Budget Deficit

Jobs Are the New Terrorism

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Garrett Epps' argument ain't worth a Confederate dollar.

Though I missed President Obama's Twitter Towne Hall, I gather that he was asked about his position on a fanciful new theory regarding the 14th Amendment and the debt ceiling, and that he avoided giving an answer. Given the frenzy for this fad among pro-debt intellectuals and their dupes, the president's coyness is shameful. 

Garrett Epps' 14th Amendment theory is a transparent fraud. Epps posits that Amendment XIV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the unilateral authority to borrow more money on top of the federal government's existing $14.3 trillion debt. He quotes the opening clauses of Section 4, which read in part: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned."

In Epps' telling, Section 4 is a "fire ax," though he declines to mention what it's supposed to break through. He also declines to give the full text of Section 4, which would force him to contend with the glaring truth that Section 4's "validity" language is not there to overturn the clear language of Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 ("No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law…"). In fact, it's not there to make any change at all to the management of U.S. debt service, revenue collection or public spending. It's there to draw the distinction between valid U.S. debt (which was viewed, before 1866 and after, as obligatory) and debts incurred by the Confederacy (which the U.S. government in 1866 obviously wanted to refuse). Read it yourself:

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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void. 

This is not an original-meaning quibble. Epps is pretending Section 4 revisits the Constitution's unambiguous assignment of budgeting power to Congress. It does not do so, either in its plain language or in any intent that could plausibly be assumed from language or history. Even in the bowdlerized version of Section 4 Epps and his followers quote, the "authorized by law" clause makes this clear. 

Garrett Epps gave himself this buzzcut through sheer force of legal will.

The nature of that legal authorization is also clear. Article I, Section 7, Clause 1 authorizes Congress to originate all bills for raising revenue. Article I, Section 8, Clause 2 authorizes Congress to borrow money. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, referred to above, specifically prohibits borrowing any additional money outside of that framework. And nothing in the 14th Amendment comes close to revisiting that framework. 

It's also not possible that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment revisits that framework silently. When an amendment overrides the plain language of the Constitution, it does so specifically, as the 16th Amendment does by using the exact language about census and enumeration that was originally found in Article I, Section 9, Clause 4; as the 12th Amendment does by using the language "Electors shall meet…" originally found in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3; and as the 21st Amendment does in saying, "The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution is hereby repealed."

Ryan J. Reilly and Brian Beutler of TPM talk to a former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, who notes some of the above, and gives a thumb down to Epps' hare-brained scheme: 

I don't believe that the Executive Branch would be empowered by this provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to issue new debt in order to meet current interest payment obligations on previously issued debt, where the issuance of the new debt would cause the United States to exceed a statutory debt ceiling set by Congress. 

I don't know whether Epps is a fool or a knave in making this embarrassingly thin case. But Obama's dodging such a straightforward question is pathetic. I've never known any president to acknowledge that there are any limits on his power – even when that limit is clear to any Schoolhouse Rock watcher – but this one is just insulting. 

And slightly creepy. If pro-debt scholars were making a serious argument here, they would go directly to U.S. Constitution I.9.7, and find some evidence that it doesn't mean what it says it means. Maybe money borrowed from a central bank is not money drawn from the Treasury? Or maybe limitations not written in Article II do not apply to the president? But disturbingly, nobody needs to address a constitutional question at all, because the most eloquent argument will always be: JOBBZZZ!

NEXT: E.D. Kain on "a cheerful dismissal of tribalism and monopolistic thinking, in life and in politics"

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  1. And slightly creepy. If pro-debt scholars were making a serious argument here, they would go directly to U.S. Constitution I.9.7, and find some evidence that it doesn’t mean what it says it means.

    Make a sentence containing the following words:

    living
    consitution
    document

    1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

      1. Bacon Strips &
        Bacon Strips &
        Bacon Strips &
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDX0fjcF70I

      2. I googled HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN to see what this idiot is trying to say. He/they have a stupid blog called “A Voice from the Darkness” which is a radical anti-semitic conspiracy site. A real stupid one, too. It basically says that the “American-Israeli” military industrial complex is running everything. What a crock of shiot.

        1. I love that blog.

    2. Can we bayonet it till it stops moving?

      1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

    3. Down with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

    4. Down with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

      1. Don’t mind me asking, but is there any specific reason you put certain bits of text in brackets? Italics too good for you? Capitalizations reserved for names? No *asterisks* on your keyboard? Easier on a smartphone?

