Thursday, December 6, 2012


Back when he was a Senator, Barack Obama charged that the periodic need to raise the federal debt limit was evidence of a lack of leadership.

Lots of folks, myself included, saw that speech as a contradiction.

Seemed like a President who favored multi billion dollar bailouts and stimuluses wasn’t too worried about going over the debt ceiling.

Yesterday, we got a peek at the President’s thinking.

He quoted an old friend of mine, former Michigan Governor John Engler who is currently the head of the Business Roundtable.

John is – always was – an arch conservative, and incidentally, a graduate of the Thomas Cooley Law School.

The President quoted John as saying that the only function of the debt ceiling is to ruin the nation’s credit rating when we ignore it or raise it.

Lo and behold, the President wants the Congress to get out of the debt ceiling business.

He wants them to give him a blank check. No ceiling. No limit.

He wants them to say, “Mr. President, you won the election, the people want you to run the country. Spend whatever you need to satisfy your mandate.”

Gotta say, that takes a lot of chutzpah.

Which is not to say that most people don’t agree with him. The President, taking a leaf from Franklin Roosevelt’s book, is out on the stump, campaigning for his side of the debate.

No sense talking to Boehner on the telephone when you can make speeches in Virginia or Detroit. Boehner can read them in the newspaper, or hear them on the radio or the TV.

The fact is that there is nothing in the federal Constitution which establishes a debt ceiling.

Article 1, Section 8 says this:

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States.

Article 1 also says that the Congress has the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States and to coin money and regulate its value.

But there is nothing that says how much Congress can borrow or how much it can coin.

So what is the limit?

Seems pretty obvious that Congress can spend as much as it wants, borrow as much as people are willing to lend, and coin as much as people are interested in having.

That may seem like a lot of power, but remember, the United States of America is a Republic. The Congress represents the people. And the people can do whatever they choose to do.

The real issue in America today is not the national debt or the annual deficit.

The real issue is who decides how much the nation spends and how much it borrows.

Unhappily, the Congress has, for almost a hundred years, been passing its spending and borrowing power down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

A bloated Executive Department with open ended appropriations from a Congress unwilling or unable to decide how to spend the people’s money, simply runs in the red year after year, expecting that next year there will be even more money on the table.

The President wants to raise the taxes on the rich. I wonder how much the taxes would have to be raised to balance the budget. Not ten years from now, but next year, 2013.

Might just start a revolution.