Is The Debt Ceiling Unconstitutional?

Jun 30 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The GOP is not going to budge on tax increases for the very wealthy, even though it has been proven time and time again that tax cuts do not create jobs, they just increase dividend checks, profits and CEO salaries. The debt ceiling of the United States will be reached by approximately August 2nd, 2011, but the question to the congress is simple. Is the debt ceiling unconstitutional?

According to the Fourteenth Amendment Section 4,

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Debts incurred for payment…shall not be questioned. This very sentence solidifies the fact that the United States in obligated to make its payments, no matter what, even if it means borrowing more money in order to meet those financial obligations.

Michael Abramowicz,a George Washington University law professor wrote in the Tulsa Law Journal (“Beyond Balanced Budgets, Fourteenth Amendment Style,” 33:2, Winter 1997, pp. 561-612), he concludes that any government action “making uncertain whether or not a debt will be honored is unconstitutional.”

“A debt does not become valid or invalid only at the moment payment is due. A debt’s validity may be assessed at any time, and a debt is valid only if the law provides that it will be honored. Therefore, a requirement that the government not question a debt’s validity does not kick in only once the time comes for the government to make a payment on the debt. Rather, the duty not to question is a continuous one.

If as a result of government actions, a debt will not be paid absent future governmental action, that debt is effectively invalid. The high level of generality recognizes that instead of referring to payment of debts, the Clause bans government action at any time that affects the validity of debt instruments…. Moreover, there is no such thing as a valid debt that will nonetheless not be honored, he states.

Bruce Bartlett, who happens to be a Reagan Administration official argues this fact brilliantly.

Bartlett writes this in the Fiscal Times,

This means that the very existence of the debt limit is unconstitutional because it calls into question the validity of the debt. So would any other provision of law. That is a key reason why Congress created a permanent appropriation for interest payments at the same time that the Fourteenth Amendment was debated. Previously, Congress had to pass annual appropriations for interest.

Seeing that this session of Congress was opened with the reading of the Constitution, I am assuming that they read this part of the 14th Amendment. Perhaps this was glazed over.

I am not condoning not making any cuts to our deficit and debt. In fact in a recent Reuters report, the War on Terror including the Iraq war has cost our Country up to 4.4 TRILLION dollars. Also the spending spree in the DoD to private manufacturers, like Boeing, is astronomical, sometimes reaching 177,000 PERCENT of the actual cost of material.

We need to decrease our debt in this Country, but not at the peril of programs that help create and sustain the middle class. Unfortunately the narrow minded Republicans in power cannot see beyond their own ideology of Arthur Laffer and Milton Freidman.

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