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What North Floridians Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling

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On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans would vote to extend the debt ceiling for six weeks, to Nov. 22.

This only seems likely to happen if President Barack Obama agrees to fresh negotiations on spending cuts.

The current deadline to raise the debt ceiling is Oct. 17.

The debt ceiling is a legal limit as to the amount of debt the federal government can issue, or how much the federal government can borrow.

“The issue is that if the U.S. hits the debt ceiling, I strongly think that the treasury is likely to continue to pay the interest on the debt that’s outstanding,” said Mark Rush, University of Florida professor of economics. “If the U.S. does not pay that interest, then that would be doubly unprecedented.”

The U.S. would have to start prioritizing what payments it makes.

“That means that some bills are not going to get paid,” he said.

In North Florida, this means doctors and retirees would be impacted the most if the government hit the debt ceiling.

“If I was an older, retired American I would be concerned probably with Social Security payments. And if i was a physician, I would be concerned about the Medicare payments,” he said.

Rush said the debt ceiling is unique to the United States.

“I know of no other nation that has a debt ceiling like the U.S. has,” said.

Until about 10 years ago, this wasn’t a big deal. Congress would pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling, he said.

Now, Rush said the debt ceiling makes headline news because representatives and senators in Congress are deciding to use the debt ceiling as leverage and to push policies they want implemented.

“If the government hits the debt ceiling and does not prioritize paying the interest on the debt, definitely the risk factor of loaning money to the government will increase and with that the interest rate that’s charged will increase.”

If no action is taken, the stock market could be in bad condition. The market would likely fall.

The Dow went up Thursday because the government may extend the debt ceiling, which encouraged investors. It was up as much as 240 points in afternoon trading.

A White House official said Obama may sign a clean bill to increase the debt limit, but he also wants Republicans to reopen the government. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately predict what will happen to the debt ceiling or what will happen if there is no extension.

About Caitlin Sinett

Caitlin is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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