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Constitution offers way for Obama to ignore
Republicans’ debt-ceiling blackmail attempt

O'Donnell

O'Donnell

With the president poised to meet Republicans 85 percent of the way on Draconian budget cuts and them demanding 110 percent, along comes Lawrence O’Donnell with a strategem to avoid yet another cave in, and win one for the middle class and poor by giving up zero percent.

We’ve said all along the Constitution doesn’t allow for defaulting on the public debt, but it’s now clear the 14th Amendment emphatically stipulates debts will be paid, no ifs, ands or buts.

The Thursday segment from MSNBC’s The Last Word features Bruce Bartlett, a senior economic policy analyst in the Reagan administration, then a Treasury undersecretary during the Bush 41 administration. Bartlett now writes for the Fiscal Times and New York Times.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Stakes in the bogus and unnecessary tug of war over raising the debt ceiling are enormous. Failure to raise it would send interest rates through the roof, dumping the economy into another collapse and likely taking much of the world economy with it.

And there is this:

GOP leaders have seized on the unpopular debt ceiling vote as an opportunity to further their goal of reducing the size and scope of government.

Democrats have largely accepted more than $1 trillion in spending reductions as a signal that they are willing to make difficult choices — including, a Democratic official said, $200 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Details of such cuts are still unknown, but they will slice across every domestic agency, reducing funds for education, transportation, health and welfare. The Pentagon may be spared under the GOP plan.

At his press conference this week, Obama noted how Republicans repeatedly oppose things they’ve already endorsed whenever he signals approval of those things. Obama even seemed to indicate he gets it that Republicans’ agenda has nothing to do with governing and everything to do with ending his presidency next year.

The 14th Amendment provides Obama with a way out of being blackmailed into budget cuts that will brutalize America’s nonwealthy while all but excusing corporations and the rich from that shared sacrifice he’s said so much about.

The question now is, does Obama have enough spine to stand tall and use the power the Constitution so clearly provides him?

Millions of people already down and hurting, through no fault of their own, need the president to come through for them. If Obama fails them, he shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t show up for him in 2012.

This is not a “professional left” vs. the White House thing. This is a have nots vs. the haves thing — a case of finally fighting back in a class war the nonwealthy didn’t ask for and don’t deserve.


The transcript of Thursday’s Last Word is available here.

17 Comments

  1. My money says he and the Dems will continue to cave. No cajones whatsoever.

  2. If they – aw crap, I already used my ceiling fan joke elsewhere. It’s not caving, two sides of the same coin, yin’s just a bit more publicly dickish than yang, who’s a dick, but watch it or you’ll get suspended.

  3. Tim says:

    In his ever attempt at Appeasing the Gop, I think Obama won’t even consider this neat little tool that’s in the 14th amendment. Once more Mr. Nice guy will cave.

    I predict, a third party Candidate will soon run and win the election if Obama caves again.

  4. Third party? Hell. We need a second party!

  5. free0352 says:

    The only way we voters who put in the new Congress are going to allow them to vote for a debt ceiling increase is for you guys to make more concessions… a lot more. We’re talking balanced budget amendment minimum. We’re talking repealing ObamaCare. If not, then right or wrong there won’t be a vote. We don’t give a shit about the consequences of that, so you now have to make a decision. You either give us more of what we want, or we’ll take your whole federal saftety net away by collapsing the FED. You can call us mean, greedy, evil all you want. We don’t care what you think about us. We really could give a shit less. We are going to force the politicians to do what we elected them to do, and this is frankly exactly that. If I were you guys I’d be telling your reps to deal, because we’re not playing and this isn’t brinkmanship.

  6. Tom Harper says:

    I posted on this same thing. I hope this gets a lot more publicity, about the 14th Amendment mandating that the U.S. pay all debts, no ifs ands or buts or unlesses.

    The article I was using quoted a “constitutional expert” (whatever that means) named Garrett Epps. He and Sen. Chris Coons (Delaware) are both pushing for Obama and the Treasury to raise the debt ceiling regardless of how Congress votes.

  7. S.W. Anderson says:

    Blog Fodder, you could well be right. Precedent is certainly with you.

    Randal, in this there’s a big difference between less bad and worst, and less bad had better not cave.

