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About the crisis: The GOP is right. So is Obama. That’s why it’s a crisis.

8 October 2013

Summary:  We can learn lost lessons about our government from the debt crisis. Much of what’s said in the media is wrong, chaff thrown to confuse us. Here are some simple facts about the crisis. Both sides are right. If they cannot agree, there is a simple but perilous solution. It has worked before and will work again — but must not be overused. This is the third in a four part series.
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Traitor

Let’s not overreact

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Contents

  1. Introduction: our problem
  2. The Republicans are correct
  3. The President’s Options
  4. The 14th Amendment
  5. Other posts in this series
  6. For More Information

(1)  Introduction: our problem

The Republicans in Congress are using their leverage to change ObamaCare, entitlement spending, and tax policy. They are holding government spending hostage, and threatening to force the government to default on its debt.  The slowdown (not a shutdown) is depressing the economy and harming a large number of Americans.  Unless Congress acts, sometime after October 17 the Federal government will default on its bonds.

(2)  The Republicans are correct

Many of us have forgotten the basics of our system.

  • Congress and Presidents have equal legitimacy as elected representatives of the people.
  • Control of spending is among the greatest powers of the legislature, and has been a powerful tool to shift power from Kings to the people.
  • Therefore the House has both history and law on their side in this battle with President Obama.

Democrats argue that Washington’s rules of polite conduct trump law and logic, as if conflicts about high public policy should be run like Sunday afternoon monopoly games — where consulting the actual rules is a no-no.

For details see this excerpt from “Government shutdowns are the worst kind of budgetary reversion, except for all the rest“, Gary Cox (Professor of Political Science, Stanford), blog of the Washington Post, 3 October 2013:

Who came up with the idea that budgets should be delayed as a means to force the executive to adopt policies it doesn’t want to?

The idea goes back to England’s Glorious Revolution, where MPs fought hard to put the Crown on a short financial leash, so that they could control Crown officials’ actions. Although they did not use the term, English arguments about what would give Parliament bargaining leverage vis-à-vis the Crown hinged on the budgetary reversion.  Because expenditure authority would lapse every year, forcing portions of the government to “shut down” in contemporary American parlance, parliamentarians were assured the Crown would seek a new budget every year — whereupon they could bargain for attainment of their various goals.

As James Madison put it, “This power over the purse may…be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

… when given the power a shutdown reversion confers, the “immediate representatives of the people” have, in country after country, done precisely the sort of thing that the House Republicans are now doing. They have sought to force the executive to adopt “just and salutary” measures, using the threat of a government shutdown. Examples include the Australian episode noted by Max Fisher, Chile before and after its civil war of 1891, and various European countries that subsequently sought to create what was dubbed parliamentarisme rationalisé in the interwar period.

… There are two and only two institutional reforms that can reliably avoid the bargaining failures that lead to shutdowns. … {see the article for more}

(3) The President’s options

President Obama’s actions to protect the United States in response to Congress must conform to the following three laws:

Gordian knot

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  • The debt ceiling, originally established by the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 (see this Congressional Research Service report)
  • The Federal Reserve Act, that forbids direct lending by the Fed to the government
  • The 14th Amendment, line 1 of Section 4: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”

Should Congress press the issue, it will become a Gordian Knot. During the past two centuries Presidents have encountered several Gordian Knots. Sometimes the knot won. Some Presidents untied the knot. Some cut the knot, as did Alexander the Great.

  • Georgia sought to steal land from the Cherokees. In 1832 the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia could not impose its laws upon on Cherokee land (Worcester v. Georgia). In legend Jackson said “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” In fact he ignored it.
  • The Civil War as the largest of knots. Starting in April 1861 Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in some areas, a power specifically granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution. He ignored Court orders to stop, including one by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Congress retroactively approved in March 1863.
  • The Great Depression was a string of knots. FDR was prepared to defy the Supreme Court if it ruled unconstitutional the 1933 resolution of Congress ending gold convertibility. The Court did so in Perry v. United States (1935), but also denied the bondholders’ claims for relief.
  • Elected on a peace platform while preparing for war, FDR tied his own knot. He aggressively bent the 1930s Neutrality Acts to help Britain. Actions such as the ironically named Neutrality Patrol were interventions to help Britain.
  • To fight an unpopular war, in June 1950 Truman committed US troops to the Korea without Congressional authorization (details here).

