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Version: 1.0
(July 25, 2005)

The "Fiscal Cliff" "Deal"

Jan 04, 2013 by Ugh
Congratulations Democracy! Nothing like a lame duck Congress voting for this legislation at almost the last possible minute. Yet another Constitutional amendment to put on the list. Broader issues aside, I still don't understand the Democratic political calculus of voting on this before the new Congress. Why? Would there be no deal with the "new" leadership in the House and thus we'd all be Thelma & Louise-ing it off the cliff? WTF? On the tax issues in the legislation itself, it's mostly the same old same old. An increase in rates on those making 400 or 450k +, an extension of the estate tax exemption of $5M+ plus inflation indexing (albeit with a rate increase from 35% to 40 on amounts above that), permitting an expiration of the payroll tax decrease, plus a whole host of corporate tax "extenders." The farce that is U.S. tax policy continues. Hooray!

Comments

Jan 08, 2013, 19:57:40 libjpn wrote:

Anyone want to write something about the platinum coin story?

Jan 08, 2013, 21:00:07 Slartibartfast wrote:

I can't think of anything serious in the way of discussion, libjpn. The whole notion is fundamentally unserious.

Jan 08, 2013, 21:34:10 sapient wrote:

How is the coin more or less serious than holding the world economy hostage to a few crazy Republicans who hold power only because of redistricting? (A minority of voters voted for Republican Congressional Representatives, so it's not as though the electorate was consciously choosing a split-party government.) The whole issue is silly and absurd, other than the fact that it's deadly serious.

Jan 08, 2013, 21:35:01 sapient wrote:

That said, I'm not worried that Obama will allow it. He has several options in addition to the coin trick.

Jan 08, 2013, 21:42:39 Turbulence wrote:

The coin might not be serious, but it seems to be legal.
In contrast, a debt ceiling fight forces the President to break the law. The President is required by Congress to spend so many dollars and he is required by Congress to collect much less than that in tax revenue. Without borrowing authority, the President must either spend less than Congress has appropriated or tax more than Congress has authorized or borrow more than Congress has authorized.

Jan 09, 2013, 01:24:24 John Thullen wrote:

It's hard to tell any longer what is fundamentally serious and what is fundamentally unserious.

In which venue is the news-gathering more accurate: any old journalism outlet, or The Daily Show?

The Internet alternative?

Yeah, right.

The internet, when it comes to the political problems of the day is like watching Slim Pickens slapping his thigh with his hat as he straddles the bomb on the way out the bomb bay doors:
thrilling, until the silence of oblivion, and by the end of the movie, you're rooting for it.

It's as if we are presented minute-by-minute on every issue with a long-running, deadly serious documentary about the Cuban Missile Crisis produced by Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame with Mel Blanc doing the voices for all of the main characters.

Come to think of it, the domestic response TO the Cuban Missile Crisis was a farce (the American culture is the first to turn the dictum "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce" into "history repeats itself - first as farce and then as Farce: The Sequel) as well -- now children, if you see the flash of light in the distance, you must duck underneath your desks (and think of your mother, incinerated in situ as she's reaching for her car keys to come get you, but you'll be O.K., kids).

Or to very approximately paraphrase Christopher Hitchens (who I believe played several roles in the Looney Tunes classics -- Yosemite Sam, Pepe Le Peu, Foghorn Leghorn, to name a few - but to great entertaining effect), "Like everybody else, I remember exactly where I was standing when President Kennedy and Premier Krushchev tried to kill me."

Such it is with every issue now -- global warming, healthcare, the effing deficit, and on down the line.

Where does this unseriousness come from?

I have no brief for any side really, being cynical (except, along with Kevin Drum, that government's revenues must and will rise over time, given our responsibilities) but I just saw the other day that Steve LaTourette, the recently retired and what used-to-be considered fire-breathing Republican Representative, point out that his newly-minted fellow Republicans in the House are supremely unserious gets:

http://www.balloon-juice.co...

Some of them actually appended an amendment to one of the endless bills gutting the government without a trace of a glance at the revenue side that defunded the President's teleprompter.

Now, to me that one amendment sums up the unserious but seriously dangerous 27% who have hijacked the Republican Party. It's like finding out that Hitler or Stalin's navies, armies, and air forces were crafted from marizpan -- amusing, clever, perhaps even a reason to pick up their option for next season's episodes, but what the hell, they deserve to be killed anyway so launch the effing missiles.

To be continued Unserious but wordy

Jan 09, 2013, 01:24:38 John Thullen wrote:

In other words, mint the coin. Mint two of them. It's fundamentally unserious, but perfectly legal, as is illustrated by the measures being taken by House Committee Chairmen themselves to prevent the President from ordering the move.