    Tim, third party candidates just split the vote, ensuring the other side wins. Obama’s unique style of “bargaining” and that $1 trillion he’s agreed to give up make me ache for an alternative, too. But that would only put Romney or someone even worse in the White House.

    Jerry Critter, whole seasons go by when I think the same thing.

    Free0352, if we had had a balanced budget amendment during WWII, the country would’ve had to quit fighting at the beginning of 1943. Watch the video and learn something. Obama can and should announce the U.S. will pay all its obligations on time. He should then tell McConnell and Boehner to go sit on a tack.

    “We don’t care what you think about us. We really could give a shit less.”

    Thanks for overstating the obvious, Free. If selfish bullies gave a shit, they wouldn’t be selfish bullies, would they?

    Tom, going by the Constitution, Congress and the executive raise the debt ceiling whenever they appropriate and sign off on expenditures above previous levels. No separate authorizing legislation is required.

    Obama erred earlier this year in bargaining with Republicans to keep them from shutting down the government again. That is clearly unconstitutional, and if they try it again they should be impeached.

  8. Jolly Roger says:

    free0666 isn’t going to learn anything. His kind only know one thing: “my way or no way.”

    Quite frankly, I’d love to saw a piece of this country off, and just give it to them. Let them kill each other off after the poverty and desperation from their policies finally drives them to slit each others’ throats. Just don’t make good Americans like SW, Tom, Tim, Jerry, and me suffer through it.

  9. John Myste says:

    Free,

    We’re talking balanced budget amendment minimum. We’re talking repealing ObamaCare. If not, then right or wrong there won’t be a vote. We don’t give a shit about the consequences of that, so you now have to make a decision. You either give us more of what we want, or we’ll take your whole federal safety net away by collapsing the FED. You can call us mean, greedy, evil all you want.

    I would not call you mean, greedy or evil. You are uncompromising, dictatorial, and utterly insane. What it tells me is that you are willing to destroy the country to satisfy your anger. Maniacs should not be in control and if you give in to them when they use such tactics, democracy ceases to function altogether.

    You advocated political terrorism to force a republican economic philosophy on the nation. Any kind of terrorism should be met with zero tolerance, or the terrorists will take over.

  10. “free” is obviously a paid whore of the Tea Buggers. His job is to go to liberal blogs and spout their bullshit. He doesn’t appear to have a blog or a heart or any intelligence. He’s bat shit crazy and unworthy of any attention.

  11. Tim says:

    Let see if Mayor Bloomberg runs. Lots of Money, well respected, a draw from both parties, time will tell. Sure he’ll draw off both parties but for the many who plan to just stay home, he’ll get them out to cast their vote to. Just saying.

  12. Tim, I’ve thought of Bloomberg myself. Under normal circumstances, I think he’d have a hell of a chance but too many people seem to have gone off the deep end.

  13. Dave Dubya says:

    We are going to force the politicians to do what we elected them to do.

    Ah, except “we” did not elect them to dismantle Social Security and Medicare. That was what the corpo-cons sprung on us without mentioning such intentions whatsoever during their campaigns.

    Most Americans still want safety nets. Most Americans also know politicians represent their elite donors more than the people. It’s a tough thing to crush the will of the people. The GOP is doing a heck of a job though.

  14. S.W. Anderson says:

    J.R., Texas Gov. Rick Perry — L’il Abner looks and George W. Bush mentality — wants to secede. So let him and his 19th-century-throwback supporters show us how to succeed without that evil federal gummint and without all that awful federal money.

    Bravo, Myste, for an excellent comment. Republicans’ repeated blackmail is political terrorism, and it should not be rewarded with “deals” by the White House or with money and votes from the public.

    L.P., a less crude right winger used to frequent Oh!pinion and other liberal blogs. I think he sometimes used different names. Over time I wondered if he was being paid I suspect Free is just a true believer.

    Tim, I have a problem with a super-rich businessman who’s switched parties twice and, IMO, has gone past promoting health to making people who smoke third-class citizens. The New Yorker I’ve always wanted to see run for president is Mario Cuomo, but for reasons never clear to me, he won’t do it.