Presidents can act according to their understanding of their duty and oath. Their ultimate limit is Congress’ power of impeachment. But each such trans-Constitutional action by a President bends the Constitution. So far it has rebounded successfully, and often to our benefit. If overused or misused, the time will comes when a President goes too far — bending the Constitution until it breaks.

President Jackson

President “Make my day” Jackson, by Thomas Sully. We like bold leaders.

(3)  The 14th Amendment: the heart of this crisis

While this provision {of the 14th Amendment} was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle … and the expression “validity of the public debt ” embraces whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.
— Supreme Court ruling in Perry v. United States (1935)

What if the President decides the needs of the United States are paramount, as stated in the 14th Amendment, and defies Congress by issuing debt in excess of the debt ceiling?  He can act in the tradition of our greatest Presidents. I believe the majority of the American people would applaud his actions to override the Republican initiative. Would this be the best thing to do? The correct thing to do? Only time can answer such questions.

From “Under What Circumstances Can The President Ignore the Debt Ceiling? “, Jack M. Balkin (Prof Constitutional Law, Yale), 6 July 2011:

Under these circumstances, the President would authorize the issuance of new debt if he believed that it would stabilize the situation and prevent default and economic catastrophe.

Without Congressional authorization, this action would be of very dubious legality. Indeed, without subsequent authorization, it would be illegal. … But in extreme circumstances the President would do so anyway, arguing, like Lincoln, that Congress can approve what he does after he does it.

… Such an act, in my view, is not legal when done, but it may become legal later on, if Congress approves. But it is a dangerous maneuver. If Congress does not approve it after the fact, then the President has acted illegally, and he may be impeached and removed from office.

For more by Prof Belkin about the 14th Amendment: “The Legislative History of Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment“, 30 June 2011. After years of obscurity, this clause’s day of fame might come soon.

Congress

Foundation of the Republic. We elect them. We hate them.

(5) Other posts in this series

  1. Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress
  2. Let’s learn from this inevitable crisis, which results from flaws in our system
  3. About the crisis: The GOP is right. So is Obama. That’s why it’s a crisis.
  4. A new political party for a New America: the Tea Party GOP

(6)  For More Information

(a)  FM reference pages, a guide to other posts about these matters:

(b)  Other posts about deep flaws in America’s political structure:

(c)  Posts about government debt:

  1. A certain casualty of the recession: the US Government’s solvency, 25 November 2008
  2. Our government’s finances are broken. How do we compare with our peers?, 8 April 2010
  3. We might default on our governments’ debt in the future. Do you know how often we’ve done so in the past?, 5 March 2010
  4. Why the U.S. cannot inflate its way out of debt, 15 March 2010
  5. America is rich and powerful because we can borrow. Will this debt build a stronger America?, 5 June 2012
  6. America’s strength is an illusion created by foolish borrowing, 10 October 2012
  7. Another way to look at the national debt. More comforting, less scary., 13 February 2013
  8. Cacophony about Social Security shows our real political dysfunctionality, 11 March 2013

Sometimes leaders successfully break the rules. History gives the verdict.

Alexander cuts the gordian knot

By Fedele Fischetti

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46 Comments leave one →
  1. Winston permalink
    8 October 2013 2:47 pm

    There is another element here:rightwing lunacy. An obdurate way of thinking a certain way and rejecting people who think differently- while they as a small minority try to impose their will on everyone else- are not rational people . If you read the comments in articles left by such right wing extremist types, it becomes apparent they are deranged and full of hatred. Most do not take up violent means;but some do.