But as long as we're being seriously unserious, I think joking oneupsmanship should be the order of the day and thus I second Paul Krugman's suggestion that John Boehner's mug be embossed in relief on the coin.

I'll go Krugman one more. Put Mitch McConnell's on the opposite side.

Call the coin the 27% Percenter.

Then, President Obama, during the State of The Union speech should reach into his pants pocket and begin the flipping the coin in the air, like George Raft in the old film noirs, as he talks about the effing budget.

Then flip the coin high in the air into the gallery so it lands and rattles down the center aisle, circling on its edge round and round, thrillingly, and clatters to a stop.

"Heads I win, tails you lose", would be fine words to end the speech. My better angels would huzzah.

At which point, of course, the silence would be interrupted some House R. backbencher from the Old South in the cheap balcony seats yelling, after the script of "Django Unchained" (a mess of a movie, but it has its moments), "Shazam! I ain't never seen no nigger on a horse before?"

I'm reading Abraham Lincoln's speeches and other writings at the moment.

On taxation, on race, on governing, you name it, the man at the time was a flaming liberal. Yes, in the old sense, but his words ring liberal in the new sense too.

Today, he'd be primaried out of the Republican Party, if he hadn't already switched sides.

Which I guess is why John Wilkes Booth founded the modern Republican Party.
It's hard to tell any longer what is fundamentally serious and what is fundamentally unserious.

, the silence would be interrupted some House R. backbencher from the Old South in the cheap balcony seats yelling, after the script of "Django Unchained" (a mess of a movie, but it has its moments), "Shazam! I ain't never seen no nigger on a horse before?"

I'm reading Abraham Lincoln's speeches and other writings at the moment.

On taxation, on race, on governing, you name it, the man at the time was a flaming liberal. Yes, in the old sense, but his words ring liberal in the new sense too.

Today, he'd be primaried out of the Republican Party, if he hadn't already switched sides.

Which I guess is why John Wilkes Booth founded the modern Republican Party.

Jan 09, 2013, 01:29:44 John Thullen wrote:

The cutting, the pasting, the limit on characters per comment ... it's all confounding.

Jan 09, 2013, 02:26:48 John Thullen wrote:

This is satire, parody, fundamentally unserious:

http://www.balloon-juice.co...

Then take a look at the fundamentally serious reality it parodies.

Same, same.

Jan 09, 2013, 02:40:21 John Thullen wrote:

A guy whose mother, in an act of fundamentally unserious seriousness, like earnest slapstick, named him Dick Armey (and if you consider the "activists" he charged $982 to populate Glenn Beck rallies, you'll that his mother was prescient, as well), explains his deeply serious approach to the parody of making a living and solving our problems in this great country of ours:

http://www.salon.com/2013/0...

It's like looking through the optometrist's lenses -- is this better .... or worse?.

Nope, the same.

You know, doc, I don't think I need the corrective lenses of parody any longer to make reality any clearer.

Jan 09, 2013, 03:02:28 DonaldJ wrote:

Krugman's half-serious suggestion--

http://krugman.blogs.nytime...

Jan 09, 2013, 03:10:23 John Thullen wrote:

Thanks, Donald.

Some other wag, probably at Balloon Juice, suggested George W. Bush's face on the coin.

I second that idea for the second $1 trillion dollar coin -- The War Coin.

Jan 09, 2013, 03:45:37 John Thullen wrote:

Charles Pierce, who manages to squeeze an extra drop or two of refreshing parody out of the dry fruit of our national discourse puts the case for the coin pretty well:

"My own support of the notion of a platinum coin is based solely on a paraphrase of the philosophy once voiced by the late Norman Mailer as regards to Oliver Stone's JFK and the Warren Commission sometimes, the only antidote to bullshit is superior bullshit. If the Republicans are going to play continuous monkey-mischief with the debt ceiling endangering the economy over what is essentially a stunt then it's not unreasonable to counter this with a better stunt to wit, creating the platinum coin."

Jan 09, 2013, 03:47:15 DonaldJ wrote:

The link I posted really was semi-serious, I think--there wasn't anything about putting Boehner's face on a coin. I missed whatever post where Krugman suggested that.

It is kind of insane that we are in this position where silly ideas make more sense than what some congressmen want to do.

Jan 09, 2013, 04:01:20 John Thullen wrote:

Next post down:

http://krugman.blogs.nytime...

That should do me, and the rest of you, for the week.

Jan 09, 2013, 04:09:03 sapient wrote:

Oh, just to clarify, I'm in favor of the coin trick. When I said previously that "I'm not worried that Obama will allow it," I meant that I'm not worried that Obama will allow a government default. Obama will do what's necessary to uphold the full faith and credit of the United States. If that means mint a coin, he will do that.

Jan 09, 2013, 04:42:41 sapient wrote:

What's really fun about this, to me, is demonstrating to the "libertarian community" that the Government makes money happen. You make money? You own stuff? You built it? What would all of that be, without Uncle Sam's coinage? Nowhere!

Jan 09, 2013, 04:49:37 Slartibartfast wrote:

"Without borrowing authority, the President must either spend less than Congress has appropriated or tax more than Congress has authorized or borrow more than Congress has authorized."

I had no idea that it was the President who does the borrowing and spending in US government.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:01:44 Turbulence wrote:

Slarti, the executive branch is responsible for both sending checks and collecting taxes. Do you understand that?


I mean, do you think that Congress issues checks to DOD contractors directly?

Jan 09, 2013, 05:34:03 Slartibartfast wrote:

Spending appropriations are law. Actual spending is not law. I am pretty sure that the President is not personally responsible for failing to spend every dime of appropriations.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:35:05 Slartibartfast wrote:

But yes, I am aware that the Executive is responsible for tax collections. Which of course makes the President personally, legally responsible for collection of taxes, I imagine.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:40:27 Turbulence wrote:

The President is responsible for ensuring that all laws are faithfully executed; that includes appropriation bills. As wikipedia puts it: "An annual appropriation requires that the funds appropriated be obligated (spent) by the end of the fiscal year of the appropriation."

Jan 09, 2013, 05:44:02 Turbulence wrote:

In a debt-ceilling showdown, every federal government department will not have the money needed to outlays that Congress required. Which means that they're going have to ask the President what to do. At that point, absent a platinum coin, the President MUST order them to break the law. Either he orders individual departments to spend less than the appropriations bill required or he orders the IRS to raise taxes or he orders treasury to sell new debt. Any of those actions is illegal.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:47:23 Slartibartfast wrote:

"As wikipedia puts it: "An annual appropriation requires that the funds appropriated be obligated (spent) by the end of the fiscal year of the appropriation.""

And Wikipedia is the font of all wisdom and accuracy, I imagine. But there's another explanation: Wikipedia has simply failed to give the entire picture. What if the government appropriates some funds but agencies fail to spend it? Who goes to jail? What happens to the money?

More here:

http://www.rollcall.com/new...

Jan 09, 2013, 05:48:57 Slartibartfast wrote:

"In a debt-ceilling showdown, every federal government department will not have the money needed to outlays that Congress required. Which means that they're going have to ask the President what to do. At that point, absent a platinum coin, the President MUST order them to break the law. Either he orders individual departments to spend less than the appropriations bill required or he orders the IRS to raise taxes or he orders treasury to sell new debt. Any of those actions is illegal."

This whole paragraph needs some evidencing, beginning with "the President MUST order them to break the law". You're arguing by assertion, Turbulence.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:49:14 Turbulence wrote:

Note that the government spends appropriated dollars in accordance with contracts. When the government signs a contract to purchase an F-35, it is legally obligated to pay the company after taking delivery. When people on Medicare show up at hospitals and get medical treatment, the government is legally responsible for paying those hospitals for that treatment. If the President says "sorry, we've got a debt ceiling, I can't pay", then the US government is breaking those contracts. That's illegal. It is just as illegal as buying a car and refusing to make payments.

If you think the government spends too much, then the time to deal with that is when Congress is passing an appropriations bill or a revenue bill.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:52:35 Turbulence wrote:

Slarti, the logic of the situation is very clear: there's going to be a significant gap between revenues coming into the federal government and legally mandated outlays. That gap will require that all outlays be cut. Do you think it is legal for the President to order that hospitals not be paid for Medicare treatments? That DOD contracts not be paid for services already rendered? How can refusing to pay for services you've already received possibly be legal?

Jan 09, 2013, 05:53:39 Slartibartfast wrote:

I am not arguing that there are no consequences at all if we hit the debt ceiling, Turbulence. I am questioning your _assertion_ that personal, legal consequences will fall onto the President if we do.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:54:47 Slartibartfast wrote:

It doesn't matter what you or I think is legal, Turbulence. What matters is what actually is and is not legal.

Jan 09, 2013, 05:57:26 Slartibartfast wrote:

BTW, did you read my link? What consequences fall onto the President when he fails to spend some money, again?

Jan 09, 2013, 06:02:59 Turbulence wrote:

Slarti, obviously, appropriated dollars don't have to be spent if you don't use them for buying stuff. And sure, a few billion dollars are appropriated but not spent every year. But the shortfall we're talking about is ~40%. We're not talking about a few billion dollars here and there: we're talking about the government paying everyone 60% of what it owes. Is it legal for the government to promise to pay $100,000 to a hospital but then only pay $60,000?

My point is that there's no way any President will insist on across the board cuts in spending. He's going to have to make explicit choices about where money goes by directing that some programs will be paid out at higher rates than others. And the minute he does that, he's breaking the law. When the President directs the DOD to not pay a specific government contractor, that is illegal, and doing so requires him to make a personal illegal act.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:08:15 sapient wrote:

"He's going to have to make explicit choices about where money goes by directing that some programs will be paid out at higher rates than others."

Turbulence, you're right - he can't do that, and he won't. Whether he uses the coin trick, or just says that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and proceeds as if it doesn't exist ... whatever his lawyers tell him is best ... he's not going to go along with the hostage takers. There are alternatives, and he's not that irresponsible.

The coin trick is legal, by the way, Slart. You don't like it because it thwarts your libertarian friends, but it's legal and it might be the best solution.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:32:30 John Thullen wrote:

It's next week already?

Time flies.

Re the coin: this is about right, in a sane world, long gone:

http://blogs.reuters.com/fe...

Salmon compares the coin caper to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I would add that the sequester was merely Flying Spaghetti Monster Numero Uno.

And that Flying Spaghetti Monsters monsters will now come one after the other because they are the only way to communicate with lunatics.

Jon Stewart uses the analogy of tying a woman to the railroad tracks as the oncoming train approaches (see silent film clips). Following Stewart, we untied the the woman briefly during the fiscal cliff "drama", but then just moved her a mile down the track and retied her.

What Obama is learning, or should have learned by now, is that the lunatic sadists want to run the woman over and then, for good measure, back over her a few times, but they also want him to be wearing the engineer's hat and the signalman's hat in the posterity photo shot.

And then relieve him of the hats and thank the "boy" for his service.

After they begin impeachment proceedings him for making the illegal, but explicit choices Turbulence notes.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:45:28 Slartibartfast wrote:

"The coin trick is legal, by the way, Slart."

I'm not saying anything contrary to that.

"You don't like it"

Actually, I quite like it.

"because it thwarts your libertarian friends"

You don't have any notion whether I have any libertarian friends, much less whether I am feeling protective of them. Which, come to think of it, could itself be interpreted as being contrary to libertarian ideals.

"but it's legal and it might be the best solution."

Again: not contesting whether it's legal. Whether it's "best" in some way remains to be seen.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:47:13 Slartibartfast wrote:

"Is it legal for the government to promise to pay $100,000 to a hospital but then only pay $60,000?"

It's a breach of contract. There are recourses for breach of contract. None of which involve the President, personally.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:49:16 Turbulence wrote:

When the President orders the DOD to break a contract, that means he's breaking the law. Just like when any chief executive orders his staff to break a contract: they're breaking the law.

And its not just contracts. The government is required by law to pay hospitals for Medicare treatment. Failing to pay is illegal above and beyond the contractual issues.

Jan 09, 2013, 06:52:54 Turbulence wrote:

"Whether it's "best" in some way remains to be seen."


The platinum coin is legal. The alternatives require that the President break the law. It seems that when required to choose between a legal plan for dealing with a problem and several illegal ones, the legal one is "best", all else being equal.

Jan 09, 2013, 07:15:00 sapient wrote:

Slartibartfast: "Actually, I quite like it."

Good, then we're in agreement. I do too, and I hope that he uses the coin trick. Or that he does something within the law that 1) averts a debt ceiling crisis, and 2) demonstrates to the ridiculous Republicans that they can't hold the country hostage.

Jan 09, 2013, 12:15:49 John Thullen wrote:

Faces for the coin:

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsm...

I nominate Grover Norquist.

Jan 09, 2013, 21:53:34 Slartibartfast wrote:

"The alternatives require that the President break the law"

You keep making that claim, and then not substantiating it. This is argument by assertion.

Jan 09, 2013, 21:56:02 Slartibartfast wrote:

Just to be clear, hitting the debt ceiling scares the crap out of me. It could mean instant layoff for me, with little or no warning.

Which warning is required by law, I might add. It's almost as if Lockheed Martin has been put in a position where it is forced to break the law.

