Friends, as some of you know, Samantha's sister was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago, and given 3-6 months to live.
Throughout these last few weeks, everyone involved in the negotiations on funding the government and the debt ceiling should have been repeating something over and over again - to the point that the American people should be sick of hearing it.
It is Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution of our great nation. (I choose still to use the word "great" because I don't identify this nation with its government.)
"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law ... shall not be questioned."
Compare and contrast with the President's comment of a week ago: "As reckless as a government shutdown is ... an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse" or the opening of his address to the nation a couple of days later, in which he talks of meeting "Republicans and Democrats from both Houses of Congress in an effort to ... remove the dangers of default from our economy."
Let's be clear.
If anyone who has sworn an oath of office to uphold the Constitution would threaten any default by the USA when the USA has a) the revenue to meet the interest obligations on its debt and b) (for shame) the ability of a sovereign issuer of its own currency to pay all its debts at any time c) seen this coming for ages, and therefore had plenty of time to prepare for it, then he is doing little other than threatening willfully to violate his oath.
The credit of the USA should never have been in question and never had to be. As all of this nonsense of the last couple of weeks has been going on, everyone involved should have been repeating that part of the 14th amendment out loud, reiterating that all debts would be paid first out of government revenue simply because that is the supreme Law of the land - and because, therefore, their integrity as takers of the oath to uphold the Constitution would not allow them to threaten impeachable behavior for political ends - or, for that matter, for any ends whatsoever. Their priority would then have been to put in place the practical mechanisms for ensuring that would be done.
As a writer and speaker who loves my country and therefore the Constitution (or should that be the other way around?), I spend plenty of hours spreading the dangers of the monarchy that the American Presidency has become, as it deploys and expands power through Executive Orders. But there is just about one kind of executive order that I believe my patriotism would compel me to accept: that being an order that simply restates a part of the Constitution verbatim and the President's intention to defend it. Had President Obama told us he would be prepared to issue an executive order that reiterates the 14th Amendment to ensure that the Constitution would be followed throughout this "crisis", then the last two weeks would have been very different.
Not that the President has displayed any less leadership than anyone else on or around Capitol Hill.
Section 5 of the 14th Amendment states simply,
"The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article".
And that is what it should do. In particular, only Congress has the power to undo the two laws without which there would be no debt-ceiling crisis. They are the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 that establishes the debt ceiling, and the Federal Reserve Act that (broadly speaking) prohibits the Fed from lending directly to the Treasury.
If Members of Congress find themselves negotiating in a crisis that arises from legislation that cannot be violated without violating the Constitution, then their first order of business, should they take their oath seriously, must be to revoke, repeal or suspend the offending laws, or to pass further law that makes the "offending laws" benign. To put (or leave) the President in a position where he would have to violate law to follow the Constitution is to be no better than the President who would shrug off the same Constitution.
Rather than do the right thing by making any serious attempt to deal with the legislation that is the sine qua non of the debt-ceiling crisis - a predictable and repeating crisis that is becoming increasingly like a kabuki theater version of Ground Hog Day - House Republicans not only made no effort to attack the offending legislation but happily exploited it in an apparent attempt to extract ever-decreasing party-line concessions that concerned initially almost everything in their party platform, later just a few bits of the Affordable Care Act, and finally next to nothing at all.
Any credibility that this strategy didn't remove from the GOP was pretty much lost when it chose cynical parliamentary maneuvering in the form of covert rule-changes to help them get as much political mileage out of the whole mess as possible. The ultimate result was nothing worth speaking of - except the concentration (yet again) of even more power in the hands of fewer people in the House. Nice job, guys.
Lest anyone think that my beef is just with the Republicans, it isn't. The problem that precedes all of the foregoing is actual spending , without which there can be no debt, without which there can be no "debt-ceiling crisis". The Democrats have been in recent times even more culpable than the Republicans in legislating spending above the standing debt limit. In March, the Democratically controlled Senate rejected the $3.5T Republican budget, which at least made some (albeit too little) attempt to rein in deficits, to pass $3.7T of spending, knowing full well that it was spending money that on current law (with the debt-ceiling where it was), America could not cover by borrowing, even though it was not covered by revenue. To say that spendthrift legislators were counting on the rise of the debt ceiling is, rather, to make my point for me, for if the debt limit means anything at all, it is as a constraint on the spending of money in the first place. If a Member of the House or Senator votes for spending while knowing that it will eventually trigger a(nother) debt-ceiling crisis a few months down the line, he rather loses any moral basis for accusing anyone who voted against that spending for triggering the crisis when it finally happens.
