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General News    H2'ed 10/14/13

Denial in the Face of Default

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Why Is Surrender So Often The President's First Option? 

By William Boardman --  Reader Supported News


How many empty chambers are there?
How many empty chambers are there?
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Debt Ceiling?  What Debt Ceiling?  That's a unicorn in Congress's garden!

For all the talk about the United States approaching a catastrophic Debt Ceiling and subsequent unprecedented but exceptional default that would have unpredictable but probably dire impact on pretty much everybody, one thing you don't hear much is that There is No Debt Ceiling.

Seriously, the relevant law literally does nothing to control the national debt. A serious Debt Ceiling law would prevent Congress from appropriating expenditures beyond the debt limit.  Congress has never done that, Congress probably never would do that, even if it could. Congress doesn't want to do that, and it would probably be irresponsible for Congress to do that.   

Presumably a president could veto any appropriation that exceeded the Debt Ceiling of the moment, but why would a president do that? 

The Debt Ceiling is a legal fiction, a fantasy, a mindless game the United States has been playing with itself since 1917, for reasons that defy rational comprehension. There is no compelling constitutional basis for this contra-constitutional legalism.  The only other democratic country in the world with a Debt Ceiling is Denmark, where it is an empty formality that tracks with the reality of government spending and has never been manipulated to create a dishonest debt "crisis." 

Even the phrase "Debt Ceiling" is false on its face. The law does nothing to stop the accumulation of debt by Congress.  What the law does is hamper the executive branch, the Treasury Dept., in paying off debt that Congress voted into law. Congress, in its traditionally narrow vision, creates one law to make the president spend money and another law to prevent him from spending it, and then expects him to obey both laws. 

Isn't it un-American for Congress to make us all play Russian roulette? 

In other words, the Debt Ceiling dance is an inherently stupid charade, a kind of Russian roulette that the Republicans now think would be fun to play with no empty chambers. That would be no empty chambers in the revolver, empty chambers among the people's representatives is another matter entirely. 

The ridiculousness of the Debt Ceiling duplicity has been apparent to most sentient people right along, that's why congressional passage of bills to raise the Debt Ceiling were, until recently, largely theatrical opportunities for public posturing that even the performing demagogues knew was an empty gesture, since the comedy had a foregone conclusion: the bill would pass the Debt Ceiling would be raised to cover the expenses Congress had already incurred. 

Somewhere along the line, sanity lost its edge and now the nihilist know-nothings in Congress, in the House of Representatives, in the Republican caucus are allowed to hold that fully-loaded revolver to everybody's head and play Russian roulette with the world. This would make some sense in an Oliver Stone movie, the audience might thrill to the spectacle of so many people's blood and brains blown against the clean, white, and imaginary walls of law and tradition.  Then they'd walk out of the theatre.  We can't.  

Or can we? 

Why won't President Obama act like a president? 

If President Obama would act forcefully and decisively (presidentially!) then this phony crisis would be over faster than the Secret Service could shoot a crazy person racing across the White House lawn.  (This is NOT an argument for using lethal force on Congress, no matter how justified that could be made to seem.) 

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)
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