Jan 09, 2013, 22:06:42 Turbulence wrote:

"You keep making that claim, and then not substantiating it"

Slarti, don't you agree that if the government cut its spending by 40% overnight that it would be breaking contractual and other legal obligations? Do you really need a cite showing that when Medicare starts paying hospitals 40% less than it is legally required to, a law will have been broken?

Jan 09, 2013, 23:09:33 Slartibartfast wrote:

That wasn't responsive. Your unsupported claim was that the debt ceiling requires the _President_ to break the law.

I am not really sure whether Medicare obligations are precisely contractual, but DoD contracts of course are by definition. Nevertheless: DoD contracts are routinely broken by the government, and occasionally broken by contractors, with associated court battles.

I'm not saying it wouldn't be an utter catastrophic mess, just to be clear. Just that breach of contract is not really uncommon.

Whether breach of contract is "breaking the law" in some sense is probably a question for lawyers. I'm not sure that a civil wrong really equates to lawbreaking.

Jan 09, 2013, 23:23:25 Turbulence wrote:

" Nevertheless: DoD contracts are routinely broken by the government, and occasionally broken by contractors, with associated court battles."

Why are there court battles? Because someone broke the law.

"Whether breach of contract is "breaking the law" in some sense is probably a question for lawyers."

When your contract is mandated by law, then breaking that contract is breaking the law. When a law is passed requiring the federal government to pay someone and the government doesn't, it is breaking the law.

Jan 09, 2013, 23:27:04 Slartibartfast wrote:

So: which contracts are binding on the President, personally?

As opposed to the government, I mean. Who is sued for breach?

Jan 09, 2013, 23:29:57 Turbulence wrote:

Slarti, do you understand that when people sue the government, they often sue specific leaders of the government?

Jan 09, 2013, 23:35:24 Slartibartfast wrote:

Great, now we're getting somewhere.

Who has been sued for breach of contract? Has the President ever been sued for breach?

Jan 09, 2013, 23:36:37 Slartibartfast wrote:

Successfully, I mean.

You can sue practically anyone. You can't always win.

Jan 09, 2013, 23:38:22 Turbulence wrote:

No one has been sued for breach of contract due to the debt ceiling because the debt ceiling hasn't happened yet.

Jan 09, 2013, 23:55:12 Slartibartfast wrote:

Evasion. Breach of contract has occurred. Who, personally, has been sued, in the US government?

Jan 09, 2013, 23:56:17 Slartibartfast wrote:

Also: budget appropriations have not been fully spent. Who in the government, personally, has been sued as a result?

Jan 10, 2013, 00:19:24 Turbulence wrote:

"Evasion"

Now you're arguing by assertion. Prove that an evasion occurred.

Jan 10, 2013, 00:34:07 DonaldJ wrote:

That it would be a catastrophic mess if the debt ceiling isn't raised seems like a good enough reason to raise it. Without knowing who would get sued if it isn't.

Speaking of that, AIG is showing new ways of exhibiting chutzpah.

Jan 10, 2013, 00:39:21 Slartibartfast wrote:

"Now you're arguing by assertion. Prove that an evasion occurred."

As a dodge, this is an utter fail.

Look, it's your claim that the President will be forced to break the law if the debt ceiling is reached. You can let it flap in the wind, or you can substantiate it. You have chosen to let it flap. Noted.

Jan 10, 2013, 00:46:50 DonaldJ wrote:

Bob Somerby explains what he thinks is wrong on the political level with the platinum coin idea--

http://dailyhowler.blogspot...

Jan 10, 2013, 01:01:21 Turbulence wrote:

"As a dodge, this is an utter fail."

More assertions!

I think the President doesn't have the legal authority to unilaterally refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated ever since Nixon tried to unilaterally cut spending for programs he didn't like and Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

Jan 10, 2013, 01:08:03 Slartibartfast wrote:

"I think the President doesn't have the legal authority to unilaterally refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated"

It's nice that you think that. But you seem to be assuming that the President will decline to spend money that he has to spend. Which is, again, pure assertion.

If there's some legal authority that is arguing on these lines, please post a link. If not, you're just guessing.

Jan 10, 2013, 01:12:06 Turbulence wrote:

"But you seem to be assuming that the President will decline to spend money that he has to spend."

No. I do not assume that. I know for a fact that in a debt-limit scenario without the platinum coin option, when faced with a shortfall of 40%, the President has no choice but to not spend money that has been appropriated by Congress. The President can't spend money that the government doesn't have. That last sentence is definitely an assertion and I have no interest in finding a cite for it.

