NYT’s: A Ceiling We Can’t Wish Away


…Other proponents of a constitutional deus ex machina have offered a more modest interpretation of the public debt clause, under which only actual default (as opposed to any action that merely increases the risk of default) is impermissible. This interpretation makes more sense. But advocates of the constitutional solution err in their next step: arguing that, because default would be unconstitutional, President Obama may violate the statutory debt ceiling to prevent it.

The Constitution grants only Congress — not the president — the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.” Nothing in the 14th Amendment or in any other constitutional provision suggests that the president may usurp legislative power to prevent a violation of the Constitution. Moreover, it is well established that the president’s power drops to what Justice Robert H. Jackson called its “lowest ebb” when exercised against the express will of Congress.

Worse, the argument that the president may do whatever is necessary to avoid default has no logical stopping point. In theory, Congress could pay debts not only by borrowing more money, but also by exercising its powers to impose taxes, to coin money or to sell federal property. If the president could usurp the congressional power to borrow, what would stop him from taking over all these other powers, as well?

So the arguments for ignoring the debt ceiling are unpersuasive. But even if they were persuasive, they would not resolve the crisis. Once the debt ceiling is breached, a legal cloud would hang over any newly issued bonds, because of the risk that the government might refuse to honor those debts as legitimate. This risk, in turn, would result in a steep increase in interest rates because investors would lose confidence — a fiscal disaster that would cost the nation tens of billions of dollars.

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There is a huge great point in Larry tribe’s essay:
That if debt bonds are under a cloud w/regard their legality, no one will want to invest in them.
We saw this happen not that many days ago when Greece was voting on their austerity plan.
All of a sudden their debt bonds interest rate hit and passed 26%.
Now, IF you trust Greece to pay you, go for it!
Buy their bonds and plan what you’ll do with all that money.
But Greece is having a tough time selling those bonds….even at 26% interest!
Same would happen here.
This would be Obama’s third or forth or fifth stimulus…..if it is allowed to happen.
Congress voted in the 1st one.
And the 2nd one.
But QE has also been a form of stimulus.
And also Obama’s sale of 30 billion barrels of oil from our strategic oil reserve was another stimulus.
Now Obama wants another one.
If he can’t get our money and he can’t print more money, he can DEVALUE our money.
It is a stimulus in reverse.
Am I being ”racist” to be critical of Obama in this way?

Am I wrong in thinking that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and all the bills cannot be paid, the President would then be placed in the position of deciding which bills do get paid, and which don’t?

Please consider that for a moment.

It would be a signature by Obama on a spending plan created by the Congress.
Let’s not forget, our debt exploded, not because of new loads of spending on social security and Medicare.
Obama came into office as a senator and dems took over and began spending big on discretionary programs.
Then Obama moved to the White House and with his dem-controlled Congress they upped the spending considerably.
Included were keeping unionized government employees in their jobs, renewable-energy subsidies, a host of “green” (and other) development projects of dubious value, and increases in regulatory planning and administration.
All of this could be cut completely off.
It is all less than two years old.
Spending could be rolled back to 2008 levels before even tackling SS or Medicare.
But Obama (naturally) doesn’t want that.
He would rather talk about (finger to the wind, trial balloon) slicing up SS and Medicare.
Scare tactic.
Who is really throwing granny off the cliff?
Oh, and Obama is only talking.
He will, if Republicans hold his feet to the fire, cut out his new programs rather than mess with granny.

It would be a signature by Obama on a spending plan created by the Congress.

If compromise cannot be reached before the deadline arrives, why would we expect it to be reached any more easily after the deadline has passed?

If the GOP’s refusal to make any high-end tax concessions in return for significant program spending reductions results in an interruption of Social Security payments and a precipitous downturn in the markets, it will probably be hard to find a republican dog catcher still in office after the 2012 elections.

I don’t know what they’re thinking. They’re in a very strong position to rein in spending. All they’ve got to do is give something in return, so all of the sacrifice isn’t one-sided. Instead, they want it all or they’ll kick over the game board. The same board that their own supporters are playing on.

The President doesn’t get to legally chose what bills to get paid, that’s Congress’s duties as outlined in the Consititution…

Congress had better get busy compiling a list of what will and won’t be paid, then, since there may soon be a situation in which the revenue coming in will fall far short of covering all of the expenditures that Congress has previously authorized. They can decide between suddenly cutting Social Security checks, or military pay and project funding, or payments to Medicare service providers, for example. They could stop paying interest on the national debt and see what that does to interest rates and the stock market. It should all be very interesting.


