FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Default Specter as Political Theater

Although the financial press speculates about a downgrade of the US government’s credit rating and default if political impasse prevents the debt ceiling from being raised in time, I doubt anyone really believes that the debt ceiling will not be raised.  It is just all a part of the political theater of the next couple of months.

Republicans will blame the budget deficit and accumulated national debt on Medicare and Social Security. Wall Street sees billions of profits in privatizing either, and debt rating agencies will oblige their Wall Street paymasters by opining from time to time that US Treasury bonds might be downgraded unless “entitlements can be addressed and the deficit brought under control.”

Democrats will say that the budget deficit cannot be addressed without an increase in tax revenues, especially from the rich whose incomes have exploded upward while their tax rates have declined.

All the while the pressure of an approaching deadline for default will be used to reshape the US social contract, most likely in the further interest of the rich.

However, regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, the US government is not going to go out of business.  Why does anyone think that the President, who does not obey the War Powers Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, US and international laws against torture, or any of the laws and procedures that guard civil liberty, is going to feel compelled to obey the debt ceiling?

As long as the US is at war, the American President is a Caesar.  He is above the law. The US Justice (sic) Department has ruled this, and Congress and the Courts have accepted it.

Moreover, the Federal Reserve is independent of the government. In its approach to regulatory matters and bailouts, the Fed has ceased to follow its own rules. Regardless of the debt ceiling, the Fed will continue to purchase the Treasury’s bond issues, and the Treasury will continue to fund the federal deficit with the proceeds.  If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, certainly the US government is.

As Congress has abandoned its powers over war, how can Congress hold on to its powers over spending?  It cannot. Indeed, an impasse between the political parties over the debt ceiling would be welcomed by the executive branch as more proof that Congress is incapable of doing its part in governing and, therefore, the task has of necessity passed to the executive branch, which already does most of it.

If the President can declare on his own authority, without statutory basis and in defiance of the US Constitution, that he can assassinate US citizens who he considers to be a threat to national security, he certainly can declare that default is a threat to national security and that it is within his powers as commander-in-chief to ignore the debt ceiling.

Indeed, the executive branch would jump at the chance.  Then it could reshape the budget to its own pleasing without having to consult Congress on spending any more than the executive branch consults Congress on war.

The Bush/Cheney regime brought democracy and accountable government to an end. If Obama doesn’t finish the process, the next in line will.

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail