Friday, July 01, 2011

Lawrence O’Donnell is an idiot

Lawrence O’Donnell has come up with the “magic bullet” to solve the debt limit crisis, namely the fourteenth amendment to the constitution, which established full citizenship for emancipated slaves and reads, in part,

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.

As the title of this piece says, Lawrence O’Donnell is an idiot.

That amendment was passed in the aftermath of the Civil War and was to assure full and equal citizenship for all emancipated slaves. The purpose of that entire paragraph was to assure that the government would pay the cost incurred by the North for fighting the Civil War but that it could not be held liable for the costs incurred by the South and, more important, that it would not have to pay the former owners of the emancipated slaves for the value lost to them when the slaves were freed.

As to O’Donnell’s claim that Obama could use this to “make the debt limit meaningless,” the amendment does not say that the debt has to be paid, it says that it cannot be declared invalid, and those are two different issues. If we fail to pay a debt due to lack of cash on hand with which to pay it, we are not saying that we do not owe the money, which the amendment prohibits, we are merely saying that we are unable to pay it, an issue upon which the amendment is silent.

O’Donnell is suggesting that Obama use this amendment as a “cover story” to usurp the power of Congress, to disrupt the checks and balances of our system of government, and to further the “imperial presidency” which has already advanced to an appalling degree. We have a president who can imprison without recourse to due process of law, who can assassinate citizens without formal charges, let alone conviction of crimes, who can start wars without consent of Congress, and who can spy on citizens without oversight, and O’Donnell wants to transfer the “power of the purse” from Congress to this president.

O'Donnell says that this idea is "a way never even considered before." Indeed. And there is a very good reason why it has not been.

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