OK, enough of this machismo bravado over money the United States of America already owes.
Here’s the skinny: if there is no miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue by or before Monday, Aug. 1, President Barack Obama will change the entire game by invoking the 14th amendment authority to always pay America’s debts. As commander-in-chief and the highest ranking elected official sworn to protect and defend this country, President Obama will cite this debt-ceiling crisis as a challenge to America’s national security interests, and take charge.
It will be a round-house right to the chin of the Republican Party from which it may not recover before the count of 10 and the 2012 elections. Many will say good riddance to hard-hearted politicians. As I’ve said before in this column, Repubs are good at running for office; but they seem regularly to make a mess of running the government.
The question is, what are the implications of such a drastic step by the POTUS? For one thing, it will restore the markets’ nerves. Both moneyed people greedily swapping credits, people’s mortgages, U.S. creditors, Social Security recipients and a host of others will breathe a sigh of relief. The international markets will exhale. Finally, someone will firmly take charge, even if reluctantly and begrudgingly, and provide a solid reference point for moving on down the road of regular government and finance. As some would say, the POTUS will, taking that step, restore civility and common sense to a governing body seemingly on loco weed.
Secondly, this country will stop looking to the world like a drunken sailor blinded by arrogance, unable to handle his inebriated spirits, and prideful ignorance of the realistic consequences of driving too close to the cliff’s ragged edge in the dead of night. Somebody will have stopped the car and dragged out the dangerous driver.
Thirdly, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s will back off of their threat to downgrade America’s credit rating because of uncertainty that the U.S.A. can pay its debts. That AAA credit rating is nearly a century old, and is part and parcel of America’s world standing as number one.
Fourthly, although the Repubs may, in fact, try impeaching Mr. Obama (impeachment occurs when the House of Representatives takes a simple majority vote to indict the president), it will be a checkmate move to an opponent’s badly played chess game. To be sure, except for initial embarrassment, and further demonstration of the desperation of sore losers, nothing will come of a House vote to impeach. That will merely be a temper tantrum. Mr. Obama cannot be removed from office by the Repubs in that way. The Senate has to cooperate, and it won’t.
Fifthly, coming out at the same time as the movie, “Captain America,” this country will have a new political hero. The polls clearly demonstrate a deeply held belief among the citizens that a strong, firm hand of a lover of this country is needed, and needed right now. There is too much stress, and not enough relief in our daily lives, so who needs this extra burden? Mr. Obama will be hailed as an all-American hero to the majority of this country’s residents.
And last, yes, it will precipitate a constitutional conflict of truly minimal proportions. Why? The president will have taken powers, at least temporarily, that should ordinarily belong to Congress.
That body authorizes programs and appropriates the necessary money to fund them. The debt ceiling is simply an estimated cap on the spending voted on by Congress, both in the budget, spending resolutions, etc. In other words, a previous Congress has already legitimately authorized and appropriated the money the U.S.A. is now obligated to pay, whether in government bonds, military pay, etc. This current Congress is saying it wants to re-look at some of those monetary decisions and decide whether it wants to make follow through on payments for debts incurred.
The 14th amendment says that is not constitutionally valid; America’s debts must be paid, and the nation cannot default.
Congress will be shown up for the club of ideological warfare it has become (some say, the main stage for class warfare), and it will be publicly pressured to do the right thing and either pass a relevant debt ceiling later in August or September, or do away with the device altogether. A congressional debt ceiling has not always been a part of American government.
By the way, the debt ceiling, in reality, has virtually nothing to do with America’s deficit, and it is a separate process from agreeing on and passing an annual national budget. Somehow, the public discussion has merged all of that into the same thing. The debt ceiling is simply a limit on the amount of money the U.S. government can obligate itself to, sort of like the credit card limits most of us have to live with and be embarrassed by when our cards are declined. But once we’ve spent the money–on clothes, food, entertainment, housing, whatever–we have to pay the bill.
The president is going to make sure the debts the country has incurred will be paid. Our hats are off to him. Be the man, Mr. President. Be the man.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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