Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Debt Ceiling, Balanced Budget Amendment, and Ronald Reagan's Ass

It is frightfully obvious to me, based on some of the recent comments in social media circles, that many people do not understand what the Debt Ceiling (or Limit) really is.  The Constitution grants power to Congress to appropriate funds to run the country.  The political process by which this is done has become very convoluted over the years, but basically, appropriations bills passed by Congress are basically telling the Executive Branch to spend the money.  If the money is not readily available, then the US Government sells bonds to raise the money.  After a certain amount of time, the US Government must pay back that money.  In this case, we have been borrowing a heckuva lot of money and the bills are coming due on a daily basis.  The Debt Ceiling basically restricts how much we can pay back to those we have already borrowed money from.  It has NOTHING to do with future spending.  This is simply paying back the money that the government has already agreed to spend.  It's like you borrowing money to buy a car.  Once you have committed to buying the car, you are obligated to pay the money back according to the terms of your loan. Failure to do so results in a default.  In the case of a car, it will get repo'd (and then you can appear on a game show).  In the case of a government, you default, and you leave a lot of people very angry for not paying your bills and less likely to loan money to you in the future when you will really need it.

So, to recap, the debt ceiling is about meeting our obligations for money we have already spent as a nation and has nothing to do with future spending.  These should be two separate arguments, but Republicans decided to be asses about it this time around because Obama is President.  They didn't give a shit about raising it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, when Bush was President and he ran two wars "off" budget.  The Treasury still had to borrow the money however.

There are those who argue that the debt ceiling should be abolished all together.   Why?  Because Congress has already approved the spending of that money, why should they have to approve spending that money again?  Second, it is very likely unconstitutional.  The Fourteenth Amendment states,
Section 4. 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.
Former President Bill Clinton has states that he thinks Obama should stop playing games with the Republicans and simply order the Treasury to continue to pay the bills as directed by the Fourteenth Amendment in which the public debt shall not be questioned

Ronald Reagan.  Yes, Ronald fucking Reagan, begged for Congress to increase the debt limit when he was President citing unknown dire consequences if they did not.  This is the same Ronald fucking Reagan that Republicans worship and would ass kiss 'til the cows come home.  Even the homophobic ones!  (That's pretty much all of them, right?)

Also, in the case of current economy, the United States should be spending MORE money on a job stimulus.  What happens when you put people back to work?  Well, you pay less unemployment compensation and you bring in more revenue for payroll taxes and income taxes.  Duh.

The Republicans are also making a big deal of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which is another asinine idea of theirs.  Yes, it is populist.  Why should the government not live within its means like we all do?  But we don't.  How much do you own on  your house, your car, student loans?  Do you have the case on hand to pay for that today?  No, you don't.  Therefore,  you are in violation of your own Balanced Budget Amendment.  Our economy functions on credit and debt.  Large capital purchases are not possible without this.  Also, if the Government is forced into a BBA, then what do we do when a natural disaster hits, like Katrina, or the Big One is California?  What if we have to fight another war?  What if we have to stimulate the economy as a result of the next recession?  Then what?  Restricting the ability of the US Government to borrow money above and beyond its budget is absolutely critical to national survival, stability, and security.  To pass a BBA, no matter how populist, would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.  But then, we are talking about the Republicans here, so who the fuck knows that idiotic shit them come up with next.

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