    There are right wing extremists who are willing to be violent. The Government has also recognized this and identified them. By the way, years ago I met someone who worked for a company that did testing of poisonous substances (Anthrax etc) used by extremists. This was before the major noise about the extremist Muslims. She said I would not believe how many such incidents there are. She was talking about incidents by Americans.They just do not get press coverage. I expect same thing is happening now, maybe even more so since right wing extremism has risen.

    I can also tell you I know that local incidents can be covered up. I used to work in a building next to the stock exchange. Without fail every year there was a threat that required the building to be checked. It was never covered in the news. This was before 9/11. But the building and building where I worked (which was connected to it) had to be evacuated for such incidents. The incidents were attributed later to disgruntled employees.

    There are many people who are functional but have mental illness. You can identify them when they do odd things. A key behavioral trait is their tendency to have conflicts with other people, passively or actively. Later in life they may succumb to dementia. Others are paranoid about some things. Their decisonmaking is impaired.

    Some Tea Party types may be sane and doing this for a purpose- to help their 1% friends-but there are many who subscribe to their beliefs who are not rational types but have latched on to the movement because it answers an internal need. It would be interesting to see if later in life they ended up with dementia or some other identified mental ailment.

    Like

    • 8 October 2013 6:43 pm

      Winston,

      These things are complex, hence my reluctance to draw broad conclusions like yours. Of course, that does not mean you are wrong.

      Here is an alternative view, from an upcoming post…

      The Right is winning. Whatever you think of their tactics or beliefs, Mother Nature does not care. Success validates the rationality of their tactics in the only sense that counts in this world.

      There is a long history of crazy people — crazy to the contemporary mainstream — winning. Abolitionists in the western nations, NAZIs in Germany, Christians in Ancient Rome — to name just a few. Villains and heroes, all on the same list.

      Like

  2. Jordan permalink
    8 October 2013 3:51 pm

    GOP is right? Right about what? That they can vote on laws that was voted on by previous Congress while bypassing 2/3 of legislative?
    Congress has a right of the purse, that is true, but this is not what is about on here. GOP ATTACHED another law with the one about suggested budget/ CR.
    They are not in the battle with Obama, they are in the battle with Senate that is not letting them such budget trough.
    OK, lets start from the beggining of how legislation on budget works; Obama presented A Federal Budget that has to go trough House Commity but, GOP refused to chose their members of Commity to work on a budget so the next step is passing CR which is just extension of previous years Budgets.
    In voting on CR, GOP attached provision that removes spending part on ACA(Obamacare) ANd as such it can not pass Senate.
    Now, GOP is refusing to negotiate with Senate so instead they push(blackmail) Obama to push Senate to pass such law before signing it.
    If i understand democracy, that is dictating by 1/3 of legislative on how 2/3 of it should vote. Basicaly, GOP took the role of a dictatorship.
    So are they right about it?

    Congress has the right of the purse but only with aproval of Senate and President.

    Like

    • 8 October 2013 7:17 pm

      Jordan,

      That comment is a incoherent mess, having little relationship with what is actually happening.

      I strongly suggest that your comments on such technical matters — like in this comment — stick to posting links and excerpts to expert analysis, or at least major news media sources.

      Like

    • Jordan permalink
      8 October 2013 7:58 pm

      From WSJ on 09.30.13
      “The simplest path to avoiding a shutdown would be for the House to immediately pass the Senate funding bill and send it to the White House. Mr. Nunes and others predict that there would be enough votes to pass such a bill, if brought up by GOP leaders, with Democrats joined by some Republicans willing to postpone the health-care fight in the interest of ending the showdown.

      However, that route could pose political risks to Mr. Boehner, whose standing as speaker rests on retaining his party’s support, including from a conservative wing that often has clamored for him to be more combative in fighting Mr. Obama’s policies.”

      From CNN
      ‘8. What happened Monday?

      The Senate rejected the latest House proposal, prompting the House to approve another spending plan that would remove the Obamacare individual mandate. The Senate rejected that, too, setting the stage for a shutdown’

      Then try reading whole page and then see what i wrote to see i was correct in my description

      http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/government-shutdown-up-to-speed/index.html

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:27 pm

      Jordan,

      Your opening lines are nonsense.