  2. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

  3. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

    1. Strong words from HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN. Now here’s Bob with the weather.

      1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

      2. Strong, bewildering words.

        1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

          1. Thanks, Jim. Gosh, that’s heckuva warm front, isn’t it?

            1. OK, Bob…keep fucking that chicken.

  4. I don’t know whether Epps is a fool or a knave in making this embarrassingly thin case.

    Why can’t he be both?

    And at this point do we care….at this point it is probably impossible to settle this debt under the original terms! The brain trust in D.C. knows it…..and anyone who is buying bonds at this point is certifiable.

    Cue Tony for a cool reasoned discussion why I’m wrong and every thing is just peachy in 5…4…3…2..!

    1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

      1. Well, that was about as useful as Tony.

        1. But more coherent and less authoritarian.

        2. Tony at least says something different (or the same thing in a different way) every time he posts. This is just starting to get boring.

  5. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

    1. *STAB* *STAB*

      1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

      2. You cannot kill what is already dead.

        1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

        2. With a headshot you can. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned from TV.

          1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

        3. Uh, hate to break it to you, Hugh, but that is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger aeons, even Death HERC may die.

          1. WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony! WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!WE HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN, MYRA! Down with the [EMPIRE] Down with Antony!

      3. Phlogistan, if you are going to take him out, dump in the woods with duct tape over his mouth, and we’ll all tell the cops he drowned

  6. Dang it Herc! Stop getting between my bayonet and that living document!

    1. WE RESPECT THE INTEGRITY OF THE IMPERIAL CONSTITUTION

      HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

      1. We’re not an empire!!!! We’re a large republic, with lands that may have been obtained through immoral means. Stop kidding yourself.

  7. To get back on track, this is just another sleazy attempt by administration suck-ups to give them political cover for…doing exactly whatever they want, their own words or the law be damned.

    Which means it’ll probably work.

    1. Down with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

  8. Down with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

    1. What on earth is going on with Herc? He’s usually pretty out there, but this is new and disappointing territory.

      1. A/C at the group home went out…..Hercs circuitry is…well….a little overheated.

      2. I think it’s a sock puppet.

    2. Tell us what you really think.

      Seriously Whats up with this guy?

      1. We created HERCULE, and we will create more like it.

      2. This guy actually runs a blog, so I haven’t the faintest. This means: you can get this **** 24-7 if you have an internet connection.

  9. even when that limit is clear to any Schoolhouse Rock watcher

    Reason TV should make some videos in this style on the commerce clause and the 2nd amendment and limits to the police powers.

    1. Down with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIENDown with MATTHEW YGLESIAS and his stooge Antony! Down with the [EMPIRE]! HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN

      1. Copy and paste, how does it work?

      2. ENOUGH ALREADY!!111!!!!1

        gEEZE

  10. Hercule is just a shill for Big Type.

  11. The 16th Amendment did NOT “override” the art 1 sec 9; the Supreme Ct quickly ruled so in Brushaber vs Union Pacific RR. All the Supreme Ct did was partially override the two Pollock cases with respect to taxation of income DERIVED from certain property. If the 16th Amendment would override the two great taxing clauses of the US constitution (direct taxes are apportioned by population, indirect are uniform) then it would have to repeal the clauses. No one prints a US Constitution with an asterick in Art 1 Sec 8 saying the 16th repealed the taxing clauses, at least no one with credentials does. The income tax is an excise tax on privilege, NOT a direct tax on property that is unapportioned!

    1. It’s more fun to write SCOTUS than Supreme Ct.

      1. because it looks like SCROTUM

  12. I think you are dead wrong.

    I am going to approach this Constitutional debate from another angle. That President Obama would risk impeachment by NOT acting under the 14th Amendment to prevent default.

    Whether any of us like it or not it this debt ceiling debate is all about the “obligations” that Congress over time has signed into law, not the bonds.

    The ceiling raise has nothing to do with future spending, only that which has already been committed to by this and prior sessions of Congress over out history.

    We elected them, they act via their Constitutional responsibility passes laws/funding programs, we own it and has the “full faith and credit” of the US behind it. These are all laws that then need to be upheld, ie honored.

