Email Correspondence between myself and a friend; Read from bottom:


Email sent by me: Jul 13 11:51 PM

Just a typo. I find I’m doing that more and more these days. I just reread my first email and I substituted Arizona for Arkansas at one point.

Email sent by friend: Jul 13, 2011 10:41:18 PM

Good stuff!

(Did you mean hearse, or was that an unintentional-yet-entertaining typo?)


Email sent by me: July 13, 2011, 5:43 PM

“There appears to be no basis in the legislative history, or arguably in the structure of the Constitution itself, that can support an executive power to borrow funds,” the research service said in the report, which was released to several congressional offices this week and was reviewed by The Washington Times.

White House rules out Constitutional end-around Congress:

I wished I had been able to introduce this into yesterday’s conversation. It turns out the Executive Branch does not have the power to borrow money. That power resides in the House. It’s the first power listed after taxes.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

Not only that but in Section 9 of Article 1 specifices the Treasury of the United States can’t spend money unless it’s authorized by law. This explains why we have an annual appropriations cycle. This lets the Treasury know what it can spend money on.

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

So, at the end of the day, Congress has to authorize via law the Executive Branch to borrow money as well as to spend it. Obama can veto the legislation, but doing so doesn’t grant the Treasury the power to go borrow the money without legislation. If Congress does nothing, then the Executive branch has a choice to make as to who shall be paid. The only payment that appears to be mandated is paying off the debt. So, someone else is going to have to do without for awhile.

I suppose Congress could pass a law that in this specific circumstance could rank who gets paid first, but that would be putting the cart before the hurse.



Debt Ceiling Politics

July 13, 2011

<<A recent email sent from me to a friend>>

Note: Obama doesn’t say we’re not going to pay down the debt and McConnell says we’re not going to default.

Here’s McConnell:

“After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. Still, McConnell said Republicans would “do the responsible thing” to avoid default, suggesting that a deal on the debt ceiling could be reached without a “real” deficit reduction package.

Here’s the President:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly said he wants a deal that would allow the U.S. to avoid confronting the issue again until after the 2012 elections and vowed on Monday that he would “not sign a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day extension.”

“This the United States of America and, you know, we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments. You know, we don’t risk U.S. default on our obligations because we can’t put politics aside,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House yesterday.

My thoughts:

When the President complains we’re not putting politics aside it generally means someone else is not doing what he wants. The debt ceiling has been raised 10 times since 2001. So, Obama must think his position is weak if he’d rather delay the next vote until after the election in 2012. This assessment assumes the President’s word is not to be trusted, which is a subject I’ll deal with later in this email.

You may think this is all theatrics, but such theatrics are important. Say you’re Boehner (pronounced BAANER). You don’t get that many opportunities to show your fellow Congressman that you’re serious about their concerns. So, if you’re leading a bunch of guys who were just swept into office to reduce the size of government and keep taxes low in the words of the street, you have got to represent.

If they don’t think you’ve don’t strongly carried that message to the President, then you have lost credibility with the people you ostensibly lead. Once that happens then the opposition knows you no longer speak for the caucus and your position becomes weak.

So, there’s a big difference between just showing up one day to raise the debt limit and fighting the good fight, not compromising, then raising the debt limit to fight the good fight another day. So, bottom line, Boehner and McConnell have to show they represent their constituents. After all their colleagues voted them into their respective positions.

In the quote above, McConnell appears to following the strategy I outlined on the Board. We’re going to send the President a bill that avoids default. Not much more. Then we’ll see what happens when the Demcratic Senate and the President have the ball in their court.

As for the Constitution, now that I’m thinking clearly. The Constitution does provide a mechanism whereby the country can pay it’s debt. It has the ability to borrow money to pay it. The Treasury department has this power. But the Legilature has curbed this power by setting a debt ceiling. As the first debt ceiling was imposed in 1962, it must be a fairly established fact the Leglislature has this Constitutional power.

There are a lot of helpful facts about the debt ceiling here:

Now let’s go through the scenario you (a friend) posed earlier today. The entire budget is debt payments, and we need to borrow more money to make those debt payments, but Congress has used it’s Constitutional power to impose a limit on the amount of debt the US can have. The Constitution itself has not created this problem. Rather, the disagreements of two branches of the government have created this problem.

This can happen any time one branch of the government doesn’t do what another branch wants it to do. Say Congress declares war on Mexico, but the President doesn’t committ any troops (okay, this didn’t happen), but some argue the Executive branch is consciously not enforcing the law of the land regarding border control. It’s subtle, but it raises a larger issue.

As for an event that did happen, in 1954 the Supreme Court says that schools must be integrated. In 1957 the Governor of Arkansas actively resists enforcing the law of the land. To back up his position he calls out the National Guard. This was a no-holds-barred Constitutional crisis. To resolve it, Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne and nationalized the command structure of the Arkansas National Guard. Now, of course, there are a lot of issues around using the army for a police action, but Eisenhower felt it was the right thing to do, and no one on the Federal level called him on it. Thus, by deferring to the President, the crisis was resolved.

