VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA – President Obama has said clearly that he will not negotiate with the Republican Party if the debt ceiling is used as a bargaining chip. It is not clear what he means by that, but he does have a few options to avoid what many see as an inevitable battle in just a few months; a battle that will make the “fiscal cliff” debacle look like a spilled cup at a tea social.
Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is quite clear that the validity of the national debt (that is whether it must be paid) is not even to be questioned. By suggesting that the debt limit ought not be raised, Congress is arguing that the country ought to default on that debt. The President therefore has the full strength of the Constitution if he simply ignores Congress and orders the department of the Treasury to go ahead and seek funds to service the debt. Members of Congress would be well advised to review their oath of office they seem willing to disregard, wherein they swore to defend and uphold the Constitution.
It has been suggested that Obama could order the mint to strike a single coin and use his presidential authority to designate its value. He could value the coin at any amount he needs – one trillion dollars? – and deposit the coin in the federal reserve and pay off as much of the debt as he wants with US currency. I don’t believe he would do this; it’s not his style in the first place and it would have deleterious effects on the US dollar worldwide…that might help the export manufacturing market, but it wouldn’t do much for the rest, as nobody could afford to buy imported goods…even Chinese junk.
But Obama is dealing with an obstructive Republican opposition who, if nothing else, have repeatedly and consistently lied about their actual agenda.
Their mantra for campaigns and for public consumption is that they want to eliminate the deficit and eventually the national debt; they are adamant that only cuts in spending will do the job and that additional revenues to accomplish their aims ought to be eschewed. On the face of it, that seems contradictory; its inherent incoherence is demonstrated by the convolutions they go through in their rhetoric when they try to justify their rejection of cuts to military spending. A second-level agenda, one that they share with their base but avoid expressing to the public as a whole is their desire to reduce government until it is “small enough to be drowned in a bathtub”. This would make sense, since they seem to be determined to cut off its funding like they would the oxygen of an wealthy invalid uncle. This camouflage is useful because it gives them an ideological cover whenever they block any legislation proposed by the president or the Democratic side of either the House or Senate. They can always repeat the “government is too big” mantra, whatever the bill, and appear to be doctrinally consistent.
The hypocrisy is betrayed by the proposed legislation that Republican state legislatures and even federal Republican lawmakers keep proposing.
As of the first day of the new Congress, the 33rd bill to repeal Obamacare was put to the floor (this time by Michelle Bachman who proudly tweeted her idiot move). The Republicans are fully aware that it would cost the country billions to reverse the legislation, but because this would undermine the president, apparently the spending cuts assume a secondary importance. In the states there is one bill after another, many of which became laws, designed to increase the presence and influence of the government in overseeing matters of personal medical health, reproductive choice, and even control over women’s access to contraceptives. It seems that there is enough money and political will among the Republicans to inflate both the budget and the government in these crucial instances.
Apparently although the US can’t afford to support injured veterans or provide nutritious school lunches, it can afford to have some kind of a tribunal to decide whether a rape was “legitimate” before the state will decide whether the victim should be forced by law to bear the rapist’s child.
But perhaps the most obvious evidence of the duplicity of the Republicans regarding their agenda is their hostage taking of the United States economy. The same party that has fetishised the need to reduce the deficit and eliminate the debt through cutting off the social safety net and throwing the most vulnerable members of society under the bus is the party that seriously proposes defaulting on the national debt. The party of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, who each derided the high percentage of people who are “takers” as opposed to “makers” is advocating telling the world economy and everyone who ever trusted the US government to go whistle for the money they are owed. These same hypocrites are constantly castigating the president for being a profligate spender and threatening to cut off government funding unless he curtails it (on anything for the disenfranchised; they want to continue to subsidise big oil and a bloated redundant post war military) but refuse to acknowledge that it was and is Congress that allocates the money. The president has no power of appropriation; every single expenditure was the result of a vote in Congress, not a presidential discretionary call. The president administers the funds according to the wishes of Congress; the debt was incurred by Congress.
Nevertheless, to get their way – a way the country clearly rejected in a democratic election run primarily on this very point – the Republicans are perfectly willing to allow the United States to become the greatest deadbeat nation in the history of the world. Not only is this catastrophically reckless – it will shut down the US economy and shortly thereafter, the world economy – but it is utterly contrary to their argument that the debt is an enormously toxic problem that necessitates brutal spending cuts. If they are willing to walk away from the debt, why on earth are they not spending like drunken sailors to provide the country with a cushion to survive the economic holocaust they are about to bring upon the entire world?
It would be easy to suspect this Republican House of participating in a conspiracy funded by their billionaire base, and there probably is some truth to that theory. Truthfully, though, a dispassionate observer would have to recognise that the real problem is that as a result of gerrymandering, the House majority is made up of ideologues whose most pronounced shared traits are fanaticism supported by inexperience, naiveté, and indifference to the majority of Americans. And stubbornness bolstered by sheer stupidity in the case of people like Michelle Bachman.
If Obama can stickhandle his way through this farcical Congress for just a few more years without them bringing the country down around all our ears, we will almost certainly see the end of this latest manifestation of radical conservative fanaticism. The pendulum will surely swing back to some semblance of sanity and these clowns will be sent to their respective locker rooms.