White House: “Americans Don’t Have a Lot of Time to Focus on ‘What is a Debt Ceiling?’”

By Matt Cover | July 13, 2011 | 5:01 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – White House spokesman Jay Carney said the reason the White House has not explained in detail to the American people what might happen if the federal debt ceiling is not raised is because the administration expects the increase to occur, adding that the public does not have a lot of time to focus on and understand the issue.

At the White House press briefing on Wednesday, a reporter asked, “The fact is that the Gallup poll has come out today saying that most of the American people do not want their representatives to raise the debt ceiling. In spite of the fact that the president was on TV last night and talked about certain things that would be at stake, do you feel at all that this administration has not really laid out, in very strong terms, what exactly is at stake for the American people if this debt limit is not raised?”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In answering, Carney said, “I think it’s easy to understand why most Americans don’t have a lot of time to focus on ‘What is a debt ceiling?’ I mean, honestly, did anybody in this room – before they had to cover issues like this – have any idea what a debt ceiling was? Any understanding of the fact that a vote by Congress to increase our ability to borrow was simply a vote to allow the United States of America to pay the bills it incurred in the past?”

According to a Gallup survey, only 22 percent of Americans support raising the debt limit, a fact that Carney dismissed in his comment. Instead, he said that if people only understood what the debt limit was, they would support raising it.

“I think every American – certainly a vast majority of Americans – would accept the principle, if asked, that the United States should pay its bills, just like they’re asked to pay their bills,” said Carney.

However, that same Gallup poll found that 51 percent of Americans feared the government would raise the debt limit without cutting federal spending, as opposed to the 32 percent who worried the limit would not be raised.

The debt ceiling is the amount of money the federal government is legally allowed to borrow. Congress must pass legislation and the president must sign it in order to raise the debt ceiling, which is currently set at $14.29 trillion.

The White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans are negotiating a debt-ceiling increase of potentially $2.4 trillion.