After listening to President Obama address the nation yesterday, I believe he has realized you cannot negotiate with a part of Congress that even the Republican leadership has no control over. Many members of Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s caucus seem to believe that now is the time to question the validity of the public debt of the United States. The debt, which according to the 14th Amendment “shall not be questioned” is now under question by those who claim they must make cuts for the future before they can pay the bills of the past.
Now someone who claims to be fiscally conservative and thinks not paying the bills is sound fiscal policy is difficult to reason with. If the Republicans decide to shut down the Government, because they believe the full, faith and credit of the United States is a bargaining chip and they choose to be derelict to their oath of office, I believe the President should do all that in his power to ensure our derelict Congress pays our bills. Paying the debt of the United States is the job of the House of Representatives and if you are not willing to do your job you shouldn’t take the oath of office.
When the Republicans tried to play this irresponsible hand in the summer of 2011, Forbes Magazine had an article entitled Can Obama Really Use The 14th Amendment To Raise The Debt Limit? Rick Unger wrote:
“Keep in mind that raising the debt ceiling is about allowing for the payment of obligations already authorized by Congress. It’s not about having more money to spend on future government expenditures or programs. Rather, it is permitting the President to borrow enough money to pay the bills created when Congress authorized certain payments, thus requiring the President, by law, to make those payments.”
Paying the debt incurred by previous Congresses has nothing to do with spending cuts. Yes, we need to take a balanced approach to cutting spending in the future. However, the bills we already owe have nothing to do with spending cuts. I can’t say I’m going to cut my spending next month by not paying my American Express bill from last month. You figure fiscal conservatives could figure the basics of how to pay a bill.
Now these same Republicans had no trouble in helping to cause the debt. When Speaker Boehner snuck in an additional 450 million in defense funding in 2011, a majority of that funding that went to defense contractors in his district he saw no problem racking up debt. According to the Huffington Post from 2008-2010, born again fiscal conservative Mitch McConnell added almost one billion in earmark spending before bowing to the pressure of the tea party. However, spending like this is what we are paying for today, not the spending of tomorrow. And neither of these Republicans, nor many of their fellow Conservatives seemed to be concerned when according to Brown University’s cost of war project we spent 3.2 to 4 trillion from 2003-2010 on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, or when adding 400 billion over ten years to the deficit through Medicare part D.
Mitch McConnell seems to think that the “The president and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it”. The spending debate is a debate that must be had. We need to a balanced, priority based approach for spending in the future. However, getting serious about future spending will do nothing to change the fact that the bills are due. The last time the deficit was zero was 1836 and cutting what we spend tomorrow will not change the fact that we owe from yesterday.
The fiscally responsible thing to do is to raise the debt ceiling and then begin the process of reigning in unnecessary spending. The full faith and credit of the United States is not “leverage” it is a guarantee that we pay the debt we incur. And anyone who has the audacity to believe in American Exceptionalism would recognize there is nothing exceptional with being a dead beat.