The United States debt ceiling is unlike any other ceiling you have likely ever seen. This is largely due to the simple fact that it is the only ceiling known to man that has no walls and that is continually rising. Importantly, if the ceiling were an actual construct, rather than a figure of speech, such a ceiling would have risen beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and would be nearly halfway to Jupiter at the current rate at which it rises.
For the uninitiated, the debt ceiling refers to the arbitrary amount of debt that the United States Congress allows the country to take out. If the United States had a credit card, the debt ceiling would be its limit. Congress can increase this limit any time the debt gets too high, similar to how Congress can vote itself a pay raise, or raise taxes when the government begins to run out of money.
These of course are not options that everyday people can use with their household budgets, but for some bizarre reason, lawmakers throughout history have believed this to be the best (or at least most expedient) way of running a country. What they do not mention, is the direction they are running the country, which is thought by many to be “into the ground.”
Should Congress ever fail to increase the country’s credit limit — or their attempt to increase such a limit is met with a presidential veto — before the country runs out of money, it can result in the entire country having its credit limit downgraded or a government shutdown. During a government shutdown, most of the country is perfectly fine with fewer government services, until they attempt to visit a government park or realize that they are unable to obtain a social security check.
Once the nation realizes it actually does need a government, the citizens will arbitrarily decide if the shutdown was the fault of congress or the president. How they determine this is random and enigmatic, but to the victor belong the spoils. After some amount of pressure from the public and a negotiation period, the debt ceiling will always be increased and the government always re-opens.