Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday where she sought to use the symbolism of a historic landmark to draw parallels to a present-day America that is in need of repairing deepening racial and cultural divides.

The Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "A house divided" speech in 1858 warning against the ills of slavery and where Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in 2007 — served as the backdrop for Clinton as she spoke of how "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Episode 711: Hooked on Heroin

1 hour ago

When we meet the heroin dealer called Bone, he has just shot up. He has a lot to say anyway. He tells us about his career--it pretty much tracks the evolution of drug use in America these past ten years or so. He tells us about his rough past. And he tells us about how he died a week ago. He overdosed on his own supply and his friend took his body to the emergency room, then left.

New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

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Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

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Here Comes The Debt Ceiling...But Does That Mean?

Oct 10, 2013
Originally published on October 10, 2013 8:33 pm



As the debate over the debt ceiling continues, we thought it'd be helpful to explain just how the Treasury pays bills and how many bills it pays. To help with that, we brought in Tony Fratto. He was assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Treasury under the George W. Bush administration.

TONY FRATTO: The best estimates are around four million transactions a day, on the order of around 100 million transactions a month, so it's a lot.

BLOCK: And I've seen this described as transactions being processed dozens of times every second.

FRATTO: That's right. I think people have a hard time understanding just the size and scale of the federal government. It's really big. And we're talking about a budget of $3.5 trillion. That's a lot of money. That's a lot of different kinds of people and accounts who are spending that money. They're ordering things and paying people and paying for rent and so it's a lot of different kinds of transactions that the government carries out.

BLOCK: Well, let me run by you a comment from the noted economist Martin Feldstein who says there really is no need for a default on the debt, even if the debt ceiling is not raised. He says the U.S. government collects enough in taxes each month to finance the interest on the debt, et cetera. What's wrong with that argument?

FRATTO: I think Feldstein is looking at it the wrong way and he's not alone. You know, Senator Toomey has a bill on the floor that...

BLOCK: Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania.

FRATTO: ...essentially says the same thing. And I think the problem that a lot of people who looked at this issue have when they think of the federal government cash accounts on a monthly basis, they say, well, there's revenue that comes in every month and there are obligations every month. And if you look at it on a monthly basis, we can make those payments.

The problem is, is that the government lives on a daily basis. It has to settle accounts every single day. And so the obligations to the government, the things the government has to pay, they're very spiky. We have a big bill to the Social Security system early in the month. We have other parts of the month where you have to make other very large payments.

The revenue is also very spiky. It doesn't come in the same every day. It doesn't even come in the same every month. So this uneven flow of revenues and the uneven presentation of obligations of things that the government has to pay makes trying to match up those bills with revenues very, very difficult to do and probably impossible.

BLOCK: You know, if you step back from this discussion a little bit, Tony Fratto, you might wonder why we even have a debt ceiling that Congress has to vote to raise.

FRATTO: I often wonder that.

BLOCK: You often wonder that.

FRATTO: I often wonder why we have a debt ceiling.

BLOCK: But it is a real question, right? If money has been appropriated by Congress and if, as the administration argues, there shouldn't be negotiation over the debt limit, is it effectively just a rubber stamp? Is it an anachronism? Why do we have it?

FRATTO: It really is an anachronism. It's from an earlier time when - Congress was doing the right thing, I think, with the debt ceiling. If you think about it, it was an actual - it was actually a reform. Originally, Congress would have to approve every single debt offering by Treasury and this became very cumbersome from Treasury to have to go, every time they would issue debt, to go ask Congress to pass a law.

It was cumbersome for Congress. Congress actually did a reform in setting the debt limit...

BLOCK: And that was in 1917.

FRATTO: 1917, they reformed it again in the late 1930s and early 1940s. But if you think of the logic of the debt ceiling, it require the executive branch to ask Congress for the authority to finance the money that they need to carry out the laws that Congress has mandated that it carry out.

So the executive branch doesn't really have a choice here. It needs to raise this money, otherwise it would be violating the laws of Congress. So to then have to ask Congress for the authority to raise that money, it becomes a very circular logic. So we could do without the debt ceiling. I think there's a misunderstanding out there. If you talk to most - most Americans think we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling because they think it provides some limit on spending.

And it really doesn't. It has nothing to do with spending in the future. It merely allows the government to raise the money to pay for the programs that have already been authorized.

BLOCK: It does perhaps focus the mind, focus the attention of both Congress and the country.

FRATTO: It does, indeed. And actually, when it was just that, when it was an opportunity to spend a day on the House and Senate floor debating and discussing and analyzing the size of deficits and the size of the debt, that was probably a useful and even a very healthy exercise. But when it has become to be used as a cudgel to try to hold up the functioning of government, it becomes very, very concerning.

It's very concerning here. It's also very concerning globally.

BLOCK: Tony Fratto, thanks for coming in.

FRATTO: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Tony Fratto was assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department during the administration of George W. Bush. He's now with the consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.