Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Obama should NOT Implement the 14th Amendment


All of a sudden liberals all over America are jumping on the 14th Amendment bandwagon ever since Bill Clinton suggested that President Obama could simply bypass Congress regarding the debt ceiling. So I'm a liberal. However I completely disagree with using that strategy. Allow me to explain.

First there's the obvious legal argument. Here's the section of the amendment in question:

Section 4. 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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

This section was included following the civil war and many legal scholars believe that section beyond those circumstances are not covered. If the President used this rationale, the likely response would be impeachment by the other side. Even if they could get the courts to hear it, that might take some time. Meanwhile that uncertainty would have an adverse effect on the world markets and our status would continue to slip.

However, that's not my primary reason for being opposed to this amendment. No, my concern has to do with a trend going on for several decades moving power from the legislative to the executive branch. These precedents over the last several years have continued to enhance the power of the President, endangering the checks and balances that were built into our Constitution.

The founders placed budgetary decisions clearly in the hands of the House, subject to passage also by the Senate and ratification by the president. Their logic was clear. Members of the House are chosen every two years, and are most responsable to the electorate. Since it's our money in question, we need to have the greater voice in that decision. The Senate and President serve to protect against the excesses of the people. Right now an issue exists because the people elected a bunch of folks who are unable to compromise and the result of that intransigence may cost us all dearly. Still, within a few election cycles, those folks can be replaced and over the long haul a correction will be made.

What happens though if the president acts and he somehow prevails. A precedent will have been set and future presidents could use the similar rationale and act as they saw fit regarding budgetary law. One more power ceded to an increasingly imperial presidency and further deterioration in the checks and balances that made America great for so long.

Right now liberals see Obama as the closest thing to our world vision, so it seems easy to shrug and say, well heck, it serves our needs so why not? We need to think beyond this circumstance to evaluate the wisdom of any move of this sort. What sort of decision from the president's office could we expect from a President Bachmann? Do we really want to enhance her power any more should she be elected? How about a President Rick Perry from Texas? It is clear the conservative side of our population is ready to play loose with our constitution. It's a good argument to make against them, weakened if we choose to do the same thing.

This sort of usurpation of power can have very opposite results years down the road. For this reason, I oppose using the 14th Amendment to justify bypassing Congress. Perhaps this is liberal heresy. I've never been a stranger to heresy. With the liberal's vision of what America can and should be, I think principles like checks and balances trump the immediate concerns of our day. Bypassing Congress would be a big mistake.

1 comment:

  1. Well, my concern about him using the 14th Amendment is that it will set up a judicial challenge to said usage - a challenge that will be led by Republicans - which will allow Manny, Moe, Jack, Frick and Frack (d/b/a/ the corporatist majority on the Supreme Court) to do what the Civil War losers and their 140+ years of apologists have been wanting since the 14th Amendment was ratified: erase the 14th Amendment by claiming that it was never properly submitted to the states for ratification.