The Constitution has no remedy for this sort of thing, because it assumes the various branches of government are going to do their job and follow the rules. In my opinion Eisenhower’s is one of the ballsiest decisions a President has ever made. It was not inconceivable that the US Army could have engaged in battle with the Arizona National Guard. But like the Whisky Rebellion the locals recognized you don’t mess with an overwhelming force.

But what if a Southerner had been President of the United States? It’s not unthinkable he could have deferred to the Governor. Life would have gone on, but beyond the injustice involved, the Executive branch would have assumed a new power. The ability to ignore the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court couldn’t decide this one since it was the branch of government being ignored. You (my friend again) argued yesterday it couldn’t solve our immediate problem, but instead would tell the President and the Legislature to resolve it. Okay, but those are the two branches of government who aren’t resolving it.

Who wins in this situation? Probably whoever has the police and the army on its side, and if people don’t like that, then they can take to the streets. It can happen anywhere.

You might say. Hey, in this case, it’s clear. Congress has imposed its will unnecessarily, and the Executive Branch should have the right to do what it wants here. Perhaps, but not only does the Constitution mandate the payment of the debt, but also it mandates the three branches of government work within the framework it outlines. That’s actually the primary purpose of the Constitution. Paying the debt is just something that was added on after the Civil War so that speculators could get paid off.

Regardless, paying debt and enumerated powers are both part of the Constitution. My point-of-view (not well expressed earlier) is the Constitutional mandate to pay the debt is no more or no less important than the three branches of government following their enumerated powers. On another day I’ll argue paying the debt is chump change compared to following the enumerated powers. In one case, China gets screwed. In the other, you and I are living in a dictatorship (As Richard Blaine said in Casablanca, “. . . not today and not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life”). I know which one I like.

All that said, my argumentation yesterday was irrational. I knew it at the time, and I know it now. The reason for that is the President is saying the 14th Amendment gives him the power to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Like firing the CEO of GM or giving the unions a better deal than bondholders, this is not an enumerated power of the Executive Branch. He’s been doing this a lot. Don’t like Congress not enacting the carbon emissions legislation you like? Well, just get the EPA to issue a regulation. Don’t like how your own health care legislation is impacting some favored constituents? Well, just have Sibelius issue a waiver.

We are moving beyond rule of law, and it pisses me off. For this and other reasons I do not place much trust in the President. So, when I hear he wants to do something, then I think it must be the wrong thing to do. If he wanted to get our troops out of Afghanistan, then I would reflexively think that’s wrong, even though independently of his desire, I think that’s probably the right thing to do. This is not unusual thinking. When Iraq and Afghanistan became Obama’s conflicts, most, but not all, opposition from the Left evaporated. Who mattered more than what.

So, when I heard you opening up a line of conversation that potentially supported the idea the President had the authority to do something he clearly does not have the authority to do the hair on the back of my neck went up.

No one wants to default on the debt. If Congress doesn’t act or Obama vetoes the bill, then either the Executive branch is gong to pay the debt anyway or the debt is not going to be paid. Either way, the terms of the Constitution are going to be broken. It’s just a matter of which one.

Everyone’s got an opinion. Even National Review, which backs up the House, but not the Senate, says they need to make it clear the debt’s going to be paid, and the social security checks are going to go out.

I expect one way or another they’ll pass a bill and send it to the Senate. That’s when it really gets interesting.

You may find. . .

July 12, 2011

. . . this mixture of views on Communism, Western Democracy, hearings, Judeo-Christian faith, Islam, adherents, and apostates interesting.

I like the line of Arthur Koestler, an apostate from Communism.

“You hate our Cassandra cries, and resent us as allies — but, when all is said, we ex-Communists are the only people on your side who know what it is all about.”

The author of the article finds similarity in Koestler’s statement to our present circumstances.


I’ve been sceptical of Romney’s candidacy, but he got an unexpected potential endorsement from Jim DeMint.

Like him or hate him DeMint does speak for the Tea Party element of the Republican party. So, he speaks for the folks most likely to pose a problem for the Republicans by pulling a Perot (or a Nader) and handing the Presidency to the party most dissimilar from them. Not a great strategy, but it happens.

DeMint’s endorsement could come at a price. Perhaps, Michelle Bachman as Romney’s running mate. Thus, the moderates and the Tea Party alike would each have something to believe in. Also, the Evangelicals held in check by Romney’s Mormon faith can look beyond him to Bachman, who is clearly one of them.

I had counted Romney out. Now, I’m less confident in that judgment. He’s got name recognition and no one besides Bachman appears to have any charisma.

The Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment prevents a state (in this case Michigan) from adopting a race- and gender-neutral college admission process.

Sorry, this is all I can write. My head is going to explode if I continue.