    The Constitution is by definition the original document plus any and all Amendments to it so trying to separate the two is a specious argument as well.

    In PERRY V. UNITED STATES, 294 U. S. 330 (1935)SCOTUS addreses the larger context of debt as “obligations” that further supports the notion that default would be unconstitutional and thus stopping it would be required of the President:

    “?The government’s contention thus raises a question of far greater importance than the particular claim of the plaintiff. On that reasoning, if the terms of the government’s bond as to the standard of payment can be repudiated, it inevitably follows that the obligation as to the amount to be paid may also be repudiated. The contention necessarily imports that the Congress can disregard the obligations of the government at its discretion, and that, when the government borrows money, the credit of the United States is an illusory pledge.

    We do not so read the Constitution?.To say that the Congress may withdraw or ignore that pledge is to assume that the Constitution contemplates a vain promise; a pledge having no other sanction than the pleasure and convenience of the pledgor. This Court has given no sanction to such a conception of the obligations of our government.

    The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, * * * shall not be questioned.’ While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

    The office of the President as “Chief Executive” is empowered by the Constitution that “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”.

    He is also Constitutionally bound by his oath of office:

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

    This creates a slippery slope for any President. In other words he has no choice in acting per the Constitution lest he violate his oath and for that could be subject to impeachment.

    A secondary argument, slightly less compelling, is that in his job as Commander in Chief to protect the nation against any threats could be cited here. A default that plunges the nation into another recession and costs the taxpayers hundreds of billions in additional Federal interest payments and billions more in higher credit card, mortgage and consumer loans threatens the nation as much as any war or attack does. Not acting would weaken the nation considerably and his failure to protect the nation from this sort of “attack” would also be seen as a failure to fulfill his oath.

    So the 14th/PERRY V. UNITED STATES makes it clear on the debt’s validity and the fact that it cannot be abrogated in anyway that diminishes the full faith and credit of the nation and its trust with any one owed money via a statute approved by Congress, be it your mom on SS, a cleaning contractor for a federal building or foreign nations holding bonds. All are equally valid and must be honored.

    So no action by Congress is illegal and the Debt Ceiling law in any dispute is trumped by the Constitution. In “Perry” Chief Justice Hughes wrote the majority opinion: “We do not so read the Constitution?the Congress has not been vested with authority to alter or destroy those obligations.”

    Altering those obligations means that the terms of meeting them cannot be changed in anyway so even a default of a few days or a program to pay bills in some order with revenues is not allowed. So inaction that allows any sort of modification is out of the question as well.

    If Obama does not act to avert the crisis if negotiations fail that is a more compelling reason to Impeach than trying to claim that he exceeds his Constitutional power in resolving the crisis using the 14th.

    1. JNail.

      The Perry case involved gold bonds the U.S. Government issued in 1917 that were supposed to be repaid in gold. Congress in the 1930s tried to make all such gold clauses illegal. The Supreme Court held that the federal government could not make a contractual promise to repay in gold and then pass a law making its promise null and void. It has nothing to do with raising the debt limit. And the one paragraph you quoted on Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment is mere dicta, not a studied analysis of the history and meaning of that provisions.

      Oh..public employee salaries and entitlement programs are not “public debt,” no matter how hard you and liberal commentators try to twist the phrase into meaning something it does not and has never meant.

      Finally, how does refusal to allow the government to borrow more money constitute a default on, or repudiation of, pre-existing debt? As long as Congress appropriates enough money to service existing debt, the government is meeting its debt obligations. Indeed, in the real world, people who keep borrowing more money when they are already deep in debt are impairing their ability to honor their existing debt obligations, and may actually be committing an act of default by overextending their credit.

      1. Lol. Hey Jnail, wanna get away?

    2. This can’t be repeated enough:

      NOT RAISING THE DEBT CEILING DOES NOT MEAN DEFAULTING ON THE EXISTING DEBT, IT ONLY MEANS NOT ADDING TO IT.

      Ferchrissakes, the cost of debt service is ~$200/billion a year, the federal government is projected to collect ~$2,400 billion this coming fiscal year. Ergo, we can still pay our past debt obligations without incurring more future ones. Granted, that means cutting SS, Medicare and defense spending, but none of those things classify as debt obligations. And although I’m too lazy to bother finding the precedent, it goes along the lines of past congresses cannot bind the spending of future congresses as it pertains to entitlement spending.

