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News Link • Government Debt & Financing

The Unintended Consequences of Debt Ceiling Intransigence

If Republicans become obsessed with their agenda and refuse a reasonable deal, and the Democrats do not cave, the executive branch will be faced with an inability to continue its operations. This could mean, for example, that the troops in the various wars could not be supplied or paid, that air traffic controllers could not be paid, that the US government could not roll over the debt that comes due or issue the new debt that pays for 43% of federal budget expenditures. A shutdown today would be different in its reach from the Newt Gingrich government shutdown in the 1990s. Then the federal government got by with shutting down "nonessential government.” A shutdown today would require halting 43% of federal expenditures. If we were to include the wars, nonessential spending might actually total 43% of expenditures. But, of course, Republicans don't want to include the wars with nonessential spending. The US dollar could plummet in exchange value and lose its role as world reserve currency. The US would no longer be able to pay its oil bill in its own currency, and as its balance of payments is heavily in the red, the US has no foreign currencies with which to pay its oil import bill. Or its manufactured goods import bill, or any other bill. We are talking about a crisis beyond anything the world has ever seen. Does anyone think that President Obama is going to just sit there while the power of the US collapses? He doesn’t have to do so. There are presidential directives and executive orders in place, put there by George W. Bush himself, that President Obama can invoke to declare a national emergency, suspend the debt ceiling limit, and continue to issue Treasury debt. This is exactly what would happen. The consequences would be that the power of the purse would transfer from Congress to the President. It would be the end of the power of Congress. Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, have already given away to the President Congress’ Constitutional right to decide whether the country goes to war. Now Congress would lose its power over debt, taxes, and the budget itself. Republicans need to decide whether the advantage of delivering a blow against “leechdom” is worth such extreme risks.

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