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The politics of publicly teaching modern American civics


Practical Politics

Quite easily this week’s column could analyze the latest developments in California’s modern Reparations adventure, given the recent reports rendered by the California Reparations Commission, and the San Francisco City Reparations Commission. Both have certainly pushed the needle forward. But, as much as it is ‘burning a hole in my pocket,’  that will have to hold until next week.

Instead, we will opine on the continuing modern political science lessons being provided to the American public in real time. Courts are still handing down sentences for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection against the orderly transfer of power in the U.S. version of democracy. The former POTUS, Mr. Trump, even as he campaigns for re-election, remains the subject of numerous current indictments, both criminal and civil, and is being criminally investigated for federal obstruction of justice charges connected to the possible theft and misuse of classified government documents during his time out of office.

If the latter goes badly for him and he is indicted and convicted, he may be barred from running for or holding any elective office in the U.S. by the terms of the very rarely used disqualification section of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, through the small Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the country itself is currently being told that unless the Biden administration submits to what the Republicans in Congress want, the full faith and credit of the American government will be sacrificed beginning this June, 2023. Such a result would be a world calamity, not just a U.S. one, since the American dollar is the planet’s principal sovereign currency and cannot ever be allowed to be insolvent.

The current POTUS, Mr. Biden, in response to such Republican intransigence, may issue a heretofore never used Executive Order to maintain America’s credit worthiness based on a section of the U.S. Constitution not previously used for this situation.

It is Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, and the text reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”

Several leading legal scholars, including Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, have recently opined that the POTUS may very well have that singular authority.

While the Constitution, from its colonial beginnings, has always given the power of the nation’s purse (its national budget) to Congress, the debt ceiling is recognized as separate from the U.S. budget. That may provide Mr. Biden the authority to order the Secretary of the Treasury, currently Janet Yellen, to move forward with paying and securing America’s debt, thereby eliminating the current problem, and providing the Executive Branch with a heretofore unknown authority. This would be a major and public growth of the U.S. Constitution in plain sight.

In spite of the current damage being done to the status and reputation of American democracy by a compromised set of Supreme Court judges, and by the steady proliferation of assault rifle-gunners murdering American school children (and other citizens), American constitutional government is yet alive and growing (hopefully not just metastasizing).

Our youth need to see and accept that it still works and that if they stick with it, it will continue to get better. Whether it is the best, we are not now nor may we ever be sure. But that it is worthy, and should be fought for and maintained, is certainly self- evident.

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 stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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