      Now, fuck off and die.

      1. $300 Billion this year, whereabouts.

        If we bring in $1,000,000,000 and spend $999,999,999, we have a surplus of $1. If that outlay figures in paying interest on the debt (as current outlay figures do), we are neither defaulting on the debt nor exceeding the debt ceiling.

        Balancing the budget does not equal default.

    3. We’re not talking about defaulting on any debts. We’re talking about not incurring any new debts. But thanks for typing more words than Hercule. No need to let him/her do all the bogarting.

    4. Re: J Nail,

      So no action by Congress is illegal[…]

      Right, and if no suckers lend more money to the government, Congress can always indict the rest of humanity for concept for the Constitution.

    5. “its language indicates a broader connotation” — sounds like judicial activism.

  13. I missed President Obama’s Twitter Towne Hall, I gather that he was asked about his position on a fanciful new theory regarding the 14th Amendment and the debt ceiling, and that he avoided giving an answer.

    Dude, Barack Obama is a Constitutional Scholar, even though he hasn’t published any scholarly writings regarding any part of the Constitution. His Constitutional theory is so complex and profound, he couldn’t give any answer that you would understand.

    1. So he’s the new Pope?

      1. The Pope is merely a conduit to God, not The Man hisself.

  14. Congress authorizes the debt expenditure (aka the lawfully authorized part) if congress does not authorize, and the pres says keep spending, well then any debt over the authorized ceiling is unlawful, PERIOD. I say we sell all our unconstititional foreing bases, and lets kill defense spending by say oh 90%.

  15. See why I moderate the comments on my blog?

    1. Why moderate? I love the crazies 🙂

    2. I wrote my comment belwo before reading yours. Why do you need to moderate when I can do it myself?

      1. I recently had a spate of really awful anti-Semitic comments on my blog. For a while, they literally came too quickly for me to delete them. In the interest of not asking readers to look at them, I decided to moderate.

  16. Literally 2/3rds of the comments in this thread are blocked by my incif filter.

    1. People who need to control the actions or words of others draw my attention. I am curious if they are presenting OCD by proxy

      1. Yeah, I guess it would present and manifest its insanity in a similar manner that being utterly batshit would present as getting bahammered for accusing someone of stealing their own children. That would make sense. Please, diagnose us all, you fucking batshit little twit.

        1. What the hell are you writing about?

    2. You chose wisely, rob.

      1. god, you bore me now epi, and that is worse of a crime than annoying me

      2. They best thing about incif is the ability to give your own label to the person you are blocking. In this case I know that “dumb cunt” responded to you, but I don’t have to read what it wrote.

        1. I haven’t figured out how to make incif work. It seems easier to just speed up past the known trolls when scrolling through the comments looking for interesting ones.

          1. I get the distinct feeling that Banjos was the ‘Carrie’ of her high school. The interesting thing is I would have been nice to her even then. I’m rather proud that I am known for that.

          2. just get chrome and use “reasonable” Bonus: the icon is a tophat and monocle dude. Seriously, the ‘show direct’ and auto-ignore functions are nothing short of amazing. I think they work by injecting a ‘visibility:hidden’ in the CSS of a object, but it works so well I want to cry sometimes.

            1. Funny, someone crying over what they will never read. It makes me sad to know I will never have enough time to read all.

              I have read some of the most climacteric words from a homeless,and drug-addicted alcoholic

    3. I was thinking the same thing, robc.

  17. The intensely stupid thing about this is that failing to increase the debt limit would not in any way, shape, or form operate to repudiate even a penny of existing public debt. It would simply forbid additional deficit spending, while forcing the government to prioritize debt service over other appropriations.

    So even if Epps is correct, what he’s suggesting is entirely irrelevant.

  18. “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.”

    So, does this mean that money paid to the military DOES fall under this clause? After all, aren’t they stopping an insurrection (though not in THIS country)?

    1. Well, yeah, it says that ALL debts shall not be questioned. The clarifying clause is just that, a clarifying clause, it could be left out without changing any meaning.

  19. JOBBZZZZZZ!

    It’s the new “children”.