      “GOP is right? Right about what? That they can vote on laws that was voted on by previous Congress while bypassing 2/3 of legislative? Congress has a right of the purse, that is true, but this is not what is about on here.”

      The House is acting within its constitutional authority, as are its individual members — who are elected officials, and as legitimate political actors as any other in Washington.

      All the silly name calling does not change that.

      Their actions might be wise or foolish, as only time can tell. But nothing in the Constitution or the House rules forbids making mistakes.

      Like

  3. Jordan permalink
    8 October 2013 4:14 pm

    There is an option for Obama that you did not consider. Ordering Trilion Dollar Platinum Coin.
    Here is what former Mint Director Philip Diehl said about it, but then you can read comments bellow which also give a lot of information on laws, especialy comments by ‘beowulf’.

    http://monetaryrealism.com/philip-diehl-responds-to-ezras-mark-pattterson-interview/

    Another option is issuing Consols instead of Treasuries. Consols are Treasuries with no maturity date so they do not go into government debt count since Consols have never to be repaid. Nature of requierd bank reservess is such that allows for Treasuries without maturity since banks are requierd to have ammount of permanent reserves. ANd some wealthy also use permanent amount of Tsy’s in their portfolio. Once those Tsy’s mature they are buying new ones. So there is a need for Consoles in the market. Consoles were used previously and retired when not needed. Consoles are also beowulf’s idea.

    Like

    • 8 October 2013 6:50 pm

      Jordan,

      I doubt the platinum coin trick gains any advantage over a more direct approach. Since it is a silly trick, it is IMO a far weaker approach. Which is why it is not being seriously considered, so far as I have seen.

      As for consols, can you cite any expert saying such a thing? Consols are a form of government debt, and hence covered by the debt limit.

      Like

    • Jordan permalink
      8 October 2013 7:14 pm

      TDPC is a trick, but then what do you call this shutdown; a ruse, blackmail, con or just a trick?
      Shutdown hurts while TDPC liberates people from dogma about money. ANd liberates in other ways and gives more options.
      So do you allow one sides to use tricks while other side have to be imaculate in dealing with blackmailers?

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:04 pm

      Jordan,

      “TDPC is a trick, but then what do you call this shutdown; a ruse, blackmail, con or just a trick?”

      This is politics, played according to laws.

      It is not like playing Snakes and Ladders, where you complain to Mommy if your sister speaks harshly to you, or wins too often.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 7:56 pm

      “…TDPC liberates people from dogma about money.”

      I think you have far too much faith in the ability of anything to liberate people from dogma. Now and then, one dogma usurps another in a given person’s mind; but to eliminate dogma, you usually have to wait for those it has captured to die.

      “So do you allow one sides to use tricks while other side have to be imaculate in dealing with blackmailers?”

      In effect, you’ve stated clearly what’s wrong with the platinum coin idea. It attempts to solve the problem at the same level it was created. Such solutions rarely work for long.

      Like

  4. Charles Stegiel permalink
    8 October 2013 4:52 pm

    Money is the mother’s milk of politics and pork is the way of rewarding and punishing with the purse. Who wouldn’t spend to the end of the universe if the only consequence was someone else picking up the tab? It is a giant confidence game based on force projection–the full faith and credit backing the government’s debt rests on the unstated assumption that the State will extort anyone else to come up with money to pay the piper-up to waging war if needs be. The United States does need to line item by line item justify the spending. While I might start with the DOD outlays, others may wish to begin with other departments of the government. Clearly too many promises are chasing too little money.

    Like

    • Jordan permalink
      8 October 2013 5:24 pm

      I liked you first sentence very much but your last one is completely wrong. How? GOP is trying to make your last sentence correct.
      And they are following your recomendation;
      ” The United States does need to line item by line item justify the spending. While I might start with the DOD outlays, others may wish to begin with other departments of the government.”
      GOP is going line by line and protecting their business constituence while cutting Democrats’ constituence from public funds.
      That is what this shutdown is all about. GOP afraid of demografic changes that is going against them is cutting funds of Democratic constituence. That and radical use of gerrymandering produced outcome where votes for House candidates gave 1,5 milion more votes for Democrats but gave 30 more seats to GOP. This is two front attack on Democrats in order to aleviate lessening votes for GOP.

