Sunday, January 13, 2013

Babbling Nonsense

I have been through many of these times of teetering on the edge of the precipice regarding the debt ceiling. It is commonly said that the increase has always been automatic and simple, but it has not, and there have been many times when a shutdown of government has been threatened before the increase was accomplished.

Wait a minute, you say. What’s this about government shutdown? The increase in the debt ceiling isn’t about government shutdown, it’s about questioning the validity of the national debt. If we don’t raise the debt ceiling, you say, we will renege on our debt.

Actually, no. That picture is the result of modern theory of political discussion, in which you come up with a handy argument, and if it doesn’t fit the problem which is being discussed then you refine the problem to fit the argument which you have chosen to use. In this case, someone came up with the 14th Amendment and, rather than pointing out that it did not apply to the issue of the debt ceiling and government operations, we simply redefined the issue to be about the debt ceiling and government debt so that the 14th Amendment would become applicable.

The 14th Amendment is about existing debt, while the debt ceiling is about the creation of new debt so, while in the fantasy world of politics they exist in the same discussion, in reality they have nothing to do with each other. They are completely unrelated.

To put the debt issue to a final peaceful resting place, as we “rollover” existing debt we do issue new treasury bills, but we are simultaneously paying off existing t-bills in the same amount, so the debt is not increased and the debt ceiling is not an issue. There is sufficient revenue coming into our treasury to pay interest on the debt without borrowing, so we can honor our debt fully and without borrowing indefinitely.

What we can’t do without increasing the debt is continue to spend money on wars, military hardware, social programs, disaster relief, farm subsidies, and an almost endless list of programs and services which the government provides. There will be a partial shutdown of government. Some of that shutdown will not matter, but some ot it will matter a great deal.

It is this partial shutdown that we should be talking about, not silly coins and the 14th Amendment. Of all the times I have watched this process, this is the first time that I have ever seen it to be about idiocy and the debt instead of being a serious discussion about a possibility of the government being placed in a position where it is unable to deliver services to the people of this nation. That is the issue at hand.

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