    1. I eatz chidrens

  20. I question the validity of US govt debt. Will someone come arrest me now?

    1. The SWAT teams will be arriving shortly. Please give your dogs their last meal, a blindfold and a cigarette.

      1. I never could get my dog to smoke.

        1. I had a dog named cigarette. It had no back legs. Every morning I would take it out for a drag.

          1. I would have called him ‘Skidmarks’ 😉

  21. I think I know what’s wrong with Herc.

    Hey, Herc! Is your heart broken by the Cory Maye case?

    Come on, everybody. Let’s give Herc a hug.

    1. Nasty.

  22. This just in, Tim Cavanaugh’s post just expands Longtorso’s comment on the Epps piece Cavanaugh links to.

  23. He quotes the opening clauses of Section 4, which read in part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.”

    That only means that Congress or the Executive cannot renege on lawful debts by saying “Debt? What debt?”

    It certainly does not mean that the Executive can incur in further debt by contravening the enumerated and EXCLUSIVE power of Congress to set budgets and raise revenue.

  24. This is not an original-meaning quibble. Epps is pretending Section 4 revisits the Constitution’s unambiguous assignment of budgeting power to Congress. It does not do so, either in its plain language or in any intent that could plausibly be assumed from language or history.

    Tim, please be reminded of one thing about the Left:

    for them, Up is Down.

    1. DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! MICHEAL J. FOX IS THE ANTI-CHRIST!!!! DON’T EAT BALONEY!!!! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN!
      reply to this

  25. DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! MICHEAL J. FOX IS THE ANTI-CHRIST!!!! DON’T EAT BALONEY!!!! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN! DOWN with UP! UP with DOWN!

    1. Missed:
      [DOWN] with [UP]!

      1. …they would extend their up-is-down reasoning to the second amendment and demand that every citizen bear a GI WMD with threats of water-boarding and imprisonment for refusal to bear one.

    2. Copy cats…

  26. I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out, but maybe Epps should read section 5 of article 14.

    Section. 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    Obama is certainly not empowered to act by the 14th.

  27. Most of the deficit spending is required by law. If laws that have already passed require $100 of spending but you only have $90 of revenue, then the borrowing has already been implicitly authorized by law.

    In fact, not borrowing would actually be breaking the law.

    1. No, one congress cannot bind another to any sort of spending, except paying off the debts already incurred.

      1. This. Any law that requires spending is:

        (a) Always contingent on future appropriations. This is true even of “entitlements” like social security.

        (b) Always subject to being amended.

        Every budget cycle, Congress passes an appropriations bill. It is not required to appropriate enough money to cover all spending contemplated by previous Congresses. Not appropriating this money breaks no law.

        1. The problems arise when Congress doesn’t even appropriate enough money to cover the demands that the current Congress is making of the executive. While it’s a source of power for Congress, too many unfunded mandates end up devaluing the concept of a Congressional mandate entirely, turning them into something more like recommendations.

          1. True, but that is not “public debt.” Public debt is a future obligation incurred by the government by contract or trust that is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States or by a specific pledged source of funding and thereby becomes a legally enforceable obligation. Congress passing a law appropriating funding for, say, high speed rail is in no way a binding contract that high speed rail will be built.

            Obama and his enablers are trying to turn Section 4 into a constitutional mandate for entitlement spending.

    2. Statutory obligation is not the same as a public debt. Statutory obligation is not even the same as appropriation, depending on how we define it.

    3. Good thing that there are pretty much no laws that mandate spending. Thanks for playing.

  28. In fact, not borrowing would actually be breaking the law.

    So! The gov routinely breaks the law! You can be reasonably sure they will weasel out of the “sacred” debt too.

  29. Epps only does well when he’s coaching the Steelers.

  30. You people are fucking sick. Let Obama do what he has to do, and shut the fuck up about it.

    1. Spoof or intoxicant.

      1. I don’t even know anymore.

        Yesterday he called me a racist because I pointed out that we were robbed and are now broke because of TARP, stimulus and Fanny’s and Freddy’s government directed financial crisis.

        Perhaps some sun light has slithered into that skull of his and he realized Obama has no chance winning re-election so now his only solace is to rant drunk on hit and run.

        1. Josh, no There have been a blankload of trolls lately. They’re even spoofing the old trolls/sockpuppets, and doing it horribly and unfunnily. They think it pisses people off, or they take solace in fooling people. School must be out or something. It’s actually just lame, only they don’t realize it.

