03 May 2023

Simply Refuse to let the US default on its debt

I am completely uninterested in legal technical reasons against my view that what I'm suggesting here is the way forward given the insane intransigence of the Republican caucus in the house with regard to the debt ceiling. We are beyond the phase where legal niceties can be allowed to impede action to protect our country from catastrophe. I won't even go into why using the already incurred debt of the United States is profoundly damaging to the country and downright unpatriotic in its essence. I think everyone of good faith and even modest intelligence already understands that. But my point is this: the extortion of the Republicans is an anti-constitutional, wholly unjustified, and potentially truly devastating action which has no justifiable rationale or purpose other than naked, anti-democratic power grabbing. So, I argue, the response must be equally blatant and willing to set aside tradition based on civility and "not upsetting the applecart." Too late for that: the applecart is racing toward the cliff edge, and it's getting close fast. 

Section 4 of the  Fourteenth Amendment 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."

So, the Biden administration should get an OLC opinion tout de suite to the effect that the WW1 era debt ceiling law is unconstitutional under this provision, and the administration simply will not default on the US debt no matter what the House or Senate do, because the Constitution trumps their actions. 

Of course, the Righties will sue. Take it to their stacked Supreme Court. But that will put the issue in its most naked power-struggle terms: Will the Supreme Court actually vote to throw the world economy into depression, and probably destroy the advantageous position of the US dollar as the reference currency and its debt as a "gold standard," foreverMaybe they will, but as I see it there is no real alternative if the Rightists in Congress refuse to secure the debt, and the question must be pressed. The fact is that by any reasonable interpretation the debt laws do contradict the 14th amendment, in that there is no way to satisfy the provisions of both if the Congress refuses to act to secure the debt. The Biden administration should try in good faith to get them to back down, without giving in to blackmail on policy that is, in fact, profoundly and overwhelmingly unpopular. But if, as appears likely, the fascists in the Right Wing caucus refuse to protect the financial stability of our nation, the administration should simply say that in their view the Constitution prohibits this from happening, so they're just not going to do it. We will pay the debts our nation has incurred, no matter what the right wing traitors say. 

Paul Krugman a while back opined that this was probably the fallback position, or something like it, for the Democratic administration. But I would argue that the time is at hand. In order to protect our country from serious negative impacts which even the threat of default (as we learned in 2011 when they tried this before)... can cause. The announcement should be prepared, and should actually be given, soon. This charade needs to be brought to a final and decisive end, soon. And if the Supreme Court decides to pitch us into a global financial crisis and at the same time probably the worst Constitutional crisis since the Civil War, so be it. At least the battle lines will have been drawn unmistakably. 

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