      Should Democrats just let GOP make them a new one, or should they resist such arteficial debt limit that will make USA go back into recession and get them to loose future elections no matter number of votes?
      What would you do?

      Like

    • Charles Stegiel permalink
      8 October 2013 5:39 pm

      Well of course the GOP is a partisan entity like the Democrats are a partisan entity. The posture of the partisanship is not the issue. The issue-you cannot borrow your way to prosperity. If the State spends more than it takes in, substantially more, this is a serious burden on the nation. Again, line by line is the way to go, and of course partisanship triumphs by assuring us some line items are off the table. This is a consequence of a Duo-Poly. An interesting question is can you have unlimited spending and unlimited tax breaks for the top 5%. We are rapidly approaching a Cromwellian moment.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 6:53 pm

      Charles,

      “The issue-you cannot borrow your way to prosperity.”

      That is a wild strawman statement, unless you can find some people advocating such a thing in our political mainstream.

      Debt is a proven powerful and effective tool. Like all such, it can be misused. That is the relevant question everywhere, except on Fox News.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 6:46 pm

      Charles,

      Let me recast what you say, showing an alternative perspective on it. Wealth, income, and political power are rapidly concentrating. It is a “s” curve, and we are entering the steep middle section.

      This is a fundamental change, a social but non-violent revolution. According much else in society changes to accommodate this new regime. Politics, family structure, values — we cannot yet even draw a full list.

      Interesting days ahead.

      Like

    • Charles Stegiel permalink
      8 October 2013 6:57 pm

      Fabius, your recast is good. Not so sure about the non-violent aspect. It may be disguised violence such as job loss, class shifting downwards, money not buying what it used to, homelessness on the rise, social disintegration on the rise. Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem by contrast was written at a time when the American Dream still seemed to exist. When class stratification was just picking up steam. At the dawn of the savage class war of the last 45 years.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:03 pm

      Charles,

      “It may be disguised violence such as job loss, class shifting downwards …”

      IMO it is of paramount importance to talk and think clearly about these things. Your list does not include violence, or disguised violence in any meaningful form.

      Political discussions in the US have become to a disturbing extent fantasies, when everyone makes up their own definitions — and each team adopts them, so that meaningful communication becomes imposible.

      That keeps us divided, and so a gift to our rulers. Just like at theTower of Babel.

      Like

    • Jordan permalink
      8 October 2013 7:16 pm

      It is a violence of another sort, thats right Charles.
      Suicides have more then doubled in Greece in last 5 years.

      Like

  5. Duncan Kinder permalink
    8 October 2013 6:51 pm

    There is no debt crisis except to the extent that both Congress and Obama want it.

    The “shutdown” itself is a farce.

    At issue, rather, is whether there would be a default.

    And why would the political parties want that?

    Naomi Klein, in the Shock Doctrine, provides an answer:

    “The book argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman have risen to prominence in some countries because of a deliberate strategy of certain leaders to exploit crises by pushing through controversial, exploitative policies while citizens were too busy emotionally and physically reeling from disasters or upheavals to create an effective resistance. It is implied that some man-made crises, such as the Iraq war, may have been created with the intention of pushing through these unpopular reforms in their wake.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine

    http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine

    We should be on the alert for any appearance of the Shock Doctrine in the current situation.

    Like

    • 8 October 2013 7:14 pm

      Duncan,

      You remarks do not seem to match our system of government. Perhaps you would prefer another, where reasonable laws like the debt limit can be dismissed by philosopher-kings as a “farce” and discarded.

      Those are called totalitarian systems.

      We have a system of laws, not men. The laws are abstractions, intangibles. Yet, as Thomas Moore said, if we throw those away we will be defenseless against the wild forces of the world.

