In his bus tour kick-off speech in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney said:

Everywhere I go, I meet people who represent the best of America. They are hopeful, hard-working, determined and proud. But they are also worried and anxious. They are tired of being tired.

When Americans rose up and demanded, “Stop borrowing money and sticking our kids with the bill,” the President wasn’t listening. He was on the line with China, taking out another loan.

I wonder what the President being “on the line with China” means.

Was he actually talking with Chinese leadership on other issues which have nothing to do with Americans’ interest? It's unbelievable. I don’t get an idea of the connection among the three copy elements: “Stop borrowing money and sticking our kids with the bill,” “Obama was on the line with China” and “taking out another loan.” Wasn’t there a jump of logic, or word missing from his line?

  • 2
    Sticking with the bill here means borrowing Chinese money that Americans will need to pay in the future.
    – Noah
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 3:31
  • I can’t imagine that President Obama ever called up Chinese President Hu Jintao and asked to lend money - to buy U.S. treasury bond, even if it's a joke. That’s why I’m confused. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 7:18
  • Romney is making a hypothetical statement by pointing to the Chinese-American business relationship.
    – Noah
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 8:30

2 Answers 2


Romney is intentionally pandering to a perception that may be commonly held by elements of the American public that have little formal training in economics.

This comment is fallacious or, at the very least, misleading. The US government does not borrow money directly from other countries - the government, through the treasury, issues treasury bonds and other "government debt securities" in return for a promise to pay the face value plus interest (you hear this in the news as "bond yields"). When the government (technically the treasury) sells bonds, anyone can buy them. It just happens to be that China (and private investors within China) buys a significant proportion.

But as you can see from the link below, China is not the only country to own US government debt. There's a good description and overview of ownership of US debt securities, here: http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/longterm/debt/ownership.html


In this context “on the line” means “on the telephone”.

It’s not used entirely literally – as you said yourself in your comment it’s unlikely that one President would call another to ask to borrow money directly.

Mr. Romney’s main thrust is an economic one – he is contending that President Obama is ignoring those Americans who favour the government borrowing less because his administration is busy establishing policies that require the government to borrow more. He singles out China (which, as Brandon explains in his answer, happens to be the source of a large proportion of that borrowed money) in order to appeal to voters uncomfortable with the growing economic influence of a country that the U.S. has traditionally held as an adversary.

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