite when they perceive harm or injustice being done to those they care about.

Tough-Love – Sloth: Someone who employs tough love might feel it’s not reciprocated or effective, leading to a tendency toward sloth—why bother pushing others if it yields no result?

Self-Love – Greed: A focus on self-love could tip into greed, where self-care becomes self-serving to the point of disregarding others.

Politics goes negative fast. Does it have to?

Cue the
Romantic Music

Where Can We Agree? (Why Don’t You Want To Know?)

You can play this week’s puzzle at PolicyKeys.com.


Total US Debt

Who does the US Owe?

Government Shutdowns Explained
The Balance

Feeling Beings That Think
Institute for Public Relations

Average Net Worth
US News & World Report

US Median Household Income
St Louis Fed

Average Household Debt
Motley Fool

US Total Net Worth

The Rise and Fall of American Growth
Princeton University Press

The Clinton Surplus

U6 Unemployment over 15% in 2008
St Louis Fed

The 2030s Great Depression
ITR Economics

Why America Will Remain the World’s Only Superpower
American Enterprise Institute

How much would a debt default damage the US?
Christian Science Monitor

Shrinking American Middle Class
Pew Research


It takes guts to see things from all four sides of the political table



, , ,