Friday, January 4, 2013

Another reason debt ceiling is unconstitutional

Many commentators have noted that the Congress makes laws the determine what money the President must spend, and laws that determine what taxes he must levy.  Those two sets of laws arithmetically determine what the deficit, or amount that the President must borrow, will be.  And the President is under a constitutional requirement to not default on the US debt, which is constantly being redeemed and rolled over into new debt.  Therefore, the Debt Ceiling law is unconstitutional.

Another constitutionality argument is this: it violates the President's veto power.  If the debt ceiling is being reached, as always because of previous laws, if there is also a debt ceiling law, the president may have no choice but to accept whatever law congress drafts, so long as it also raises the debt ceiling, to meet his constitutional requirements.  But to have no choice violates the President's veto power.

Although not setting this up as a constitutional issue, this second idea is what must have inspired Paul Krugman and others to call this a "hostage" crisis.  The very solvency of the US is the hostage.  Congress says, "accept this law, or we'll shoot."

Now many like me fear the President will not hold firm, not pressing these or other constitutional arguments, or use his existing legal authority to mint a trillion dollar coin to monetize the deficit, but instead cave in one or more ways, such as cutting Social Security and Medicare.  Some of those will also say, this is what, as a center-right politician, Obama wanted all along.

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