Jackie Gingrich Cushman

This week, my son is attending chess camp. It seemed like a good idea when I signed him up in May. An indoor camp the last week of July when the temperature and the humidity in Atlanta would be hovering around 95 would be a welcome respite, I thought. I was right.

The first day was so-so, but the second picked up as he reported that he watched a video from chesskid.com made by the Pink Hamster about the fried liver attack.

Having refused to let a hamster into the house, and absolutely sure that my son would NEVER eat fried liver (he had already told me he passed up the lasagna and ate a peanut butter sandwich instead), I was pretty sure he was not talking about a new pet and dinner.

Turns out that the pink hamster is the code name in chess lingo for David Petty, who provides chess lessons on chesskid.com. The fried liver attack is a series of introductory moves in chess that, according to my son, results in one's opponent feeling as if his or her liver is getting fried.

As hot as Atlanta can be in late summer, Washington, D.C., which is built on a swamp, is normally even more miserable. This year is no different. Historically, elected representatives have vacated our nation's capital during the summer. Just imagine in the 1800s the diseases that could spread between the lack of sanitation and the heat and humidity. However, this summer, our elected officials are sweating it out in Washington as they try to figure out a solution to the debt-ceiling crisis.

A few facts that provide the structure for what is happening might be helpful.

The debt ceiling is the amount of money that the U.S. Treasury has been authorized to borrow in order to pay the government's bills. Since it was introduced in 1917, the debt ceiling has been raised 102 times, 10 times during the last decade alone.

To raise the debt ceiling, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to agree to a bill that the president will sign. If the president vetoes the bill, then both houses would need to override his veto (technically possible, but not going to happen right now).

What is our current debt ceiling?

$14.3 trillion.

How does this compare to our government's annual revenue?

Federal revenue was $2.2 trillion for fiscal year 2010. The debt ceiling equals six and one half years of total federal government revenue.

Why didn't the government increase the debt ceiling when it passed this year's budget?

The budget for the year ending Sept. 30, 2011, was passed in April, more than six months into the fiscal year, and included the approval to spend, but not the corresponding approval to raise the debt ceiling.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.