"If there's some legal authority that is arguing on these lines, please post a link. If not, you're just guessing."

Do you think I just guessed about the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 and Nixon's impoundment issues? Really?

Slarti, maybe you should go do some reading on the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

Jan 10, 2013, 01:41:32 Slartibartfast wrote:

"President has no choice but to not spend money that has been appropriated by Congress."

The phrase you used is "unilaterally refuse".

The above statement _also_ applies to your virtual cite of law regarding spending. Nixon refused to spend money that he was authorized to spend and was available to spend, which was the whole point.

Jan 10, 2013, 01:52:24 Turbulence wrote:

I don't believe that the appropriations bill has a clause that says "none of this applies if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling", so the President would still be breaking the law when he refused to pay contractors for work they've already done. But perhaps I'm mistaken: why don't you go look through the last appropriations bill and find the debt-ceiling clause?

Jan 10, 2013, 01:53:21 Turbulence wrote:

Slarti, are you getting confused by the distinction between illegal and immoral behaviour?

Jan 10, 2013, 02:09:51 Slartibartfast wrote:

"I don't believe"

There's that phrasing again. Along with the multitude of unspoken assumptions that, if true, would make you correct in your belief.

I'll be wary of Presidential budgetary lawbreaking when someone who knows what they're talking about writes on the topic.

Or maybe your concern isn't with Presidential lawbreaking, after all. If not, we're arguing over nothing.

Also: your speculation about confusion on my part is baseless.

Jan 10, 2013, 07:55:48 sapient wrote:

Slartibartfast, I'm not sure what you're arguing here. The government can be bound by contract law, just like everyone else. The Executive branch, through its various departments, enters into contracts frequently. People who do work for the government need to be paid, and people who are entitled to benefits are, by law, entitled to them. The Full Faith and Credit clause obligates the government to honor its debts.

Most debts are paid by the government as a matter of course. Some debts are disputed by the government, and those issues are litigated in court. The United States Court of Federal Claims is where these issues are litigated. See the history of the court's jurisdiction here: http://www.uscfc.uscourts.g...

The history of that court might answer some of your questions about the government's obligations to pay its debts, how disputes about debts have been litigated, etc.

Of course, as I am many times with your positions, I might be totally confused about what you're saying here. If you're saying that President Obama isn't "personally" liable for the government's debts, you're right, of course. No one is going to garnish his wages for a debt incurred by the State Department. But as the head of the Executive branch, he is responsible for seeing that debts (incurred through contracts with the Executive branch, authorized by Congress) get paid.

Jan 10, 2013, 08:18:25 sapient wrote:

Oh, and as to whether he's breaking the law or, instead, just being a deadbeat, his oath of office requires him to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and [to the best of his ability], preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The Constitution (the 14th amendment) demands that the government pay its debts.

Jan 10, 2013, 09:45:01 Slartibartfast wrote:

To the best of his abilities.

Jan 10, 2013, 10:38:44 sapient wrote:

Exactly. Coin.

Jan 10, 2013, 10:44:14 sapient wrote:

Oh, and you're welcome!

Jan 11, 2013, 00:03:32 John Thullen wrote:

I was going to mention the Federal Claims Court, which is the only legal venue available for adjudicating things when you've been stiffed by the Federal Government.

Thanks, sapient.

And good luck with that. The end of the line I think is .... well, walk a couple of miles and ask again.

This link: .........

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPI...

.... and others I've been perusing raise the question of the punishment for the President in this deadly serious but manufactured farce, and of course it won't be creditors ringing Obama up during his dinner hour or towing the Presidential limo away, though they might repossess the Presidential teleprompter, if legislative precedent by the dim but sadistic bulbs in the House is any indicator, which it is.

The punishment for the Executive Branch for not paying the government's debts is impeachment. There's some talk too that impeachment may occur if the President refuses to spend the money appropriated by Congress as Congress itself has specified, though what do I know?.

Scarily, I know pretty much the same stuff the maniacal rump end of the Republican Party now (in their minds they know, which amounts to roughly seven brain cells feverishly overheating) ascendant and outraged by, you know, yet another election.

What I know that they know is that the word "impeachment" kind of rolls off the tongue just before a prolonged cackle and some vigorous chair-swiveling, so I fully expect a sizable minority of the majority in the House to seize on whatever features of this crisis will steer the process to the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama.

They've conditioned us to the lowest expectations so who am I not to go all Pavlov's dog and salivate on cue.

The carrion-loving media hyenas will love the drama of impeachment being introduced and overtaking the more "substantive issues".

