Why taking the 14th won’t help our debt crisis.

Well, today was the day, by some accounts that was the deadline for getting our debt crisis fixed. After all, it’s not enough to pass a bill, you have to do everything that is needed to bring it down to having a practical impact.

And that isn’t going to happen.

So now, presuming no moves of compromise, a new hope is that President Obama will “take the 14th” and unilaterally raise the ceiling.

The justification for this can be found here:

Some analysts say no — Obama can simply order the Treasury to pay its bills even if Congress refuses to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“Preventing default is no less justified than using American military power to protect against an armed invasion without a congressional declaration of war,” Bruce Bartlett writes in Fiscal Times.

Like others, Bartlett cites a section of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”

“This could easily justify the sort of extraordinary presidential action to avoid default that I am suggesting,” Bartlett writes.

So, the president orders, and thus, everything works fine, right?

Wrong.  There are two problems with this.

1. There is no real certainty that the 14th amendment would be held to give the executive that sort of wide ranging authority.  This would be a major constitutional crisis, easily on a par with any that have come before, calling into question the separation of powers within the United States government. Some Republicans have already threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings should the president do so, and while we can’t be certain how it would turn out, we can be certain that the federal government would be paralyzed…and would you loan money to a group that might not be in power to repay you?

2.  Bond ratings aren’t simply about ability to pay, they’re about the stability of the government in question.  Third world nations aren’t simply bad risks because they don’t have any money– they’re bad risks because your money may become their money if there is a shift in power.  With a government in disarray with the executive being forced to use powers that have never been tested in the court system and congress quite possibly launching (however doomed to failure) impeachment proceedings, even a blind man would be able to see that our government is not stable, and more importantly, the question of who got paid and how might very well depend on who won the political battle.

In other words, welcome to the united states of Third Worldia.

There is no solution to this other than a debt ceiling deal, in congress.  Clever tricks won’t help, because they will, if anything, make the instability worse.  Fundamentally, the Washington political situation is at a stalemate not seen since the 1930’s, and until that is resolved, don’t be surprised if bond agencies rate us as a bad risk.


Wow, and people thought Bush was bad.

Remember one of the complaints about Bush?  That he got us into wars we didn’t need to be in, for bad reasons?

We probably owe him something of an apology, because certainly this Libyan idiocy is on a par with his adventures.

Now, Colonel Gaddafi is a very bad man.  He’s likely not as bad, on a bodies per year basis as Saddam Hussein, but he’s still a very bad man.  However, being a very bad man, if it is grounds for bombing you, would see the bomb industry probably become the worlds #1 employer.  We need more than that.

Well, he’s done terrible things to his citizens!  That was the argument we got, when the US entered into enforcing a no-fly zone, without mind you, the president getting permission from Congress. 

Fine.  The argument could be made that in this case, the facts on the ground were moving too fast for Congress to take action.  But now we’re seeing a move from no-fly to regime change.

All this from a no fly resolution– a resolution which it must be stated, in no place makes the statement that Gaddafi must go.

in fact, this part:

“6.   Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians;”  Refers explicitly to civilians, but groups engaged in armed rebellion are not treated as civilians– they’re treated as combatants.  The use of aircraft to directly support the rebels is nowhere backed by the resolution, which right now is the only legal fig leaf these attacks have going for them.

Now, why should we care?  Again, he’s a very bad man.  Well, first of all, so far he’s a very bad man who is winning. What happens when the air strikes alone, as has been proven from WWII on, don’t achieve the goal?  Do we storm the beaches?  If not, what than– he’ll have little incentive for ever dealing with the west again, since he’ll have pretty well eliminated his internal competition.

Second of all, we know very little about the rebels– if upon entering Tripoli, courtesy of Western fire power, they engage in a celebratory massacre?  Are we also now required to provide security and internal governance for Libya?

Lastly, and from the long term perspective, most worrying is Sarkozy’s statement here:

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned all Arab rulers that they risk Libya-type intervention if they cross a certain line of violence against their own people.

The president told press at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (24 March) that UN Security Council resolution 1973 authorising air strikes on Libya has created a legal and political precedent on the “responsibility to protect.”

Very inspiring isn’t it?  Especially since the implication is that this single resolution, which never even referred to regime change, now has produced a lasting precedent, one which presumably means nations won’t even have to bother with that pesky security council.

Of course, because of the current problems with NATO’s bombs, it’s likely that it’s a precedent the  United States will have to back up– one hopes that this time, Congress, of either party, might be consulted.

So there you are– on flimsy reasons, an attack is launched against a foe that however nasty wasn’t at war with the US, which is now putting us in a position of not only risking an open ended involvement in  Libya, but opening up involvement in God knows how many other states, that has no end game, no exit strategy (well other than the good colonel dying and his replacements proving to be tractable democrats), at the very point that we continue to be stretched thin by our other military commitments.

Strangely enough, I thought one of the reasons we voted the Republicans out of the White House was to reduce this sort of thing.