Cross one more off the list

Rand Paul votes to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. Not gonna be President.

Glad to see that Rand Paul, as well as Ted Cruz, voted to dishonor the country, wreck its credit, and tank the world economy. The list of Republicans who might actually get elected President in 2016 continues to shrink. (And that’s leaving aside the delicious but implausible prospect of a Jesse Ventura/Howard Stern third-party ticket.)


Update  Make that two more. Purported grown-up Paul Ryan (who’s always struck me more as a five-year-old wearing her mother’s high heels) also voted for national bankruptcy and disgrace. Since he’s a favorite of the plutocracy, I doubt the Chamber would really withhold its cash were he the nominee. But it seems to me that Hillary could pound him into the ground with it.

The 14th Amendment (non)Option

The President can no more borrow money on his own say-so than he can raise taxes on his own say-so. Both powers are clearly assigned to the Congress. So the “14th Amendment Option” is entirely imaginary.

The Constitution assigns to the Congress the power to “borrow money on the credit of the United States.” (Art 1, Sec. 8, second clause.) That’s right after the power to tax.

The President can no more borrow money on his own authority than he can impose taxes on his own authority. Any attempt to do so would be a clear violation of the Constitution.

It is not the case that the debt ceiling is a statutory control imposed on an otherwise empowered President. The Congress used to authorize debt issuance on a case-by-case basis, the way it commissions officers. Then it switched to authorizing debt issuance up to a fixed limit. But without Congressional authorization the Constitution does not allow the President to borrow money. Period.

The 14th Amendment says that the validity of the debt shall not be
questioned. It does not give the President any authority to do anything whatever. If the Republicans allow the government to run out of money, the Treasury has to stop writing checks.

Yes, that’s a bad outcome, which is why we should do everything we can to put pressure on Congressional Republicans to do the right thing. Inventing imaginary ways out of the problem just tells the infants then can keep on making messes because the grown-ups are available to clean up after them.

Update Yes, some of the lunatics have gamed this out. Sarah Palin says that it would be an impeachable offense either for the President to not pay the debt or to borrow to pay it past the limit set by Congress. 

Ben Franklin on John Boehner

Concerning “compromise.”

John Boehner’s ceaseless complaints that the President and the Democrats are acting irresponsibly by refusing to offer him concessions to stop doing what he never should have started to do - damage the national interest by shutting down the government and threaten the national credit and honor by risking default - reminds me of a story Benjamin Franklin told about the behavior of the Townsend Government with respect to the Stamp Tax. Having failed to collect the tax, the ministry offered a compromise: they would repeal the tax if the colonists would pay for the cost of printing the now-useless stamps.

The whole Proceeding would put one in Mind of the Frenchman that used to accost English and other Strangers on the Pont-Neuf, with many Compliments, and a red hot Iron in his Hand; “Pray Monsieur Anglois,” says he, “Do me the Favour to let me have the Honour of thrusting this hot Iron into your Backside?”

“Zoons, what does the Fellow mean! Begone with your Iron or I’ll break your Head!”

“Nay Monsieur,” replies he, “if you do not chuse it, I do not insist upon it. But at least, you will in Justice have the Goodness to pay me something for the heating of my Iron.”


The Dems’ sequester demands set up a clean CR and debt ceiling extension as a compromise. Happy now, Mr. Speaker?

A recently translated Qumran fragment contains an element of the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai that somehow failed to make it through the redaction process.

And it came to pass after forty days, that Moses descended from the mountain, and spake unto the Children of Israel, saying, “Verily, I bring unto you good news, and I bring also bad news.”

And the Children of Israel spoke with one voice, saying, “Tell unto us the good news first.”

And Moses replied and said, “I got Him down to ten.”

And the Children of Israel said unto Moses, “That is indeed good news. O Moses, is the bad news as bad as the good news is good?”

And the face of Moses was grave as he replied, “Yea, verily.”

And the Children of Israel moaned, and said, “Tell unto us the bad news.”

And Moses wept, saying, “Adultery’s still on the list.”

Bargaining, as Moses discovered, is a process of give and take. One reason the continuing resolution/debt ceiling imbroglio has been so hard to resolve - above and beyond the fundamental institutional insanity of the Republican Party - has been that the Teahadis started out with a list of ridiculous demands, and set the process up so that doing the normal and necessary things required to keep the government functioning counted as a “concession” on their part, which needed, for their honor, to be “balanced” by some concession from the President and the Democrats.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,”Stutzman said. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

That, it seems to me, is the background to the Democrats’ sudden demand that the sequester budget levels be put on the bargaining table, and Lindsay Graham’s whining about “moving the goalposts.”

Of course, it would be wonderful if the poll numbers had really made the Republicans desperate enough to concede something on spending. But in any case, the bargaining range is no longer between the Republicans’ extortion demands and the Democrats’ refusal to pay ransom, in which case a clean CR and debt ceiling extension would count as a complete defeat for the Republicans. Now the bargaining range contains actual concessions by Republicans, which makes the obvious, logical, rational outcome to the whole unnecessary affair a compromise.

No need need to thank us, Mr. Speaker. All part of our service with a smile.

Evidently Senator McConnell hates Obama more than he loves his country

Not my words: the words of a career Republican Congressional budget staffer.