We're dealing (I include John Boehner in those of us dealing with them) with sociopathic sadists in the Republican Party who confuse the issue by wearing clown suits.

"But officer, our neighbor was quiet and kept to himself. I think he was a professional clown, by trade. Surely you must be mistaken about the bodies in the crawl space. My God, what will happen to our home values?"

Dim bulbs: One of the Godfathers of the astro-turfed melding of the tea Party/Republican Party, he with the Pynchonesque monikor, Dick Armey, admitted the other day that he thought he was talking to Brent Bozell's Media Research Center when he spilled the beans on the typical grift of money and guns he perpetrated over and over and over by his verminous ilk.

Well, he was talking to the ultra Liberal, Commie, Gay, Nazi, Kenyan Media Matters, which he was apprised of clearly at the beginning of the interview.

Dumb shit. Apparently the lead in his environment was not removed soon enough to prevent harm.

Unfortunately, his little boys and girls from Brazil now sit in the House of Representatives.

Jan 11, 2013, 00:24:31 John Thullen wrote:

Slart, on a personal note, I hope your job and livelihood are not effected by this mess.

More austerity is precisely what we don't need right now, including in the defense budget.

Yes, yes, defense appropriations should probably be cut, but it can wait for a gradual drawdown and even if it does occur, I favor a fully-funded program to transition the victims into comparable employment.

It's unfortunate, by design unfortunately, that most Americans have to be kept in a state of terror about their livelihoods.

Having reluctantly become part of the 47% of parasites who have been made redundant for the sake of American productivity and who (well, I'm merely drawing from speeches and elsewhere during the presidential primaries; any resemblance to living people is coincidental or better, fictional) and who sit in the wagon, sucking at the vital gummint titty fluids of the hard-working taxpayer (who are merely next up for redundant parasitism and who are the root cause of all evil), I don't like it when others are given the opportunity (more equal than we think) to be subject to ridicule over champagne cocktails by all of the aforementioned sadists.

Good luck to you.

Jan 11, 2013, 00:41:03 DonaldJ wrote:

There's an opinion piece in the NYT today suggesting that the President could issue what amount to governmental IOU's to handle the debt ceiling crisis if it happens. He is dismissive of the coin idea.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013...

Jan 11, 2013, 05:46:23 Ugh wrote:

70 comments!

Jan 11, 2013, 06:19:25 Slartibartfast wrote:

Thanks for the kind words, John. I am actually not opposed to some reasonable, methodical reduction in the military budget. That kind of thing might affect me sooner or later, but the debt ceiling is a hard stop that (according to the law) LM upper management ought to have issued layoff notices for already, to comply with Federal law.

Knowing the DoD's history, it is nearly a lock that they are spending money in stupid places. Also, knowing the history of Congress in these matters, it's also nearly a lock that Congress has appropriated funds for things the DoD doesn't want.

Nobody actually knows what repercussions might arise from hitting the debt ceiling, but I doubt any of them will be beneficial. But why even have laws dictating a debt ceiling, if we're always going to be raising it? It doesn't make any sense. The only way a debt ceiling law makes any sense at all is if having to amend it only happens as a result of some emergency.

Jan 11, 2013, 06:45:45 nous wrote:

Seventy-third! Wooooooo!!!!!!!!

Jan 11, 2013, 08:11:18 sapient wrote:

Is this the new Mother Ship?!

Yeah, but speaking of the coin and such, I don't care whether it's the coin or whatever, but I really want the fact that certain Congresspeople want to bring the country down EXPOSED! I mean, I wish that would happen.

In other news, in my state (I mean Commonwealth) of Virginia, there is a movement to allot electoral votes by [gerrymandered] Congressional districts. In other words, although a majority might be blue, when you gerrymander the votes, the result turns red. Happy days.

Jan 11, 2013, 22:55:03 John Thullen wrote:

"Is this the new Mother Ship?!"

"Inside, outside, leave me alone

Inside, outside, nowhere is home."

In the end, when all is said and done Outside, we forget why we spilled into the street in the first place, help each other up and go back Inside and sit by the fire, perchance to finish our drinks.

Jan 11, 2013, 23:00:41 libjpn wrote:

Wow, if I could just figure out how to get this kind of response over there.

Jan 11, 2013, 23:40:22 Slartibartfast wrote:

Advocate mandatory death penalty for owning guns. Or for not owning guns. Either one of those ought to evoke a response.

Jan 12, 2013, 01:39:26 russell wrote:

"But why even have laws dictating a debt ceiling, if we're always going to be raising it?"

That's an interesting question.

