The massive spending undertaken by the U.S. government since the financial crisis has pushed its annual budget deficit past $1 trillion for 2 years running now, and a sky-high national debt burden to fund that shortfall.
As of March 18, the total public U.S. debt stood at $14.173 trillion - that's just $121 billion below the allowed limit of $14.294 trillion. Given U.S. spending, it's estimated the debt limit will be reached some time between April 15 and May 31.
To try and avoid reaching the ceiling the U.S. Treasury has been drawing on a $200 billion Federal Reserve emergency lending, but by March 18 that account has dwindled to just $25 billion.
Time is running out. The fear is that if the limit is breached, the government will no longer be able to borrow to fund day-to-day operations, risking a partial shutdown and default on debt payments.
Congress has routinely raised the debt limit every year since 2002, but this year it is different. Republicans aren't willing to play ball, some of them want to tie any hike to commitments by the Obama administration and Democrats to deeper spending cuts. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner disagrees with the plan, saying that it would not help solve the overall problem, and Congress has no alternative but to hike the debt ceiling.
Tell us if you agree with the Republican demand.