          1. I’m going with spoof.
            Not that Tony isn’t that dumb, it’s just not consistent with Tony’s normal ignorant posts.

            1. Most liberals think anyone who isn’t liberal, is a racist.

              Tony just can’t help himself; he’s following his programming. Cults do that to people.

        2. I didn’t mean to say you’re racist, I’m saying you’re buying into a racist narrative–more importantly a false narrative.

          Racism to me is bad to the extent that it has bad real-world consequences. I don’t care what goes on inside your head. But the whole Republican alternate history of the financial crisis serves to get themselves off the hook at the expense of poor black people, which anyone who’s studied Republican political strategy for the past 30 years shouldn’t be surprised about.

          1. Do you even OWN a dictionary, Tony?

            1. I rarely need one.

              1. You do when it comes to the word “racist”.

          2. That’s just the Cliff Notes version. Study the past 150 years of Democrat political strategy if you want to gain insight into where the Republicans culled theirs from.

          3. let Obama bomb the fuckin’ shit out of primitive villages on other continents and stop criticizing! Those civilians must die for Obama’s Peace Prize. Let him get back to the golf course and plan how to plunder the local racists to fund his wars.

  31. Why, when we so clearly, desperately need someone with the brainpower of Charles Eppes, we get someone with the brainpower of Garrett Epps instead?

    1. What we desperately need is Omar Epps. Actually, we need his smokin’ girlfriend, Number What’s-Her-Face from that Blackadder show.

  32. “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.”

    See, the actual meaning of this is that the president has the ability to declare martial law and seize complete control of the nation if the nation looks like it is about to default.

    But seriously.

    Even if the 14th amendment does make the debt obligatory, Congress still has the power of the purse, with that one constraint. Like a bankruptcy proceeding, it should simply be understood as a prioritization of obligations when not all obligations can be fulfilled — creditors get paid first, employees second, and beneficiaries last.

  33. 3.9% APR FINANCING! BIG CASH REBATES ON POPULAR MODELS! JOOS LOVE TOYOTAS! SEE YOUR LOCAL TOYOTA DEALER NOW.

  34. Beam me up, Scotty.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kidding! Write some more rubber checks, and send out for shrimp and champagne!

    We’re gonna party like it’s 1959!

    1. Oh, and buy more stock in Glock, Winchester, Remington, and double down on the brass futures. Thanks, Scott.

      1. Almanian, I got two words for you (I saw it on my web site the other day on the Fourth — I didn’t do sh**, I swear): Filipino Cupid.

  35. Mr. Cavanaugh, why use such an archaic term as “knave” to describe Obama’s cronnie Garrett Epps? I had to look it up! I think the definition sounds a little more appropriate. I would have said this “I don’t know whether Epps is a fool or a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel in making this embarrassingly thin case.” You and every Reason subscriber knows the latter answer is correct.

  36. Of course, when you read the whole clause of the 14th, you realize that what it is really about is saying the USA isn’t on the hook for the debts of the Confederacy, but will still stand behind its own debt.

  37. Re: The formulation: “I don’t know whether Epps is a fool or a knave …”

    Why either/or? More likely he’s both/and.

  38. Didn’t Obama teach Constitutional Law? Shouldn’t a question like this be pathetically easy for him to answer?

  39. I’m not sure you’re wrong, but this seems to wrongly misinterpret the reality of the situation:

    Section 4’s “validity” language is not there to overturn the clear language of Section I, Section 9, Clause 7 (“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law?”)

    Raising the debt ceiling is necessary to pay for things already appropriated by Congress. It’s not like the Treasury is looking to spend beyond what Congress already has legislatively.

    Surely we can all agree that the debt ceiling is, especially given the poisonous partisanship of today, a pointless and dangerous legal relic, and that we all better hope there’s some kind of constitutional fail-safe to protect us from the Republicans.

    1. Well Tony you’ve convinced anono-bot….now the heavy lifting begins.

    2. “It’s not like the Treasury is looking to spend beyond what Congress already has legislatively.”

      BWAhahaha!

    3. Raising the debt ceiling is necessary to pay for things already appropriated by Congress. It’s not like the Treasury is looking to spend beyond what Congress already has legislatively.

