Friday, October 18, 2013

And that is that...

So, unless you have been under a rock for the past couple of days, you know that the Boner caved, then GOP in the Senate did what they do best - stabbing their base in the back - and the Bamster got basically everything he wanted, with the unconscionable assistance of the government sponsored press apparatus. Sadly, my 99.99% correct flow chart is now complete (though I guess we won't ever know about the Apple Pie Moonshine thing):

While most of the arguments for 'compromise' were so blatantly false they just aren't worth my time to refute, there was a constitutional issue that was put forward that caused me to learn something, so i'll share that here with you. I was listening to CSPAN Monday and I heard a Democrat congressman say something about the House risking default was potentially in violation of the 14th amendment, which states that the 'credit of the nation will not be questioned'. Now that 'will not be questioned' phrase got my attention as it seemed to me to be somewhat contrived. To my amazement, it is actually in there. Here's exactly what the 4th section of the 14th amendment says:
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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Understanding the historical context of this amendment is kinda important. This amendment, along with 13th and 15th were all passed just after the civil war to settle matters that were left hanging as a result of the war - i.e. debts, voting, and slavery. While the other sections of this amendment have been adjudicated like crazy by the Supremes (yes - that is a Mark Levin term), this section has gotten very little scrutiny, mainly because there just isn't much to litigate about it in modern times. I would guess that after all this time, most monetary issues related to the Civil War are settled matters. In fact, the main case I could find dealing with this section was Perry v US, where the government didn't want to have to pay a gold bond holder actual gold or it's equivalent value, but the Supremes came to the conclusion that they did since 'the public debt... shall not be questioned'.

There are two aspects to this Section that were applied to the debt limit debate, both linked by similar if not identical faulty logic. The are:

  1. The President, compelled by the Section 4 of the 14th Amendment doesn't need to get Congressional Authority to raise the debt limit.
  2. Congress by not authorizing an advancement of the debt limit, puts the credit of the US in jeopardy, and thus is in violation of the 4th Section of the 14th amendment.
Both of these treat the debt and credits of the United States as if it is a static and inelastic entity. Of course nothing could be farther from the truth as we are talking about trillions in debt, and billions in revenue daily. To say that it's pretty complicated would be an understatement. Thankfully, the principles espoused in the amendment are not. It basically says, our debts will be paid first, nothing more, nothing less. So if Congress does not allow the executive to borrow more money to pay for obligations that they have told the executive that it could spend, the executive first has to pay the debts, then has discretion to allocate the remaining funds as it sees fit. To do otherwise, as one old lady from Alaska (among others) has said, would be an impeachable offense.

In fact, this is exactly what the executive did with the mythical shutdown. In the face of no directions from Congress, it attempted to scale back operations of the government to not exceed it's income. That it did so in such a spectacularly ineffective way is arguably an impeachable offense, but even if the Senate were composed of enough of GOP majority to do so, it would take great hubris to prosecute the executive for failing to do what is essentially the Congress's job. Now if the executive did such a poor job while vetoing law that would relieve it of such responsibility, then that would be a different matter. In either case impeachment would be improbable as, beyond Section 4 of the 14th amendment, there is little constitutional guidance as to what the executive has to do when faced with no directions from Congress. However, applying a constitutional yardstick, the giving grants to Cookie Monster probably shouldn't have precedence over such items as paying soldiers or air traffic controllers.

I understand this rather modest application of logic collapses the whole basis of why the GOP folded at the last minute. I guess the screams of the press from around the world, and the nervousness of the gullible shills on Wall Street got to them. I find it hard to believe that in a body made up of mostly lawyers they could not see this. That is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole sad drama, and it's implications will continue to reverberate over the coming months.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this clear, understandable take- It all makes sense, even if the National Gov does not usually use sense in its decisions. :-)