Maybe the president could end the debt ceiling crisis by executive order.
The debt ceiling debate is all very bewildering, whether it would be a catastrophe, with world-wide implications, to fail to raise the ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline to allow the federal government to borrow even more money to pile on to its multi-trillion-dollar debt (something it has routinely done over the years) and whether the government would have to stop issuing Social Security checks and paying contractors and so on, if it fails to raise that debt ceiling (I am not sure all of this is totally clear).
One has to wonder why the president can’t just order the ceiling to be raised so the government can meet its financial obligations. In fact there has been a suggestion that he has the power to do that under the 14th Amendment:
But it is unfamiliar ground. Never been done. Not court tested.
It seems to me regardless of how it is done, the United States must meet its obligations to pay those to whom it has issued bonds (borrowed money from) at the minimum. To do anything else would be on its face unacceptable.
At the same time, going year to year spending more than it takes in and piling up its debt so high that it can only pay interest and not even hardly get to the principle seems a sure way to ultimate disaster (that may or may not be upon us now). One day the debt will be so high that it will be clear that it cannot be paid and the creditors will want their money and no one will lend the nation more.
The whole system in which congress (both major political parties) can simply order money to be spent with virtually no check on it (save for the president vetoing a whole bill, a veto which can be overridden) and no requirement that such money or sufficient money be available makes no sense, regardless of whether that is what in fact our constitution calls for.
Perhaps this very emergency, maybe even default, is what is needed to wake the American people (who ultimately have control, not as individuals, but as informed citizens through voting blocks, organized or just natural), and make them decide what government programs and services and at what levels are worth it to them and whether they are willing to tax themselves to pay for it all. Their elected representatives have to work out the details, but they have to have clear signals, not just don’t spend money unless it is for me.
And it may take this crisis to stop all that “wasteful spending” that is often not always clearly defined.
But it seems to me that those who are owed money from prior commitments must be paid if at all possible. But going forward, nothing should be spent unless it can be justified and funds are available. If the funds are not there, nothing happens.
The Tea Party-backed freshmen in congress are said to be standing firm against any new taxes, even if it means default.
Maybe they are the only ones with backbone. But if they are, let’s see how much they have when they have to decide who gets paid and who does not. They are sure to find many in their own ranks deserting and constituents out for their blood. Welcome to politics.
One caller into a talk show who seemed to be a Tea Party follower named her choices of wasteful spending: The Environmental Protection Agency, The federal Department of Education, and the TSA (Transportation Security Agency). I might agree on the education department because it seems like a duplication of local and state public education governing bodies, and maybe the TSA is incompetent (or not) and duplicates some of the efforts of the FBI and private security, but I do prefer clean water and an all-around healthy environment, although there is always disagreement as to what constitutes reasonable and needed regulation.
But she went on to say, if I understood her correctly, that the much of the efforts (and expense) put forth by the federal government should be handled by state and local governments. I agree, and let them pay for all of it too. More decisions for real people to make that cannot be so easily foisted on the federal government so it has to take the blame and bear the financial burden.
I’m not sure that President Obama wants to be given the unilateral authority to raise the debt ceiling, either by way of a recent short-lived offer from one leading Republican senator (with strings or a catch attached) or via the 14th Amendment idea. The president and the Democratic factions and more notably the split factions of the Republican Party, with the main party old-liners being cowed by the Tea Party, are all playing a political game, using the threat of a fiscal calamity as leverage in a battle over ideology and competing special interest (read campaign donor) interests. No statesmen yet, except John McCain seems to be getting pretty serious about criticizing the Tea Party faction for its intransigence on the debt ceiling issue and its willingness to let the country go into a financial abyss in order to make a point.