      Utter nonsense! You’ve just given congress the ability to spend without limit using the rationale well “it’s a result of legislation”! and now saying since we have decreed it you have to pay for it. You’re wrong as usual but because you think this way (the way the thieves in congress think) I think you have nailed the argument that they will use. Like I said way up thread….there is no way to pay this debt so it will be repudiated…following the financial debacle the money won’t be available to borrow so this debt limit nonsense will become a moot issue. I eagerly look forward to the raging bonfire of your precious government programs when this occurs.

      1. It’s Congress’s job to spend money… It may very well be the case that the Treasury is constitutionally obligated to spend the money Congress appropriated. But you don’t seem to care about that because you seem to welcome a catastrophic and embarrassing episode for the US… For the single reason that you can’t get enough Americans to support your zany policy ideas so you want to force it upon them via a crisis. Why do libertarians hate democracy so much. Oh yeah, because it doesn’t give you everything you want and you are like toddlers.

        1. It is NOT the case that Treasury is constitutionally obligated to spend money Congress has appropriated unless the Congress specifically directs the spending. This has been litigated over and over again. See Pennsylvania v. Lynn, 501 F.2d 848 (D.C. Cir. 1974). Nearly every appropriation does not direct spending, but is discretionary.

    4. Tony, you knave, appropriations are not the same as debt. You’re using “debt” in the popular meaning of the word, but we don’t “owe” money to a program that appropriate funds in the way that we owe Chinese bondholders.

    5. In other words, “debt” in the Constitution and otherwise has a legal, precise meaning. It doesn’t just get to say what you and Barry O feel like it says.

    6. 1_ The fact that a certain amount of money is appropriated DOES NOT mean that the Government must spend that amount.
      2) If you accept the argument that the President can violate the debt limit to pay government bills other than debt, then you must also accept the argument that he can unilaterally raise taxes to do so. Do you?

  40. that makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

    http://www.total-privacy.ua.tc

  41. The whole argument is silly and unnecessary. Clause 4 makes it a constitutional imperitive for the Government to pay its debts–much like it is a constitutional imperative not to reduce the compensation of Article III judges. In August, the Treasury will collect over a $100 Billion in revenue, and that money needs to go first to pay interest and then to redeem (or more likely rollover) existing debt that matures. Whatever is left over goes to the Judges, and then Obama needs to figure out what to pay and what not to pay. The whole exerciese shoudl be rather enlightening.

    1. Obama has already signalled that he will refuse to pay things in order of political importance. That is, he will not pay the military, not pay Social Security, etc.

      The Republicans should be howling, at this point, that Obama is planning to use this crisis to inflict as much damage as possible on the country, in hopes that the Republicans will get blamed. The prioritization of what gets paid is entirely within Obama’s control; that’s why previous “shutdowns” specified that non-essential services would go first. Obama is planning to do it the other way around.

  42. Ya’ really gotta read all of Epps’ scribblings on The Atlantic’s website to appreciate how being a fool and being a knave are not mutually exclusive states. Seriously, he is either the dumbest dishonest pundit, or the most dishonest numbskulled pundit, working the intertubes.

  43. So you are willing to take the entire amendment in context while (I assume) being entirely comfortable taking the 2nd amendment out of context (the whole provision of a militia concept which seems invalidated by having a standing army)?

    Not that I am opposed to the right to arms, far from it… But it seems a tad disingenuous to hear from the right of the spectrum such parsing when for its own purposes it is more than happy to forgo it…..

    1. Give it a rest. One text has plain meaning. The other had contextual ambiguity (which was resolved properly). Apples and oranges.

  44. https://reason.com/blog/2010/06…..ghingstock

    Wow, you are really stupid.

  45. One good thing that will come out of this mess is that Naomi Klein will have been proven incontrovertibly right and none of you guys can say a damn thing to refute that.

  46. “I’ve never known any president to acknowledge that there are any limits on his power.”

    This says it all, and barring revolution, one day there won’t be.

  47. “…it doesn’t give you everything you want and you are like toddlers’

    BEAhaha

    Pot, kettle.

  48. Quite a reach, and a desperate one at that.

  49. What it does seem to mean is that, while the President may not borrow additional funds, he may authorize the sale of assets the country already owns. The Post Office on the street, the last island in the Hawaiian chain, an American protectorate, anything. The Constitution authorizes him to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and thus he may do what is necessary, and not prohibited by other articles of the Constitution, to fulfill that duty.

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