Class Warfare Blog

December 11, 2012

The Debt Ceiling Conundrum and How to Fix It

The “debt ceiling” legislation currently in the news was first formulated around the time of World War I and was considered a brake on the Executive branch’s ability to borrow money (to wage war, etc.). Basically, Congress has taken the power to limit how much money the Executive branch can borrow to pay the bills already authorized by the Congress. Republicans now consider it to be their tool of choice to force the administration to make cuts in spending they cannot effect any other way.

Taking a step back, Congress has clearly already authorized the expenditures in question; the Executive branch has no power to generate such authorizations. Obviously, if the Congress created the situation whereby we are spending more than we are taking in, thus running up the national debt, they have the obligation to pay it down. All they need do is go back and slim down the authorizations they have made, effecting sufficient cuts to satisfy their needs at deficit reduction so that they, in turn, can increase the amount of money the Executive branch is authorized to borrow to pay the bills Congress has, in fact, created.

But, Congress does not have the will to cut the things needed. One group wants to cut defense, another says No! One group wants to cut the citizen’s safety net, another says No! and so forth. Congress seems to have stymied itself.

So, here is what is being done. A minority group in the Congress (the House Republicans) are holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage if they don’t get the spending cuts they want by refusing to increase the debt ceiling to allow the borrowing necessary to pay our bills. In effect, they are asking the Executive Branch to override the actions of the Legislative Branch, which is a clear violation of the separation of powers of the Constitution. This treasonous behavior (treason being trying to overthrown the duly elected government) is being talked about in rather mild terms.

If, and it is still an “if,” the Republicans try this tactic once more, the only permanent solution is to trigger a constitutional crisis. The Executive Branch must call their bluff, not by defaulting on our obligations which would have severe consequences, but to continue to borrow money to pay the bills fully authorized by the Congress and see what Congress does. If they object, we must ask the Supreme Court to settle the matter once and for all because this is becoming a standard tactic. It is coercive, it is rule by the minority, and it is un-American.

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