    Dave, as always you make an excellent point. Many Americans never seem to catch on to conservative Republicans’ bait-and-switch habit. That has encouraged Republican pols who get elected to do ever more outrageous things they somehow forgot to mention when campaigning.

  15. free0352 says:

    if we had had a balanced budget amendment during WWII, the country would’ve had to quit fighting at the beginning of 1943.

    Call me when WWIII starts, and maybe I’ll change my mind.

    “free” is obviously a paid whore of the Tea Buggers.

    I wish. However, if you know anyone that’s hiring… I’m not one to donate my services. Thanks for the complement though!

    Ah, except “we” did not elect them to dismantle Social Security and Medicare.

    I did. So did a lot of my pals.

    Most Americans still want safety nets.

    We told you what our conditions are… make a choice.

    As for calling it terrorism… if that’s what you call it fine. I don’t care what you call it. Like I said, we’re totally over caring what you guys call us. We’re pushing our elected officials very hard… very very hard to go it our way. We’re giving them a choice… want our support in future elections? VOTE NO unless you guys give. We all will be fine, and I could seriously give a rip how loud your temper tantrum about it is. Like Obama said, elections have consequences.

  16. free0352 says:

    Hate to plug my blog but somebody here was questioning if I had one. It’s John Galt For President and you guys can come on over any time. We like trolls. I also post regularly at Blonde Sagacity.

    Anywho. I said way back when you guys started calling us Tea Baggers that you’d better get ready to open wide and well… we won an election for the Republicans last year. That’s just the way it is, we’re in there now. Beauty of it is our representatives chances for reelection are slim and that gives us power. Frankly, they KNOW you folks aren’t going to vote for them so they NEED us which means they pretty much do what we want. Now they may chicken out… but if they do they’ll loose in 2012 and they know it. That’s just how it is. Basically guys like me (actually a few million of us) are holding the country’s purse strings, and we’re ready for no more debt ceiling boy. We’re pumped for it actually. So you guys can call us terrorists and dictators and greedy, evil, selfish mean old bullies and we’re going to smile at you, turn around and just walk away. In 30 days we’ll get an INSTA-balanced budget amendment because the government won’t be able to borrow another cent… and will have to budget strictly within what it takes in in tax revenue. I’m totally fine with that and so is the Tea Party movement and what’s more you folks know that. That might cause us to loose in 2012. Oh well. We’ll just have to live with it now won’t we? In the mean time it’s 2011 and you’ve got a month to make up your mind. What oh what are you going to tell your representatives to do… because frankly your only hope is Republicans wussing out. Care to trust to that? Be my guest. We’ll see how bad they want to sacrifice their political careers to make you happy – all the Tea Party groups (most of which I’m a member of) are all ginned up to work against the election campaigns of anyone who votes for an increase without major (and I mean major) concessions from you guys. I think they’ve learned to take that and us seriously. In the mean time, I’d think about it, because we are very serious about this. You can day dream till the cows come home about some sort of national divorce where you guys get a liberal utopia and we turn the south into Somalia all day… we both know that’s not going to happen. So a little word to the wise from the other side of the issue, I’d start thinking about what you’re willing to give up (and forget a tax increase) because the rubber is going to meet the road in August. I just hope we can keep those wimpy Republicans feet to the fire… it’s like a full time job.

  17. John Myste says:

    Free,

    If we get our balanced budget amendment (or the temporary equivalent), and then the nutjobs that caused it get voted out in the next election, your people are going to have their taxes raised to increase revenue to help continue the programs you hate. I will laugh hysterically as the top marginal tax rate “effectively” rises back up above 50%. Once the maniacs have been expelled, the tax rate will still be higher for you.

    Leslie,

    My assessment of Free is that he is very intelligent. However, he is also extremely emotional and misguided, which often leads to nutty views.

    I frequent many republican/libertarian blogs, such as The Heathen Republican, Wayfarer’s Notes, Saving Common Sense, Right Wing Atheist. However, I tend to stay away from Free’s, because his emotional need to prove himself is so off-putting. That said, if you could remove the emotion, he often comes up with very intelligent arguments on other’s sites. Obviously, this was not one of those cases. Here is just spouting anger. My point is: he has a blog.

    His blog is here:

    Free’s Blog