The United States is fast approaching the debt ceiling, an arbitrary and arcane cap on how much the government can borrow to pay its bills. If the ceiling doesn’t get lifted periodically, the country defaults and catastrophe follows.

But now, congressional Republicans who repeatedly raised the ceiling under Donald Trump refuse to raise it under Joe Biden unless Democrats agree to devastating cuts to federal programs. They’re taking us all ransom to inflict suffering on the families who’ve done the least to drive the national debt.

While negotiations continue to resolve the impasse, it’s crucial to understand what’s at stake — and why investments in the well-being of American people must be the goal of any debt or budget negotiation.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan, “The Limit, Save, Grow Act,” was created behind closed doors, outside of regular order. It’s not a serious bill.

It proposes temporarily raising the debt ceiling in exchange for permanently lowering the ceiling on the American dream for all but the very wealthiest of us. The extreme cuts and caps it would impose over the next decade would all but end every human needs investment over the next decade.

Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by

Get more news like this, directly in your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter.