I know, I know: that wasn't the intent. The intent was to flog the concept that a debt ceiling is itself unconstitutional as per the 14th Amendment, thus obviating forever the need for Democratic politicians to stop spending money that we don't actually have. Here’s the text from the 14th:
Section 4. 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.
...and it's been argued - pretty much mostly by neo-Keynesian (and former conservative) Bruce Bartlett, which is something that the HuffPo author did not mention (can't imagine why he'd think that actual conservatives would react badly to a Bartlett scheme) - that the text means that any attempt to enforce a real cap on indebtedness is thus unconstitutional, so there, neener neener. If you're wondering, however, how you can make it unconstitutional to enforce a cap on indebtedness while not also conceding that it's unconstitutional to incur that debt in the first place, well, I regret to tell you this: you are immediately disqualified from writing for HuffPo. Or writing fiscal policy for the Democratic party, apparently.
As you might have guessed, I look forward to the Democrats using this argument, for the following reasons:
- The Tea Party is not going to shut up because a Democrat screams "Unconstitutional!" at them. Partially because they can read the blessed thing themselves, and they're going to notice that the 14th says nothing about requiring that debt be incurred*; and partially because the Tea Party has, collectively and individually, rather more brains than Democrats give them credit for having.
- People are "divided on whether the debt limit should be raised, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that found 41 percent opposed to the idea and 38 percent in favor." Let me translate that out of AP-ese: the Democrats will start this discussion trying to convince the American people that the plurality opinion on this issue is unconstitutional. That in itself is not an insurmountable problem, but it is complicated by the detail that 'Do not raise the debt ceiling' is semantically equivalent to 'Stop spending money that we don't have, you idiots.'
- Remember Obamacare? Remember how unpopular it was? Remember how unpopular it kept being, no matter how hard the Democrats tried to move the needle? Remember how the Democrats ignored popular opinion on that, and passed it anyway by cheating? And remember when there were sixty Democrats in the Senate, and two hundred and fifty-nine in the House? All of those questions are related.
But. If the Democrats want to take a position on the debt ceiling which puts the members of the Executive Branch by the Democrats' own interpretation of the language of the Constitution in danger of violating Article II, Section 4:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
...and I think that deliberately choosing to violate the Constitution - again, by the Democrats' own interpretation - qualifies. Although it's more about what the House leadership would think, of course; ...anyway, if the Democrats want to give us this gift, who am I to prevent them?
Moe Lane (crosspost)