      As for forcing default, as I said on this post pushing these things to extremes has a long history in western governments. It is a logical aspect of our system. That you do not like it now is IMO part of the anti-democratic sentiment rising in America.

      Perhaps we will autocratic government so many Americans yearn for. I doubt they will like it.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 7:41 pm

      “We should be on the alert for any appearance of the Shock Doctrine in the current situation.”

      Alas, the whole principle of the shock doctrine is that it is put into practice when those who would otherwise object are too busy surviving the present to spare much thought about what is being decided regarding their future.

      Elements of the extreme right no doubt look forward to that scenario; it is my guess that for the most part, they are not quite ready yet. With a Democratic Senate and a nominally Democratic president, there would still be too much danger that things might not break their way.

      I think this crisis was a blunder. I suppose it could be a dress rehearsal. Alertness—tempered with a sense of reality and proportion—is always a good thing.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      8 October 2013 8:44 pm

      Fabius Maximus:

      There are numerous articles floating about supporting Obama’s legal authority unilaterally to act in this instance. A simple google search on the topic of – say – “platinum coin” – should engender any number. Anyone so inclined can easily research the topic.

      My point is more basic. “Necessity” is a well-recognized doctrine that privileges one to override otherwise applicable acts.

      And, I repeat, we may be looking at an effort to implement the Shock Doctrine. A concept you ignore. And, whatever you may have to say about this, I urge others reading this to view the presently threatened default with the Shock Doctrine in mind.

      Because there does not have to be any default – unless both Obama and the Republicans want it. And why, oh why, should anyone want that?

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:16 pm

      Duncan,

      “There are numerous articles floating about supporting Obama’s legal authority unilaterally to act in this instance. A simple google search on the topic of – say – “platinum coin” – should engender any number. Anyone so inclined can easily research the topic.”

      If only I had a dollar for every time someone here pointed to Google and say “there lies the proof of my belief”. Experience has taught me that this is as reliable as pointing to Heaven with the same words. Although you might becorrect, I have seen no expert say anything like that.

      Economists are not experts in the law.

      “”Necessity” is a well-recognized doctrine that privileges one to override otherwise applicable acts. ”

      Perhaps we will eventually get the tyranny you so yearn for, replacing our government of laws. I doubt you will enjoy it.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      8 October 2013 8:48 pm

      And, lo and behold, now we see this:

      “House Republicans Mulling New ‘Supercommittee’ On Debt Ceiling”

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/08/house-republicans-supercommittee_n_4063872.html

      I wonder what goodies this supercommittee would come up with in it heroic efforts to stem the current crisis?

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:17 pm

      Duncan,

      I do not understand your point. What are you saying about this proposed “super committee”? It is a common procedural step.

      Like

    • Duncan Kinder permalink
      8 October 2013 11:22 pm

      Fabius;

      You know damn well I don’t yearn for tyranny.

      And I note once again that you have not addressed the Shock Doctrine point.

      Like

    • 9 October 2013 2:37 am

      Duncan,

      I don’t know what you want, just what you say. Your words are what they are.

      I believe — a firmly held guess, nothing more — that many, perhaps most, Americans yearn for a tyranny to relieve themselves of the responsibility for self-government. As I have written so many times, that neatly explains our actions as no other theory does.

      It does not make us bad people. It’s just who we are. This is nothing unusual in history.

      As for the Shock Doctrine, it’s not something I know anything about. To avoid foolish mistakes, I avoid comments on things I know little about. It’s enough that you think it worth mentioning; there is no need for me to interfere.

      For example, look at Congress. We elect them, yet regard it with distain (as if it mysteriously takes root in Washington despite our best efforts). This allows us to feel good about voting (me, citizen!) yet assume no responsibility for the result.

      Like

    • 9 October 2013 2:41 am

      From Loki helps us to see our true selves

      Our politics since 9-11 has been a series of comedy acts to minimize the cognitive dissonance created by the contrast between our self image as Americans and our actions. Only Hollywood can show us these truths in a form we can accept. As Loki does in The Avengers:

      .

