Monday, October 7, 2013

Gimmicks Will Not Save Us

It's 11:55 p.m. on Thursday, October 17.

Negotiations over raising the debt ceiling ran awry. House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama are no closer to a deal that they were weeks earlier.

Default is upon us. What can Obama do?

There must be a Plan B. Otherwise, I -- and a lot of people in Washington -- wouldn't be able to sleep at night. The consequences of the United States defaulting on its obligations are simply too terrible to contemplate. Even though it's in his interest to deny it, Obama surely has a way to disregard Congressional action and keep the bonds flowing.

The thing is, it might not matter. Any technique available to Obama on October 18 has flaws -- and will bring uncertainty to the global markets which could conceivably be almost as destructive as a default itself.

People invest in U.S. bonds because they're seen as being the safest investment on the planet. And, despite our recent troubles -- including the first downgrade in our credit ranking, from S&P -- people still do.

But if Obama is forced by an obstinate Congress to disregard the debt ceiling, that certainty will be gone. And not in a general, "What is the fate of the Republic" kinda way -- quite literally, people won't be sure if the bonds they're buying are good or not. They won't be sure what they're buying.

Tell me that won't send shock waves through the global bond markets, and through extension the entire world economy.

There's no loophole. No out. The Constitution clearly and unambiguously gives Congress control over federal spending, taxing and borrowing -- and offers no guidance about what is supposed to happen if one of those responsibilities conflicts with the other two.

Like it or not, the only option--really, the only option--is for Congress and Obama to work this out.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A News Story From The Future

May 28th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- The gravest constitutional crisis in American history shows no signs of resolution, as President Ted Cruz refused yet again to step down earlier this evening.

"The people elected me. I'm not leaving," Cruz said in a televised address. "I've broken no crimes. Every single action I've taken as president has followed the letter and the spirit of the law -- and no illegitimate vote from Congress can change that."

Cruz added some of the rhetorical flourishes which helped him ascend to the nation's highest office.

"I'm not leaving on a boat, I'm not leaving on a float," Cruz said.

Three weeks after the Senate voted to remove him following impeachment proceedings, Democratic lawmakers have begun to appeal to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hoping that the military may be able to resolve the situation, which has shaken American politics and law to its core.

On May 5, the House voted to initiate impeachment proceedings, claiming that Cruz's use of the 14th Amendment to slash government spending and shutter five Cabinet departments -- including Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy -- was a violation of Constitutional Law.

Cruz eliminated the departments after vetoing a debt ceiling increase passed by Congress. Attorney General Louie Gohmert claimed the 14th Amendment gave Cruz the power to slash expenditures to avoid a default on U.S. debt, even though they had been appropriated by Congress. Gohmert cited President Barack Obama's use of the 14th Amendment to borrow over what Congress had authorized in October of 2013. In that case, Congress failed to pass a debt limit hike despite the risk of default.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Policitians Should--Have To--Be Paid During A Shutdown

You've probably heard by now that one of the weird and outrageous little quirks of a government shutdown is that, while hundreds of thousands of public servants struggle to make ends meet, paychecks for members of Congress will still arrive right on time.

Why does this happen? More importantly, why is this allowed to happen? Why on Earth hasn't Congress passed a bill ensuring that senators and representatives--earning $174,000 a year--are in the same boat as rank-and-file employees.

You'd agree with that law. I agree with that law. I have a hard time imaging any sort of argument against that law. But it turns out writing a law like that is surprisingly difficult, and would likely be more trouble than it's worth. For better or worse, it's preferable to keep the paychecks for politicians coming.

First of all, the reason why. Others have already done a great job explaining this, so I'll just give the quick Reader's Digest version.

A shutdown is a failure of the government to pass a yearly appropriations bill. But congressional pay isn't part of the yearly appropriations bill. This is for two reasons: