Fox News Attacks Obama For Correctly Explaining The Debt Ceiling

Fox News continued to hype the myth that the debt ceiling raises the national debt, smearing President Obama's comments at an October 8 press conference as false. In reality, the debt ceiling does not raise the debt or authorize additional spending, but instead enables the U.S. government to finance existing legal obligations.

President Obama Reiterates That Raising Debt Ceiling Does Not Raise Debt

President Obama: Raising Debt Ceiling “Is Not Raising Our Debt.” During an October 8 press conference, President Obama addressed the nation regarding the ongoing government shutdown and pending need to raise the debt limit. During his remarks, he reiterated that raising the debt limit does not add to the national debt:

OBAMA: And because it's called raising the debt ceiling, I think a lot of Americans think it's raising our debt. It is not raising our debt. This does not add a dime to our debt. It simply says you pay for what Congress has already authorized America to purchase, whether that's the greatest military in the world or veterans' benefits or Social Security. Whatever it is that Congress has already authorized, what this does is make sure that we can pay those bills. [The Washington Post10/8/13]

Fox Reacts By Accusing The President Of Being Misleading

Fox's MacCallum: President Using “Fuzzy Math” To Explain Raising Debt Ceiling Won't Increase Debt. On the October 9 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that the president was using “fuzzy math, some think, because he says even if we raise our debt ceiling, it won't increase our debt.” MacCallum was joined by Fox Business' Stuart Varney, who claimed President Obama “wants more debt, but he denies that we're adding to the debt by raising the debt ceiling.”

[Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/9/13]

Fox Business' Elizabeth MacDonald: President Being “Slightly Deceiving” In Explanation Of Debt Ceiling. On the October 9 edition of Fox Business' Vaney & Co., host Stuart Varney aired President Obama's remarks on the debt ceiling and debt, taking issue with the claim that raising the debt ceiling is not “adding a dime to our debt.” Guest Elizabeth MacDonald claimed that the president was being “slightly deceiving,” later stating that “when you do raise the debt ceiling, lo and behold, the spending does happen.”

[Fox Business, Varney & Co., 10/9/13]

But Raising Debt Ceiling Does Not Add To Debt Or Authorize Additional Spending

Treasury Department: Raising Debt Ceiling “Simply Allows The Government” To Meet Existing Obligations. A May 2011 fact sheet prepared by the United States Department of the Treasury expressly stated that raising the debt limit only allows the federal government to meet existing obligations, and does not authorize any additional spending. From the fact sheet:

Raising the debt limit simply allows the government to meet those existing legal commitments to investors, seniors, soldiers, and millions of other Americans. Refusing to raise the debt limit does nothing to reduce those existing obligations or cut the deficit. [Department of the Treasury, May 2011]

NBC News: Debt Ceiling “Is Not Future Debt.” In an October 8 article outlining basic facts about the debt ceiling, CNBC's Mark Koba explained that raising the debt ceiling allows the government to meet past obligations, and is not “future debt”:

So what is the debt ceiling? It's a cap set by Congress on how much the government can borrow in order to pay its debts. 


Federal debt is the amount of money the government currently owes for spending on payments such as Social Security, Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt and tax refunds.

But It is not future debt. The debt limit simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congress and presidents of both parties have made in the past. [, 10/8/13]

Slate's Yglesias: Raising Debt Ceiling Does Not Alter Spending. In a blog post on Slate, Matthew Yglesias argued that raising the debt ceiling is not a concession for Republicans, arguing that "[g]ranting it does not authorize any new spending, and failing to grant it does not cut spending." [Slate, 9/30/13]