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Debt-Limit Debacle is Tea-Party Hypocrisy

Why would anyĀ Tea PartyĀ activist, supporter, or proponent (‘Tea Partier’) in Congress chooseĀ Government shutdownĀ and to not pay Government bills for existing obligations? Is theĀ Tea PartyĀ movement not about fiscal responsibility, sound financial management, and reductions in Government debt, spending, theĀ Federal Budget Deficit, andĀ taxes?


Why would any Congressperson choose to risk further degradation of the U.S. credit ratingĀ 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?Ā 

300px us deptofthetreasury seal svg 3 Debt Limit Debacle is Tea Party Hypocrisy

Seal of the United States Department of the Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently I am not alone in my confusion surrounding our now regular politicalĀ battles over theĀ United States debt ceilingĀ (“Debt Limit“). There is no controversyĀ over the meaning ofĀ Debt Limit, it is a legal restriction on the amount theĀ United States TreasuryĀ (“Treasury”) may borrow (issueĀ debt)Ā to pay for existing obligationsā€”similar 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. TheĀ Government incurs theseĀ obligations through normal operations, much the same as a business or household incurs expenses.

TreasuryĀ specifies its current obligations as follows:

300px treasury departement9 Debt Limit Debacle is Tea Party Hypocrisy

United States Department of the Treasury Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United StatesĀ government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations,Ā including Social Security,Ā Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest onĀ theĀ 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 GovernmentĀ 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 obligationĀ within the previously agreed termsā€”typically 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 theĀ idiomĀ orĀ proverbĀ ofĀ “borrowing fromĀ Peter to pay Paul;”Ā whereĀ 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 dueĀ accruesĀ interest until paidā€”in 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 anotherĀ 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.


us public debt ceiling 1981 2010 Debt Limit Debacle is Tea Party Hypocrisy

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 theĀ mediaĀ about someĀ ConservativesĀ inĀ CongressĀ 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 (includingĀ 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 knowinglyĀ 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 ConservativeĀ CongresspersonĀ ever feel that damagingĀ the country’sĀ credit ratingĀ is sound? Why would any responsible Conservative, so committed to Capitalism, free markets, theĀ Rule of Law, The Constitution, and sound business practices; believe thatĀ defaultĀ on our existing legal obligations is appropriate in any situation? Why would any ConservativeĀ capitulate to theĀ Tea Party‘s desire to defund theĀ Patient Protection and Affordable Care ActĀ orĀ burn down the government?


It’s time to call things for what they really are, Hypocrisy of the highest order.Ā There simply is no rational reason forĀ this reckless conduct, other than a willingness to stop at nothing to oppose the President.

To thoseĀ ideologueĀ anti-government legislators who are willing to defaultĀ onĀ our Government’s existing legal obligationsā€”SHAME ON YOU! You are apparently willing to sacrifice your honor, integrity, and oath of officeĀ 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 NOTwell and faithfully discharging the duties of the office.”
  • Intentionally tarnishing the United States credit rating is clearly NOTwell 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 NOTregulating 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.

Sean Grady
Sean Grady

Why would any congressman pass a healthcare law without knowing what's in it?


The problem is that we allow ourselves to go more and more into debt because every time we hit the point we're supposed to stop at, the limit just gets raised again. They're avoiding the problem by pushing it back for future Congress's to handle instead of trying to do something right now.


Agreed, hence my "kicking the can down the road" comment. Fundamental change is required to solve the problem so we don't have to keep raising it.

My point was to clarify that we have exceed our credit card limit not because of additional spending however. It is a confluence of factors including less tax revenues because of a damaged economy. I absolutely support the position that no NEW spending should drive it higher, but we cannot default on existing agreements.

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