…since there may soon be a situation in which the revenue coming in will fall far short of covering all of the expenditures that Congress has previously authorized.

We’ve been spending more than we’ve been taking in for quite awhile now.

You know, it’s really strange though, I don’t recall you expressing any concerns about that back when Obie and the Congress were whipping up the trillion dollar stimulus bill. In fact, you were cheering it on weren’t you?

Consistently inconsistent you are, eh?

I figured if republicans could justify borrowing a trillion to spend in Iraq, democrats could surely justify borrowing a trillion to spend in America to keep the economy from collapsing.

Projections for the total economic cost of the War on Terror are now running to $6 trillion, btw. I suppose the Eisenhower Study Group is some sort of commie liberal disinformation front. In any case, I know where I’d start looking first for spending cuts. It wouldn’t be Social Security or Medicare.


Well, except for the fact that spending a trillion was never intended to keep the economy from collapsing. It was supposed to help us recover. ‘Course the smarter ones of us in the room were telling you guys that it wouldn’t work.

How about those fantastic unemployment numbers from today? Stellar, eh? Oh, and those downward revisions…man, oh, man… that”s some stuff to brag about right there. We haven’t seen unemployment numbers like these since…well, since way back in the 30’s. Of course, Mr. Plouffe says no one really pays attention to those numbers…and that they won’t vote one way or the other based on unemployment numbers…

This nation blew a trillion dollars and has nothing whatsoever to show for it except a monumental pile of debt. How many jobs did it create? How much did each of those jobs cost?

Although some households did get some really cool Interwebz access that actually cost more than the house itself.

Plus, as a bonus prize, some people got shot and killed with guns that were funded by those stimulus dollars. How could the funding of a gun running scheme be considered a “shovel ready” project? Oh, that’s right…you use shovels to dig graves don’t you?

Yeah, I know where I’d start looking for spending cuts too and Soc Sec and Medicare wouldn’t even need to be on the list.

Exit Question: How much should we spend to defend the nation, and it’s interests, from threats abroad?


Exit Question: How much should we spend to defend the nation, and it’s interests, from threats abroad?

I know you were looking for an answer from Greg, but I’ll give you my perspective anyway.

The answer? As much as it takes. I qualify that by stating that one of the primary purposes of the federal government is to provide for the defense of the several states, as listed by no less than 9 of the 18 clauses listed under Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution.

Social programs? Very arguable as to whether or not they should even be included within any spending by the federal government, particularly as no specifics, in relation to social programs, are listed in any clause within Article I, Section 8.

Green energy programs? One could claim that this is more a social program than anything else, but even if one is discussing energy in general, no specifics are listed in any clause within Article I, Section 8.

And the list could go on at length for many of the pet liberal/progressive spending items that constitute our federal government’s budget. It could even be argued that the federal government has more of a responsibility to provide for a post office, even being a burden on the people, and not self supporting, than the government has for providing any social program to the people. The post office is, I remind everyone, specifically listed under Article I, Section 8.

I challenge Greg to state the exact clause, or paragraph, within our Constitution that grants Congress, and by extension, the Federal Government, the power to lay and collect taxes for the disbursement to people in the form of SS and Medicare. I’m sure that I’ll be waiting a long, long time on this.

From a July 7, 2011 article in The Hill:

“Sources told The Hill recently that GOP negotiators are ready to break with recent Republican ideology by trading large defense cuts for not raising taxes as part of a debt-ceiling deal.”

Apparently your ol’ boys will give up anything to make sure the richest people in the country keep on paying some of the lowest high-end tax rates in modern history. I find myself wondering if this pill will go down as easily on the right as the prospect of cutting Social Security and Medicare did.

At least their real priorities are finally being revealed in a way that mainstream conservatives should be able to relate to.


Several points, Greg.

-One, they aren’t our ol’ boys. They are the establishment GOP which, in my mind, and many other conservatives here, are nearly as liberal/progressive as the Democrats.

-Two, I can guarantee you that the conservative base of the GOP will be up in arms if the Republican leadership goes along with significant cuts to defense with small, meaningless cuts to the social engineering programs, regardless of whether or not tax hikes do not happen.

-Three, as I’ve told you countless times before, you confuse the GOP with conservatism. They are not one and the same.