What Debt Ceiling? The 14th Amendment Solution
By the time you read this the government will either (a) still be on the brink of a shutdown, (b) actually be shut down, or (c) have narrowly averted a shutdown through some bizarre Boehnerism.
Even in the instance that it has actually shut down, a far worse fate befalls us on Oct. 17 at which time the debt ceiling will have to be lifted, as all congresses before this one, Democratic or Republican, have always done—even though it incorporated the absurd, job-killing, economy-stalling sequester agreement more than a year ago.
Raising the debt ceiling, please understand, is not a mandate to spend more money but rather to borrow enough to pay the debts to which we have already committed. (This debt is not the widely ballyhooed deficit, which, despite the blatherings of the Tea Partiers and their sing-along congressional choir, has been drastically reduced under the Obama Administration and is heading toward a normal or even lesser proportion of GDP next year.)
The issue is that unless we are permitted to borrow more to pay the existing debts that the entire Congress has rung up through a (lower-case “d”) democratic vote, we risk not just economic chaos here in the USA, but the potential of a worldwide recession. Consider: Uncle Sam, the world’s largest and most consistent economy becomes a deadbeat.
Remember how we sneered at Greece, when it threatened to bust the European economy? Multiply that by today’s American obligations and it will make the Great Recession look like a kid’s skipped allowance.
The thing is, until Obama no party ever tried to hold the economy hostage to gain a few pieces of right-wing (or left-wing) legislation as the GOP is doing now with its ridiculous legislative laundry list. A pinko-commie named Ronald Reagan lectured his own party on this matter nearly three decades ago.
The last time Barack Obama negotiated under such a threat, the sequester resulted. This time he says he will not negotiate with what must be considered economic terrorists.
He is right to say so and he has in his hands the equivalent of a nuclear option in the form of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to enforce it. To wit:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned….
In other words, the president can simply order all debts be paid without congressional approval. Many wise voices previously urged Obama to invoke the 14th but he held off. Now it’s time to end this dangerous farce for all time.
There will be immediate lawsuits that would quickly get to the Supreme Court. But do you think the four liberals and Justices Kennedy and Roberts would not uphold Obama’s constitutional position? That any are crazy enough to let our economy sink into the abyss?
This would erase forever the ability of any Congress any time to blackmail a president—or, as in this case, white-mail him.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image Joliet’s own Lionel Richie suggests Dancing on the Ceiling