Saturday, October 05, 2013

CNN's Fareed Zakaria argues that Obama can negate potential debt ceiling crisis; other media outlets disagree; Boehner's "reassurances" on debt weaken




In the past 24 hours, I’ve found at least three more commentaries or news stories that Fareed Zakaria, host of Global Public Square on CNN, has a piece “How to Solve the Crisis in Washington”, link here. Zakaria calls the behavior of extremist sub-caucus of the GOP “extortion, not democracy” and links to another CNN article calling today’s extremism maybe the worst in history.
  
Zakaria argues that, should a default occur if hardliners somehow to prevent Congress from raising the debt ceiling in two more weeks (the day of reckoning could possibly be as late as Nov. 1), President Obama should indeed invoke the 14th Amendment, honor the sovereign debt of the United States, and follow “substantive” rather than merely “procedural” law.  That would remove this weapon from “extremists” once and for all.

Former president Clinton has suggested this, but president Obama has refused to say he would do this.  One reason could be a fear that unlimited additions to debt could suddenly destroy the dollar around the world, the Porter Stansberry argument.  It may not be mainstream, but it may hold some sway in inner sanctums. 

Another theory says that the administration simply won’t find buyers of debt if under a legal or constitutional cloud, which may be the bigger problem with Fareed Zakaria’s analysis.
  
The Wall Street Journal, on Friday, offered a commentary by Kevin Hassett and Abby McCloskey, p. A23 Friday, October 4, 2013, “Obama rewrites debt-limit history”, link here. It is hard to find online with just “debt-ceiling” as a key.  The writers argue that the US debt ceiling procedure does give the minority party some brakes against the “tyranny of the majority” and of reckless spending.  But the “free lunches” point seems hollow;  the debt ceiling can stop the government from paying workers and contractors for work already done, even if it pays bond interest.  The status of Social Security as a “bond holder” probably protects Social Security recipients more than liberal commentators admit (although this can get complicated down the road).  This article also says that the PPACA was passed only “reconciliation” and that reconsideration of previous legislation should be “uncontroversial”.

The Washington Post this morning has a story by David A. Fahrenthold about freshman Tea Party congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL), around Gainesville, who claims that he will never vote to raise a debt ceiling, story here. Yoho is reported to be saying that the US is headed toward socialism.  The tone of his remarks is quite frightening in spots, rather like fascism. He actually makes the extravagant claim that no more borrowing ever will "stabilize world markets".  Just stiff everybody now and shoot them and get them out of the way.  The story reports he gets support in his district, but it may only be his extremist supporters who bother to speak up. 
  
James B. Stewart has a front page article in the New York Times Saturday, “In rural Iowa, spending, not the shutdown, raises worry,” link here. The piece is about congressman Steve King (R-IA), who is quoted, near the end of the article, as saying “We have the cash flow to service the debt .. and we can roll over the principal.”  But you can’t keep the principal forever, and what about the employees, contractors, Medicare doctors, Social Security, etc.  King is mentioned as having made numerous socially conservative remarks that sound off the wall and possibly offensive.

Just Thursday night, Boehner was reported as having said he will not let a debt default happen, but the media is already backing away from reassurment on that point.

Conservative Bem Stein has called all this GOP behavior "just nuts".  He has a few discussions on the debt ceiling dating back to 2011. 
  

By the way, here’s another vocabulary term for high school students studying for US government tests: “discharge petition”.  I wonder how high school teachers are presenting this battle in Congress.  And a good essay question would be to discuss the effect on past "gerrymandering" on today's crisis (see Movies blog, Oct. 30, 2010).  

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