A statutory limit on the amount of debt begins in 1917. It was apparently instituted to allow the executive some discretion in issuing bonds, while still giving Congress some control.

Prior to that Congress, as a matter of parliamentary procedure, approved each and every bond issue individually by issuing legislation authorizing the issue.

I'm getting all of this from here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wik...

So, basically, it would appear that a statutory "debt ceiling" was introduced to give the executive greater flexibility in raising money through bond issues, and was originally motivated by the desire to fund our participation in WWI.

The current shenanigans are, to me, basically just political theater. The Congress authorizes certain expenditures, fails to pass laws that will generate enough revenue to pay for them, then yells at the executive when he tries to issue bonds to meet the gap.

That way, they can spend money they haven't found a way to allocate, and blame the President for it.

It's a win/win, from their point of view.

The issue here is not the fact that President wants to borrow money to fund government operations. The issue is that there's a persistent gap between spending and revenue.

The "debt ceiling" histrionics are just stupid opportunistic theater.

Jan 12, 2013, 01:51:25 John Thullen wrote:

I would advocate for the first instance, but the penalty of death would be slow execution via reading every post on the thread, a fine substitution.

On second thought, advocate the death penalty for both behaviors and Brett and I will join forces AGAINST equality for all under the law.

Why should I be .... when ... wait... what?

Jan 12, 2013, 02:07:40 Turbulence wrote:

*The "debt ceiling" histrionics are just stupid opportunistic theater.*

I'm not so sure. I'd say the problem is that House Republicans won't even let a 'raise the debt ceiling' bill come up for a vote in the House. This is Hastert's rule after all: the only bills that come up for a vote are those approved by the majority of the majority, which means the median vote in the House is much closer to the median Republican than the median House member.

If they let the damn thing come up for a vote and let Dems with a handful of Republicans pass it, there'd be no problem; they'd have a nice symbolic vote they could demagogue. But they don't want to do that. They want to destroy the economy. And there's no way that killing 10% of GDP is anything but national economic suicide.

Jan 12, 2013, 14:56:08 dr ngo wrote:

Sapient: the blue/red gerrymander has already happened here in North Carolina. GOP got less than half the votes for Congress, but 8 of 12 seats (and damn near a 9th). And it will stick, thanks to a GOP governor and legislature AND a state supreme court bought for the right by out-of-state money.

Jan 12, 2013, 22:26:49 sapient wrote:

That's sad, dr ngo. I didn't realize that. And we have the same formula here in VA. We can't ever quit fighting. Maybe if we can get the governor out of Republican hands before it happens to us ...

Jan 13, 2013, 02:41:16 DonaldJ wrote:

I'm pretty much in favor of the platinum coin now that it's being defended with Tolkien references. Some favor dwarf construction, while others point out that elves created the rings of power (the elvish and dwarvish ones, that is.) Admittedly, the whole ring of power thing didn't work out too well in the end, but that was Sauron's fault--Galadriel and Gandalf and Cirdan did just fine with theirs.

https://twitter.com/felixgi...

Jan 15, 2013, 09:33:20 sapient wrote:

"Wow, if I could just figure out how to get this kind of response over there."

Obviously, you could, lj. You just avoid controversy. That would be lovely if I knew you in real life. Unfortunately, that's not what the blogs are really for.

Because, much as it's somewhat interesting to see what my ObWi friends are reading, and a message on that subject is very welcome, I certainly don't want to hash it out for too long unless I've read the very same book. And, even then, what would I say, but "Absolutely! Great read.... & etc." or "I found that not to be something to recommend ..."

Sure, if two people found common cause, or a dispute, about the value of a certain book it might go on forever. But I, for one, don't really read most books with that kind of conversation in mind.

Anyway, to get a response at ObWi is to present a topic of current interest: debt ceiling, gun ban, budget (cutting military, for example), environmental degradaton, rape in India, bad vibes (and violence) in Syria ...

I mean, it goes on and on, what people care to discuss on a blog. Keep in mind that some "people" don't like to cause difficulty/controversy among their dinner party set (where they would discuss favorite books), so turn to blogs to discuss things they deeply care about (things that their dinner party friends are afraid to discuss, in order to avoid being kicked out of the dinner club).

Just my take on why certain issues take hold here ...

Jan 15, 2013, 10:23:48 sapient wrote:

lj: I just saw Stanley McChrystal on a Sunday talk show yesterday, and on Rachel Maddow tonight. He got fired by Obama (most people know I love Obama), but I think he's a total mensch. I plan to read his book, although from his talk show appearances, why? I totally think he's a most reasonable guy. We should talk about some of the things he says.

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