July 30th, 2011 ~ At this hour, GOP House members just struck down the most recent Senate proposal from Majority Leader, Harry Reid, to end the Congressional deadlock on extending our nation's debt ceiling. If both houses cannot pass an extension bill before August 2nd, our nation may be forced to default on its debt. I say " may", because our Constitution contains uncharacteristically explicit language to prevent that possibility.
Amendment 14, Clause 4 of our Constitution clearly states: "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."
Those who feel their legislative powers threatened by this have been quick to issue counter-threats of impeachment should our President be compelled to invoke that clause by a continued impasse going into Monday night. Unfortunately for them, our President is a Constitutional scholar who knows full well they have no legal ground to stand on. He is also a savvy politician who has (aside from one misstep involving robo-tweets yesterday), positioned himself to be "forced" to act on the nation's behalf, despite having repeatedly said since this hostage crisis started, that he does not want to use the 14th Amendment; that a clean bill or reasonable bipartisan compromise would be preferable.
Moments ago, House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Whip McConnell came to the rotunda cameras to together say "there will be no default". What they really said is they won't let the situation get to the point where the 14th Amendment is the only option left. Like everyone in Congress, they know it's a viable option. They also know that if it is used even once, the debt ceiling law (which has been in place since 1917), instantly goes up in a puff of smoke. Our Constitution trumps ANY U.S. Code, no matter how long it has been on the books.
Would that mean our government could then go on some spending spree? Not at all. Remember, the debt ceiling has nothing to do with FUTURE spending. It is related only to appropriations already passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The debt ceiling deals with money we already owe.
If the debt ceiling law is nullified by the 14th Amendment our Congress would simply go back to the pre-1917 method of approving each issuance of debt separately. But, again, that's after the fact; after the appropriations have already become law and must now be paid for.
Perhaps we have an opportunity here for a NEW law; one that would mandate each new appropriation bill to include payment provisions specific to that appropriation; whether it is fully funded by taxes or requires a specific amount of borrowing to enact. I believe it's called "PayGo". Our President actually signed a form of PayGo into law in February, 2010, but this approach would be much more effective; requiring our Congress to take responsibility for each of their appropriations as never before.
Even at this 11th Hour, I don't know what the eventual outcome will be on the debt ceiling. Maybe they'll find a compromise; maybe the Constitution's 14th Amendment will be used. Whatever happens, our nation will NOT default on its debt. Looking forward, though, do we really want to dread a repeat of our nation held hostage by a group of obdurate radicals who hate our government yet ARE our government? Replacing the debt ceiling law with a true PayGo mandate, would solve that.
So, while you're emailing your Senators and Representatives to get their act together on extending the debt ceiling, you might tell them how you feel about the PayGo approach I mentioned above. Just don't be disappointed if your suggestion is not as warmly received as you might have hoped. New ideas sometimes take time to gain traction. But then, our nation was founded on new ideas, wasn't it?
July 27th, 2011 ~ I must admit, I've never fully understood the message of Exxon/Mo'Bull's multi-million dollar TV ad campaign. Artis Brown is just busting to tell us about the jobs generated by their Kearl Oil Sands project with Imperial Oil, Ltd. in Canada (American jobs?) and Erik Oswald gushes enthusiastically about how safe natural gas "fracking" is across the U.S. The ONLY purpose I can see for these ads is to make Americans who don't know any better, complacent in their ignorance. "Go back to sleep..." these ads seem to say, "...we're scientists telling you all is well."
Of course, there are OTHER scientists telling us "WAKE UP!! All is NOT well!" Unfortunately, those scientists do not have the massive funding behind their message that Exxon/Mo'Bull has. Those scientists don't share Exxon/Mo'Bull's corporate media collusion, nor its legion of lobbyists "guiding" the legislative pens for their Congressional meat-puppets.
So, if they have us by the short-n-curlies and our legislators are "in the bag" so to speak, why bother with this ad campaign? Why not just go about their business with Cheneyesque impunity and arrogance? Why bother to pretend to give a damn about America and the health and well-being of the American People? Are they scared of something? Is there a little cloud somewhere on their sunny profit horizon?
Well... there might be. There's the "quick facts" about the Kearl oil sands. Then there are videos like this...
Yes, there may indeed be some clouds on Exxon/Mo'Bull's horizon. There's little we can do about the Kearl oil sands project; the Canadians need to make their own environmental decisions. But natural gas fracking is OUR concern. Write your Senators and Representatives to tell them you want a moratorium on natural gas fracking in the U.S. until there are strict federal standards and regulations for such operations.