In all of the furor over the impending public debt crisis in the United States, due solely to House Republicans' threatened refusal to raise the debt limit, there is a simple, and indeed well-known, solution: President Barack Obama merely needs to follow the dictates of his Oath of Office to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. That Oath equally covers all Amendments to our Constitution, one of which, the Fourteenth Amendment, clearly states: The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, shall not be questioned.
Yet, for bizarre and unexplained reasons, the Obama Administration appears to prefer appeasing the Republican Forces of Darkness by refusing to invoke his clear Constitutional power -- and, indeed, mandate -- to avoid and prevent any such public debt default possibility. Last week, the uninspiring White House Press Secretary publicly wussed out, claiming, "We do not believe that the Fourteenth Amendment provides that authority to the president." Two days later, on Sunday, the uninspiring Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew repeated that mistaken point, adding that he believes the president would have "no option" to prevent a default on his own. So, the net result is that Barack Obama has key staff members advising him to break his own Oath of Office by failing to prevent a public debt default as he is mandated to do.
According to Sean Wilents, in a definitive Op Ed in the October 7 New York Times, assertions that the president of the United States has no authority to prevent a debt default "have no basis in the history of the 14th Amendment; indeed, they distort that history, and in doing so shackle the president. In fact, the record clearly shows that Congress intended the amendment to prevent precisely the abuses that the current House Republicans blithely condone. Congress passed the 14th Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification in June, 1866. Its section on the public debt began as an effort to ensure that the government would not be liable for debts accrued by the defeated Confederacy, but also to ensure that its own debt would be honored." Thus, confidence in our federal government absolutely requires public debt repayment in full and on time, and necessary steps to be taken to insure such debt repayment in the future as well.
Past presidents, from Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, well understood that even any appearance of a public debt default -- such as that caused by failing to raise the debt limit when necessary -- would be unthinkably detrimental to our nation. (Think: Greece!) Lincoln also well understood that he would be vilified for taking the Constitutional stance and honoring his Oath of Office in this regard; he was known to make the analogy that his being blamed for following the Constitution would be similar to a highwayman holding someone up, then shooting and killing that person, and then claiming that the victim was instead actually the murderer.
Our public debt is indeed backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America -- Barack Obama needs to enforce and reinforce that full faith and credit, not to undercut it. Invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, Mr. President, and then let us move forward with the people's business in this nation. And, if the Republican Party wishes to self-destruct over their misconduct on this matter, that may be all the better!
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)