      Like

    • Bluestocking permalink
      9 October 2013 4:12 am

      “I believe — a firmly held guess, nothing more — that many, perhaps most, Americans yearn for a tyranny to relieve themselves of the responsibility for self-government. As I have written so many times, that neatly explains our actions as no other theory does.”

      I believe you just might be right, FM…because the behavior of many Americans clearly indicates that they are either no longer capable of thinking for themselves (especially since the secondary education sytem unfortunately no longer seems to emphasize or even encourage critical thinking skills) or else unwilling to do so because they consider it too much work. (I find myself disturbingly reminded of Orwell’s “1984” as I write this…particularly the passages describing the invention of Newspeak as a deliberate means of limiting people’s vocabulary so that they no longer have the ability, never mind the inclination or the courage, to ask questions.)

      Could it be that critical thinking has become a casualty of the culture of immediate gratification — as in, we want our answers NOW and will accept whatever answers someone might decide to give us (regardless of whether they’re correct or not) because we simply don’t have the patience to mull things over and ask questions in order to gather information?

      I think it could also be argued that there’s always been at least an streak of submission to authority lurking underneath the surface of the American psyche despite our insistence that we believe in the autonomy of the individual. As I commented in response to yesterday’s post, this is a country that was to a significant extent settled if not necessarily founded by religious zealots who were either not especially welcome in their own lands or who could not bear to live alongside people who did not share their values — and frequently, religious zealots have a strong authoritarian bent. Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans came to this land in order to establish a theocracy, and the Puritans in particular were not hesitant about persecuting anyone (such as the Quakers) who disagreed with them.

      There’s no question that Puritanism in particular continues to play a largely unconscious role in this culture. It could even be said that for most of the nation’s history, despite the separation of church and state established in the First Amendment, the majority of Americans nevertheless lived under a form of (largely) benevolent tyranny in the shape of the church since most people firmly believed that this was an authority which was not subject to question. In this sense, to some extent, we’ve always been a nation at odds with ourselves — people who believe we do not have the right to question our moral and/or spiritual authorities while at the same time questioning our legal and political authorities. Given the fact that ambiguity is something many Americans seem to have difficulty accepting, it’s actually not all that surprising that many people tend to go to one extreme or the other — either questioning both kinds of authority, or hesitating to question either one.

      Like

    • 9 October 2013 4:18 am

      Bluestocking,

      All interesting points!

      One relevant point: even today America is more religious than most (all?) of our peers.

      Like

  6. 8 October 2013 7:15 pm

    If the President were to state that he believes the debt limit to be unconstitutional in this circumstance (e.g., when applied to the executive branch so as to limit its ability to implement obligations and expenditures already authorized by Congress), who would have standing to sue? (I’m not talking about impeachment, but an attempt to overturn an executive interpretation of the law.)

    Like

    • Publius permalink
      8 October 2013 7:49 pm

      Fabius the debt of the nation must be wisely incurred and our peculiar polity has chosen unwisely. We are not as a country grasping that prosperity is not unwise debt. The need for debt is always open for discussion and how to finance the debt also open to discussion. Monopoly on money also could be discussed. Money is the water of the social and without it we are high and dry.

      Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:07 pm

      Coises,

      There have been comments about that and related questions by attorneys (e.g., Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe).

      It is complex, perhaps not even a subject for judicial review — as a matter for the President and Congress to litigate.

      Like

  7. Kenneth Alonso permalink
    8 October 2013 9:13 pm

    A paper from Duke Law on the implications and replies to default, well worth reading, at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2307569. (download available)

    Like

    • 8 October 2013 9:20 pm

      Kenneth,

      I read this. It did not say much about our current situation — other than warning how this could happen — as so many others have warned us — and that the effects might be unpleasant if we fail to resolve it.

      What did you get from this article?

