"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Let’s Impeach Congress”: Failure To Pay Debt Is ‘Unconstitutional’

In what has become an annoying and unnecessary annual ritual, Congressional Republicans and the White House have staked out their political ground as we approach this year’s Season of the Witch—the time when any remaining shred of reason in government is retired in favor of political posturing over the debt ceiling.

Appearing this morning on ABC’s “This Week”, Obama made clear that he has no interest whatsoever in cooperating with Speaker John Boehner’s demand for budget cuts in trade for House GOPers permitting the government to pay the debts it has already incurred.

Speaking in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, the President stated:

“Never in history have we used just making sure that the U.S. government is paying its bills as a lever to radically cut government at the kind of scale that they’re talking about,” he said. “It’s never happened before. There’ve been negotiations around the corners, because nobody had ever presumed that you’d actually threaten the United States to default.”

Speaker Boehner would beg to differ, noting earlier this week—

“For decades, the White House, the Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt,” Boehner said. “So President Obama is going to have to deal with this as well.”

While there may be a small element of truth in Boehner’s words regarding the use of the annual debt ceiling as a tool to manage deficit and debt in previous days, that doesn’t mean that many participants in either the Congress or the Administration, prior to 2011, have ever viewed such an effort as a legitimate means of negotiating the annual budget nor perceived the threat of default as something to be followed through upon.

Nor does it mean that prior occupants of the White House ever found the threat of default to be a particularly useful exercise.

Indeed, were we to go back to President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s perspective on such an action, we find that The Gipper didn’t much care for the approach—

“Unfortunately, Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veteran’s benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in the financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility—two things that set us apart from much of the world.”

Despite these words offered up by Ronald Reagan—the golden calf worshipped by true-believing Republicans everywhere—the Congressional Republicans appear to, once again, hope that the American public will forget—or simply fail to grasp—that it was Congress who authorized the very expenditures that now require a raise in the debt ceiling if these bills are to be paid.

Obama also offered one more, rather tantalizing thought in his Stephanopoulos interview when he noted that Congress’ constant efforts to use the the debt ceiling as leverage “changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.”

Could the President be telegraphing that he may now be willing to use Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling without Congress in the event of an unfortunate vote—something that Obama has previously been unwilling to do?

The fact that Congress, including House Republicans, authorized these expenditures is of no consequence to those who seek to reap what they perceive as the political benefits of agreeing to spend on items that the public wants and then shift the blame onto the White House every year when it comes time to pay for Congress’ actions.

And while Boehner takes liberties with history in an effort to make himself look tough—a rather comical effort given that exactly nobody believes that the Speaker is in control of much of anything these days—what is genuinely scary is the fact that it is Speaker Boehner who passes for “reasonable’ among today’s House Republicans.

Increasingly, the House of Representatives is under the control of the extremists who are pushing hard to both default on the debt and shut down the entire government if Obama refuses to cave to their desire to defund the President’s landmark legislation, Obamacare.

Still worse, these extremists continue to hold a grudge over the previous failures to shut down the government and default on our obligations at debt ceiling time and are just itching to make it happen this year.

While I would truly enjoy the opportunity to egg these people on in the firm belief that a government shut-down at the hands of Republican extremists could be just the thing to rid ourselves of this scourge once and for all, I admit that some restraint is required when considering who would be left to suffer the consequences.

What would a government shutdown mean to Americans?

As it happens, we’ve had some experience with this so let’s take a look at what happened when the House Republicans shut down the government in 1995-96:

  • More than 400,000 veterans saw their disability benefits and pension claims delayed.
  • Educational benefits were delayed for 170,000 veterans
  • Instead of providing benefits to veterans, a number of VA hospitals were forced to set up food banks for their employees who were going without pay checks.
  • Approximately $3 billion in U.S. exports couldn’t leave the country because the Commerce Department couldn’t issue export licenses.
  • For the first time in the federal unemployment program’s 60-year history, six states ran out of federal funds to pay unemployment benefits.
  • Processing and deportation of illegal immigrants stopped, and employers were unable to verify job applicants’ immigration status.
  • 10,000 new Medicare applications and 212,000 Social Security requests were delayed.
  • Tens of thousands of Americans could not purchase a home because the Federal Housing Administration was unable to insure single family home loans.
  • EPA’s enforcement activities were stopped and toxic waste clean-up at more than 600 sites slowed or came to a halt.
  • 95% of workplace safety activities were halted.
  • The Department of Interior stopped inspecting oil and gas well on public lands.
  • 760,000 American workers were either furloughed or worked without pay.
  • 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed.

It stretches the imagination to understand how anyone could view such an action as helpful at a time when the American economy is struggling to recover and when recent wars have left so many veterans in need of the benefits that would stop flowing as a result of a shut-down.

Thus, while the idea of “teaching Obama a lesson” or doing something drastic to get the national debt under control may appeal to many, my suggestion would be that you familiarize yourself with who will directly suffer as a result of your grand plans. If trashing the economy, denying veterans their benefits and slowing down social security payments to your parents works for you, knock yourself out.

If not, you might consider letting your representatives know that you are not in favor of such a ridiculous effort to resolve our problems.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, September 15, 2013

September 16, 2013 - Posted by | Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , ,

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