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New Republic/NYT: Just Ignore Debt Ceiling

From an intern (we’re not kidding) at the New Republic:

The Debt Ceiling: Why Obama Should Just Ignore It

Matthew Zeitlin
June 24, 2011

With a Republican-controlled House demanding large cuts in present and future spending in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling, the possibility that the federal government will have trouble financing and issuing new debt is becoming more frighteningly likely each day

Given that the US Treasury is still collecting revenue, and that our debt financing is only about 6% of the budget it is safe to say that this is a preposterous fear that is being flamed by buffoons.

But barring a timely resolution to the standoff, could President Obama simply ignore the debt ceiling and keep making good on the country’s obligations? As the deadline grows nearer, the question has been popping up on law blogs and other forums, and according to a number of legal experts with whom I spoke, the answer, surprisingly, appears to be yes—and it is conservative justices who have played the biggest role in making it possible

Jonathan Zasloff, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has discussed this idea on a blog that he writes with several other academics, told me that while an order from the president for the Treasury Department to continue issuing new debt sounded extreme, it was unclear who could prove sufficient injury from the decision that would qualify the person to sue the administration in court. “Who has some kind of particularized injury, in fact?” Zasloff asked, and he could not come up with a satisfying answer

You see, if Mr. Obama just decides to ignore a law nobody can sue him, because no one would be able to prove they were injured. Certainly not the people and their kids and grandkids who will eventually have to pay for this additional debt.

Louis Fisher, an expert on the separation of powers who worked at the Congressional Research Service for over twenty five years, wrote in an email that “case law is quite clear that a member of Congress, even if joined by a dozen or two colleagues, cannot get standing in court to contest a constitutional issue.” A joint resolution from Congress could try to get an injunction from the D.C. District Court to stop the Treasury from issuing new debt, but that could be easily vetoed by Democrats in the Senate

Isn’t it telling how much time the Democrats put into thinking of ways to skirt the laws of the land?

Leaving Congress aside, it appears the only possible party to a suit challenging the administration’s ability to exceed the debt ceiling would be a character that almost seems designed to elicit zero public sympathy: those who purchased credit default swaps which would pay off in the event of government default…

You see, the only people who could possibly be hurt by Mr. Obama ignoring the debt ceiling and just continuing his spending binge would be hateful Wall Street bankers who buy "credit default swaps" aka ‘derivatives.’ And we hate those people.

But even if standing could be established and the Obama administration gets taken to court, some legal experts note that an additional argument of surprising strength could be made: The government cannot legally default on its debts. Former Reagan official and maverick conservative budget wonk Bruce Bartlett has suggested as much by invoking Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says that “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.” Although there has been little litigation or discussion of this section, it could be read to imply an absolute firewall against statutory limits on paying or devaluing the debt.

So if the government can’t legally default on its debts, how can their even be any fear of defaulting on the debt. It is a legal impossibility.

Garrett Epps, a legal journalist and professor at University of Baltimore School of Law, has made an even broader argument in a pair of articles for The Atlantic’s website. In an interview, Epps told me that there was a strong argument that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional because it exceeds the legislative branch’s power of the purse

Given that the Congress’s power of the purse is absolute, this is a particularly asinine argument, even by the Atlantic’s abysmal standards.

Many of the legal scholars I spoke to expressed skepticism that Scalia and the conservative wing of the Court could be expected to go to bat for the Obama administration when it comes to the question of standing, as well as the broad conception of executive powers.

Because Justice Scalia and the conservatives on the bench are notorious Republican pawns who regularly ignore the Constitution in order to advance their party’s agenda.

Tiefer, however, was more optimistic: “I, for one, think that conservatives on the Court are faithful to their conservative principles of jurisdiction and they don’t alter them merely because on the merits they might be partial to one side.” If the Obama administration chooses to ignore the debt ceiling, they’ll have to hope he’s right.

Because Mr. Obama just stays awake at night worrying about whether he is complying with the law or not.

Matthew Zeitlin is an intern at The New Republic.

We weren’t kidding. This article was cobbled together by an intern.

But that didn’t stop it from being approvingly cited as a wise plan by the New York Times:

Could Obama Just Ignore the Debt Ceiling?

June 28, 2011

In the ongoing debate over raising the debt ceiling, one option has not had much prominence: whether the Obama administration could ignore it altogether, and just spend the money it owes anyway. Would that be legal?