      Like

  8. Publius permalink
    8 October 2013 10:47 pm

    Not all violence is physical. However perhaps another word such as harmful while less connotative of the extreme consequences experienced by people from joblessness or homelessness would serve better. Thomas Carlyle wrote on the topic of joblessness in the context of the workhouse and the daily papers cover homelessness under un-free market oligolipoy Capitalism. Actually exisiting Capitalism in the USA probably qualifies as political violence per Wiki definitions of violence.

    Like

  9. 9 October 2013 4:01 am

    I drove from Berkeley to San Francisco this morning, and I got to work about 15 minutes faster than usual. Traffic is at least 10 minutes faster than a good day. Whatever else you can say about this thing, from a commute perspective so far it’s been good.

    Like

    • Jordan permalink
      9 October 2013 6:03 am

      Comute time is good since less people go to work. Less people go to work since 800 000 are furloughed from federal jobs with this shutdown.
      I used to watch weekly variations in trafic to know about economy even before the BLS numbers come out. Trafic frequency shows you the state of the economy.

      Like

  10. Jordan permalink
    9 October 2013 6:43 am

    I think this is the best description yet about bottom line of shutdown; Weakening presidency, getting Obama to give up on governing and let GOP do whatever it wants no matter how much votes they have.

    “Obama: GOP ‘putting a gun’ to head of American people”, NBC News, 3 October 2013 — “President Barack Obama is critical of Republican lawmakers over the federal government shutdown while speaking at a construction company in Rockville, Md., Thursday.”

    http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbc-news/53175329/#53223360

    Like

    • 9 October 2013 6:51 am

      Jordan,

      Do you have any evidence supporting your theory? Specific actions by Obama? Expert analysis?

      The most recent polls suggest your theory is quite wrong: “Polls: Public places more blame for shutdown on GOP“, NBC News, 7 October 2013 — “As the federal government’s shutdown nears its second week, a pair of new polls released Monday suggests the fiscal standoff has begun to weigh on the Republican Party.”

      Like

    • Jordan permalink
      9 October 2013 9:30 am

      You might not consider this an expert Michael Hoexter PhD in psychology, but you could check out his site to see his expertise.

      http://www.michaelhoexter.com/

      He writes this, which i also hold true much earlier then i read it;
      “There appear now to be signs that a likely outcome of the current government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis will be that in fact the Grand Bargain, what William Black has called the Great Betrayal, may be the “concession” that Obama offers under the “duress” of the current Republican assault. In the chaos of the moment, Obama would then in fact get what he has seemed to have wanted for a long time: replacing direct provision of government services with the “public-private” partnerships that are the policy orientation of moderate Right and “centrist” neoliberalism.”

      His whole post is a bit long without even reading the first part (this is 2 of 2 part post) but it gives a lot that is wrong about society and politics. I would say that it gives the complete picture of the US society with political economy.

      http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/10/behind-crisis-american-governance-delusions-economy-treated-matter-differing-economic-taste-pt-22.html

      In order to even get close to comprehending the full scope of this post and to start with an open mind i would recomend reding this post about why econ101 is dumbed down garbage first;
      How Econ101 is Killing AMerica.

      http://www.salon.com/2013/07/08/how_%E2%80%9Cecon_101%E2%80%9D_is_killing_america/

      I know it is a lot but i believe it is worth it.
      I believe it perfectly paralels your views about New order in US but it comes from clearly distinguished paradigm/ worldview and from another POV.

      Like

    • 9 October 2013 11:17 am

      Jordan,

      I think Obama doing a “grand bargain” — what he has long wanted to do, and what much of the Washington governing class has wanted to do — is not the same as …

      * “Weakening presidency”
      * “getting Obama to give up on governing”
      *. ” and let GOP do whatever it wants no matter how much votes they have.”

      I do not believe a “grand bargain” is well described by any one of these three things.

      Like

    • Jordan permalink
      9 October 2013 4:06 pm

      Obama wants Great Betrayal while GOP wants weak president without any power.
      I did not imply that they, Obama and GOP want same things, such as you gave me my opinion.

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. About the crisis: The GOP is right. So is Obama. That’s why it’s a crisis. - Global Dissident
  2. Two Weesk Of Linsk | Rhymes With Cars & Girls

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