You’re free to disagree with that sentence, but the man who wrote it, Mike Lofgren, was a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill for 28 years, 16 of them working for the Republicans staffs of the House and Senate Budget Committees. He’s not an Obamabot like me, and he presumably knows what he’s talking about.

He also writes:

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

Lofgren concludes:

If Republicans have perfected a new form of politics that is successful electorally at the same time that it unleashes major policy disasters, it means twilight both for the democratic process and America’s status as the world’s leading power.

And that, of course, is the basis of my plea, and Keith’s to the progressive critics of the Administration: no matter how frustrated you are, please do nothing to further what Lofgren calls “acts of political terrorism.” Abuse of power - holding the national credit hostage, interfering with the right to vote - is natural. The only check on it is an outraged electorate. Let’s keep the outrage focused where it belongs.

On Wisconsin!

On Tuesday I’ll drive from Chicago up to Sauk City, Wisconsin, to do voter protection, that is, pollwatching while holding a law degree.  Wisconsin historically has offered exceptionally inclusive voter access, including in-precinct same-day registration.  But one of the many delightful consequences of the Republican takeover of the state is a photo-i.d. law which isn’t supposed to take effect til the first of the year but is unclear enough to make for messy election days-precisely what the sponsors intended.  So I’ll go up there and do what I can to make sure everybody can vote, and hope that the selfsame “everybody” will throw the anti-collective-bargaining rascals out.

(Last weekend at the Bughouse Square debates-the Newberry Library’s annual effort to restore the fine art of soapbox speaking-the central topic was public-sector collective bargaining.   The young man speaking in opposition wore a Solidarity t-shirt as he argued that “public employee collective bargaining inserts needless conflict between citizen and citizen.”  Does he realize that Solidarity was a public-sector union?)

I’m going to Wisconsin because it’s a political situation about which I can do something-contra the whole debt-ceiling mess, about which I can do absolutely nothing.  I disagree with my colleagues on the left who think the President got backed into a corner on the debt ceiling because he’s weak.  He got backed into a corner because he’s actually trying to govern and the people he’s dealing with are not.

When the President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, skeptics wondered what he could possibly have done to deserve it.  It seemed pretty straightforward to me: his election meant the restoration of constitutional government in the world’s only superpower.  What could be more essential to peace?

Unfortunately, the Constitution had been damaged more than most of us realized, and merely electing a President didn’t guarantee its restoration-not when anti-government idealogues control the legislature and the judiciary.   All the finger-pointing on the left ignores the extent to which the right is engaging in the deliberate destruction of our governmental system.

The idea that people who hate government are controlling ours is actually more frightening than the notion that the President somehow betrayed us by averting a default.  The scary thing is, he did as much as he could.

Say it long, say it loud: thuggish and proud

Mitch McConnell likens himself to a hostage-taker.

Mitch McConnell on the debt-ceiling negotiations:

I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.

If McConnell doesn’t mind calling himself a hostage-taker, what’s wrong with Joe Biden calling him and his friends terrorists? If it looks like a duck …

Rope-a-dope Dep’t

Romney endorsed default. How’s that going to play in November?

When the chips were down and the alternative to the debt-ceiling deal was default, Mitt Romney, the one Republican running who might actually get the nomination (unlike Huntsman) and might seem like a plausible President (unlike Bachmann or Perry), came out against it. That should play well in Iowa. But in November? Not so much. The voters didn’t like the deal, but demanding a vote for default was a classically un-serious thing to do.

Guest post: “The debt ceiling debate is self-evidently unpatriotic”

Guest post by colleague A. Pond: Having seen the debt ceiling turned into political tool, why should we expect any political leverage to be left on the table?

I just can’t bring myself to write about this debt ceiling mess. What begins in a farcical congressional procedure likely ends in tragedy for American governance and for so many people.

Below is a guest post by A. Pond, the pseudonym of a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

In policy terms, the fundamentals of the debt ceiling story have hardly changed in over a week. Meanwhile, the politics have evolved, but in predictable ways. In fact, considering politics alone, it is a mystery why the leverage the debt ceiling affords has not been exploited many times in the past to the extent it is today.

The debt ceiling debate today is a story of heretofore untapped political power. We now know that politicians of the past have been holding back. Just as the theory of profit maximization offers strong predictions of the economic negotiating behavior of firms, the maximization of bargaining leverage does so in the realm of political negotiation.

Thus, it was clear by the time Obama and Boehner spoke to the nation last Monday night that there was no chance of an “early” compromise on a big and balanced package. The time to turn the manufactured crisis into an opportunity had ended if not that night, then at least several days prior. Having seen the debt ceiling turned into political tool, why should we expect any political leverage to be left on the table? Continue reading “Guest post: “The debt ceiling debate is self-evidently unpatriotic””

News flash

Weepin’ John Boehner can’t get his own members to vote for his debt-ceiling plan.
Amateur hour.

Weepin’ John Boehner doesn’t even control his own caucus.

He announced a vote on his dead-on-arrival debt ceiling plan at 12:30 today, and then had to postpone it indefinitely 10 hours later. He didn’t have the votes, perhaps in part because Sarah Palin threatened the House Republican freshmen with contested primaries if they voted for their own Speaker’s bill. Yes, that’s the person the Republicans wanted to put one not-very-reliable heartbeat from the Presidency.

Amateur hour.

Update Don’t you love it when it’s conservatives forming the circular firing squad?