Matthew Zeitlin at The New Republic spoke with a few political scientists, budget wonks and constitutional scholars who argue that it would be

By the way, have you ever noticed how everything always turns out to be completely legal if it would help Mr. Obama and the Democrats? Isn’t that amazingly convenient?

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “New Republic/NYT: Just Ignore Debt Ceiling”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    “New Republic/NYT: Just Ignore Debt Ceiling”

    With no budget for 2 1/2 years …….. why not?
    “Out of sight ……out of mind”

    Off the top of my head and just a thought;
    With the Dream Act they are foisting on us (albeit stealthy) I’m almost to the point that we could hire illegals to take their place for 1/3 the money.
    Debt half solved!

    • River0 says:

      We’re witnessing epic lawlessness and destruction of the principles our nation is founded on. The fact that our fellow citizens don’t rise up in anger, continuing to sleep, is appalling and alarming.

  2. tranquil.night says:

    What could go wrong?

    They’ve already ignored the will of the people and the rule of law at all levels in the crusade to enact the Change. And outside of those wingnut rubes who we’re never going to allow to be validated in national discourse (quite the opposite! muaha), it’s not like there’s an opponent that’ll call you out with any significance.

  3. BigOil says:

    This is like the proverbial tree falling in the woods.

    If a dictator President continuously ignores laws, and Congress does not bring impeachment proceedings, did he actually break any laws?

  4. proreason says:

    Go directly to dictatorship. Do not pass go. Go directly to dictatorship.

  5. Chinnubie says:

    God forbid a Republican Presidential candidate come out and tell people that what is happening in Washington is sweepingly similar to treason against what little will we the people actually have. Time after time this adminstration has shown complete disregard for the so-called “rule of law” and we all have to wonder will anyone call Obama out on this? How many lies does it take before you can no longer support your own country? I wish I could just forego my debt and continue to spend money I don’t have especially on crap I’ll never use, need, or ever be beneficial to me my family or society as a whole.

    • proreason says:

      The first candidate with the courage to describe the lawlessness of these criminals in plain language will win.

  6. Right of the People says:

    Ever notice the “experts” they always quote are from academia? That’s like going a to a union meeting Wisconsin or Ohio to ask for an opinion if they agree with the governor’s making them actually pay for part of their bennies.


    Unfortunately unless a candidate like that can manage to win most of the primaries by a large margin, the RINO machine will never let them get nominated. Remember they still have to be nominated at the convention and it’s the RINO’s who are running the convention. For the most part today’s Republican Party is essentially Dimocrap Lite.

  7. tranquil.night says:

    “This is about oil and gas subsidies – $40 billion”

    Actually, as of May it’s only about 4 billion, but what’s an extra zero, right Zero? Just a gaffe (but not a Bachmann/Palin sized one) afterall if someone actually has to write a fact-checking article. Just a reminder that our petulant boyking is still a total liar on top of a destroyer.

    “About Those Oil ‘Subsidies'” – Randall Hoven @ American Thinker:

    Percentage depletion allowance — $1 B.  Any industry can write down a portion of the cost of its capital equipment as part of the cost of doing business.  Right now, oil in the ground is treated as capital equipment.  Again, this “subsidy” amounts to how the cost of doing business is defined.  All companies get it, not just oil companies.

    All out lies and Class Warfare over drops in the ocean. They really are out of plays.

  8. Mae says:

    Young Master Zeitlin is a prime example of brainwashing. Following his professors without question or free thinking; schlepping around all that New Republic baggage of guilt, fearmongering, ignorance and lies for a lifetime unless somehow, some way, some thing gets through to his brain and liberates him. It would be pathetic if it weren’t so anti-American, anti-Constitutional freedom and pro irrational thought.

  9. Reality Bytes says:

    While Obama looks up to Lincoln, he presides more like Nero.

    While we burn, he fiddles.

    Burn Baby Burn!

  10. seandougsnyder says:

    Someone help. I’m very confused. When the Republicans were threatening to ignore the debt limit (but no one believed they would do it) all I was hearing was how horrible and impossible that would be. Now that someone thinks it might actually help the Dems the media is starting to change course?

  11. P. Aaron says:

    College thinking in the real world, ain’t it grand?

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