Why would anyÂ Tea PartyÂ activist, supporter, or proponent (‘Tea Partier’) in Congress chooseÂ Government shutdownÂ and to not pay Government bills for existing obligations? Is theÂ Tea PartyÂ movement not about fiscal responsibility, sound financial management, and reductions in Government debt, spending, theÂ Federal Budget Deficit, andÂ taxes?
Why would any Congressperson choose to risk further degradation of the U.S. credit ratingÂ and harm to our economy, future, and reputation? Have they not sworn an oath to the U.S. Constitution and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of their office?Â
Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Apparently I am not alone in my confusion surrounding our now regular politicalÂ battles over theÂ United States debt ceilingÂ (“Debt Limit“). There is no controversyÂ over the meaning ofÂ Debt Limit, it is a legal restriction on the amount theÂ United States TreasuryÂ (“Treasury”) may borrow (issueÂ debt)Â to pay for existing obligationsâsimilar to your credit card limit, but only Congress may raise it.
These existing obligations do not represent new spending, but simply the Government paying for services already received, promised, or owed. TheÂ Government incurs theseÂ obligations through normal operations, much the same as a business or household incurs expenses.
TreasuryÂ specifies its current obligations as follows:
United States Department of the Treasury Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United StatesÂ government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations,Â including Social Security,Â Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments. The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.
The GovernmentÂ process of borrowing (issuing debt) to settle its obligations is analogous to an individual using a credit card to pay a utility bill. The utility service has already been received, and the consumer must pay the ensuing obligationÂ within the previously agreed termsâtypically 30 days. If you don’t have the cash available in your checking account, you can borrow money (credit card) to pay the utility and satisfy the obligation.
Of course, using your credit card creates a new obligation consisting of the principal and interest now owed on your debt to the credit card company. In this example you have realized theÂ idiomÂ orÂ proverbÂ ofÂ ”borrowing fromÂ Peter to pay Paul;”Â whereÂ your net obligation is not reduced, but the creditor is now the credit card company (Peter) as opposed to the utility (Paul), and the amount dueÂ accruesÂ interest until paidâin accordance with the terms you have previously agreed to with your credit card company (Peter.)
Using a credit card to pay current and ongoing expenses is a temporary solution to a shortfall that requires fundamental financial management and structural change. The shortfall problem has not been solved, the solution simply delayed, often drawing anotherÂ idiom, “kicking the can down the road.“
As you can see in the following chart, the U.S. Public debt Ceiling has continued to rise dramatically over the past 30 years, although not so much during the Clinton administration, and quite steeply through the George W. Bush and Obama years.
Chart of the United States’ debt ceiling from 1981 to 2010 in $ trillion. This chart tracks the debt ceiling at the end of each calendar year. Years are color coded by congressional control and presidential terms highlighted. Data source: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/NP/BPD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My confusion begins with all the noise in theÂ mediaÂ about someÂ ConservativesÂ inÂ CongressÂ wishing to prevent any increase in the debt limit, which will neither be appreciated by the Citizenry relying on Government payments (Social Security, Medicare, military salaries) nor creditors (includingÂ Sovereign states) that have loaned the United States money in good faith, expecting repayment of interest and principal according to agreed terms. Is this where our divisiveness has taken us? A willingness by elected officials to knowinglyÂ and intentionally jeopardize the creditworthiness of our country?
HYPOCRISY = The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.
So why would any ConservativeÂ CongresspersonÂ ever feel that damagingÂ the country’sÂ credit ratingÂ is sound? Why would any responsible Conservative, so committed to Capitalism, free markets, theÂ Rule of Law, The Constitution, and sound business practices; believe thatÂ defaultÂ on our existing legal obligations is appropriate in any situation? Why would any ConservativeÂ capitulate to theÂ Tea Party‘s desire to defund theÂ Patient Protection and Affordable Care ActÂ orÂ burn down the government?
It’s time to call things for what they really are, Hypocrisy of the highest order.Â There simply is no rational reason forÂ this reckless conduct, other than a willingness to stop at nothing to oppose the President.
To thoseÂ ideologueÂ anti-government legislators who are willing to defaultÂ onÂ our Government’s existing legal obligationsâSHAME ON YOU! You are apparently willing to sacrifice your honor, integrity, and oath of officeÂ in a desperate attempt to obstruct President Obama’s progress.
Congressperson Oath of Office
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God.]
Select Clauses from Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution
- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States
- To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
- To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations,
- To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Specific Breaches of Congressional Oath:
- Intentionally defaulting on existing United States legal obligations is clearly NOT “well and faithfully discharging the duties of the office.”
- Intentionally tarnishing the United States credit rating is clearly NOT “well and faithfully discharging the duties of the office.“
- Intentionally tarnishing the United States credit rating is clearly NOT “regulating commerce with foreign nations,” unless by regulate the Founding Fathers meant sabotage!
- Intentionally defaulting on existing United States Treasury Bills–purchased by foreign countries, is clearly NOT “regulating commerce with foreign nations.”
- Shutting down the Government is NOT, “supporting and defending…and bearing true faith and allegiance…to the Constitution.” Supporting the Constitution means supporting all current laws under the Constitution, and that includes the ACA that has passed SCOTUS muster.