The Debt Ceiling Debate is Rubbish

The current theatre riveting Washington these days is the debt ceiling “negotiation” between Barack Obama and the opposite of progress (otherwise known as Congress).  But, as Felix Salmon (and others) point out, it may all be for nothing:

Realistically, then, the government is likely to breach the current debt ceiling no matter what Congress agrees. A failure to lift it would be a bit like an edict to a steaming supertanker that it had to stop dead: no matter how much force of law that edict has, sheer momentum is going force many basic operations of the public fisc to continue for some period of days or weeks.

At that point — and no earlier — there would be enormous pressure on the White House to pull out the 14th Amendment and declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional, if only for practical reasons: doing so would be a lot easier than trying to reprogram the computers which are set to send out $49 billion of Social Security checks on August 3. Not to mention that no president ever wants to be the person who stiffed America’s seniors on their guaranteed monthly income: a greater failure of leadership can hardly be imagined. On the other hand, saying “enough of you bickering legislators, I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution and do what’s in the best interest of the country” is much more presidential.

If an impasse is reached, Obama has two options: shut down the government the way Bill Clinton did in 1995 and embarrass the Republicans (which in part got him his second term), or just roll on and figure out how to justify it later.  The first option is dicey this go around because Congress is divided and the ability to dispense money (and thus patronage) is the key to the Democrats’ long term hegemony.

The “constitutional” argument that Salmon refers to is buttressed by the simple fact that Congress authorised the expenditures that got us to this point to start with.   Ignoring the debt ceiling would provoke a “constitutional crisis”, but when a political system is constantly forced to do what it wasn’t designed to do, such a crisis is inevitable, and we might as well have it now.  If I were in Obama’s position with his idea, I would ignore the debt ceiling, knowing my opponents don’t have much recourse, in the short term at least.

Barack Obama is, in some ways, in same position as Charles I of England was in 1629: from his view, he would be better off if he could send Congress home for the duration.  Eventually he would get his tax increase, eventually Obamacare would kick in, he could use administrative means to get the rest of his agenda, and he could lean on the Supremes to force same sex civil marriage on the rest of the states.  (May not take much leaning, really…)  Our constitution prohibits such a move (the formal term is to prorogue Congress) with Charles’ experience in view: not only was representative government short circuited, but the end result was ugly, both for Charles I (he was beheaded) and England (which got Oliver Cromwell).

We are headed to a major “constitutional” crisis.  Coming to an agreement on this only puts it off, but come it will.

HT to the American Thinker.

My Fourth of July Tribute: Tragedy in a P-47

For the Fourth of July, when the U.S. celebrates its independence from the U.K., I have gone on at length about the importance of the Declaration of Independence as our true founding document.

This year, however, I’ve picked something a little closer to home: the aviation service during World War II of my uncle, Don Gaston Shofner (right), and of his untimely death in service even before he got a chance for his “baptism of fire” in combat.  You can read about this (with photographs) here.

Have a great Fourth of July!

Do not wonder if the world hates you: Epistle for the Second Sunday After Trinity

Salutary reminder for the times we live in:

Do not wonder, Brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of Death into Life, because we love our Brothers. The man who does not love remains in a state of Death. Every one who hates his Brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has Immortal Life within him. We have learned to know what love is from this–that Christ laid down his life on our behalf. Therefore we also ought to lay down our lives on behalf of our Brothers. But, if any one has worldly possessions, and yet looks on while his Brother is in want, and steels his heart against him, how can it be said that the love of God is within him? My children, do not let our love be mere words, or end in talk; let it be true and show itself in acts. By that we shall know that we are on the side of the Truth; and we shall satisfy ourselves in God’s sight, that if our conscience condemns us, yet God is greater than our conscience and knows everything. Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, then we approach God with confidence, and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we are laying his commands to heart, and are doing what is pleasing in his sight. His Command is this–that we should put our trust in the Name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, in accordance with the Command that he gave us. And he who lays his commands to heart maintains union with Christ, and Christ with him. And by this we know that Christ maintains union with us–by our possession of the Spirit which he gave us.
(1 John 3:13-24)

From the 1928 BCP.

Month of Sundays: Sovereignty

They sent their disciples, with the Herodians, to say to him: “Teacher, we know that you are an honest man, and that you teach the way of God honestly, and are not afraid of any one; for you pay no regard to a man’s position. Tell us, then, what you think. Are we right in paying taxes to the Emperor, or not?” Perceiving their malice, Jesus answered: “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin with which the tax is paid.” And, when they had brought him a florin, He asked: “Whose head and title are these?” “The Emperor’s,” they answered: on which he said to them: “Then pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:16-21)

When I was growing up, we went to the Bahamas, before they became an independent nation. To buy anything, I had to learn the old British money system of pounds, shillings and pence (the direct descendant of the system used in the New Testament.) The Bahamas are a long way from England in every sense. However, on every coin and the paper money, there was Queen Elizabeth’s picture. That’s still true in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries with a monarch.

The Jews resented the fact that they were under Roman rule, and a constant reminder of that (for Jew and Bahamian alike) was the sovereign’s likeness and title on the coins. So they used this in an attempt to trap Jesus. They saw things in an either/or sense: if he says we pay taxes, the Emperor is first, not God. If he says we don’t, he’s a rebel and the Romans will do away with him.

But asking God how we should honor him can have unpredictable results. Jesus’ answer was based on a simple premise: the Emperor had his role and the earthly power to make it stick. So we must do for the sovereign what we must, and do for God what we must.

Jesus’ message for his brethren was simple: you’re looking for a political solution, but your problem is that your heart’s in the wrong place. Our heart needs to be with God, no matter what we must do for our “sovereign” in this life. When the Jews finally revolted, they issued coinage without the Emperor’s likeness, but they were defeated and the Temple destroyed. Let us not make the same mistake!