The legislature knows the cause of these repeated debt-ceiling debacles - because it created it. The predictable, repeating crisis, which does nothing to help the American people, can only be sustained if our leaders see it as serving them in an important way - which, of course, it does. The notion that there is such a thing as a debt-ceiling provides a fig leaf for a fiat monetary system that allows government to spend without constraint and without taxpayers' feeling the immediate economic costs of that public spending, which instead, are felt over time through inflation. (In summary: politicians benefit now; people suffer later.) In such a system, the donkeys gain the political benefit of appearing to help their Constituents by social and economic engineering without economic constraint, while permitting the elephants to gain the political benefit of doing exactly the same thing when it suits them, or (as now) appearing to be upset when the donkeys overdo it.
Truly, it is a pox on both their houses.
History shows that the so-called "debt ceiling" does not constrain our government at all. Only the Constitution and the integrity of those who swear to uphold it can do that. If our government spent in pursuit of only what it is authorized to do, then the debt-ceiling would take care of itself, because American government spending would be nowhere near it. (And, as a bonus, we would still have due process, privacy, and the respect of other nations who would not see us as aggressors - because violations of all of those things are expensive.)
Put simply, public spending or the size of government is the long-term issue from which the debt-crisis is - ironically and conveniently for career politicians of both parties - the short-term distraction.
Clearly, the most serious debt in Washington has rather less to do with Treasury bills and social security checks than with the accumulated deficit of commitment of our leaders to their oath. No need to panic, though: we are not close to a ceiling on that. Washington D.C. defaulted on it years ago.
Remember what a fool they made of Admiral Stockdale in the VP debates?
Did anyone ever bother to find out, who he was? Again, a short history lesson, courtesy Wikipedia:
Flying from USS Oriskany on a mission over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, Stockdale ejected from his Douglas A-4E Skyhawk, which had been struck by enemy fire and completely disabled. He parachuted into a small village, where he was severely beaten and taken prisoner.
Some nice TV spots here
and an article here...
Remember when we were just "fringe", "radicals", "ultra-conservatives", and "extremists"??
The times they are a-changing.
Thich Nhat Hahn was in Boston this past Sunday. He was here for a sitting meditation in Copley Square, in front of Trinity Church, across the street from the Boston Public Library, and just a few hundred yards from the infamous site of the Marathon bombings. The John Hancock building towered next to us, reflecting his figure and the image of the Trinity Church.
In was an incredible experience, sitting silently in the sun, silent and present among a sea of thousands of others, as the city went bustling on around us.
We are getting closer to a big First for Blue Republican.
BR Colorado will be hosting Ron Paul, who'll be speaking on "Liberty Defined: the Future of Freedom"... and best of all, the event is free and open to the public.
Come join us if you are anywhere near Grand Junction on Sept. 24th! Get your FREE tickets here.
I approach the politics of life-and-death questions, such as intervention in Syria, with a thought experiment: I imagine looking in the eyes of the mother of a person who would die if my preferred course of action be carried through, but who would live if an opposing course of action were carried through. I imagine trying to justify to that mother why her son should die for the greater good that I believe my view is rooted in.
Found today at the corner of Boylston Street & Arlington, downtown, not far from the site of the bombing.
I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a short trip to Japan on business. This will be my first trip back since 1998, which came at the tail end of a 5 month backpacking trip around the world. I'm sure things have changed a lot.
To a first approximation, American political history before the 18th century is British political history. As most American schoolchildren know, in the 17th century, John Locke crystallized the idea that human law should reflect Natural Law, but the idea that Law must serve the well-being of the people on whom it is imposed goes back at least to the Anglo-Saxons.
These days, Rand Paul can often be heard saying that the Republican party needs to become competitive in "the West and New England," and that the more libertarian brand of Republican politics that he represents will help make that possible.
In 2008, Democrats and Independents voted for Obama, believing that, in voting against Bush's Republicans, they were voting against crony corporatism (remember Halliburton, corporate bailouts?), wars of choice (Iraq) and the take down of our civil rights (Patriot Act). Two years ago, a huge number of them realized that not only did their vote fail to stop any of these, but Obama was a kind of Bush-plus, extending and even deepening illiberal policy in all of these areas. As recent revelations about America's massive surveillance state have revealed, they were right.
Many of these disillusioned Obama voters came to understand that the real problem was bigger than one party or the other, one president or another, but that, "the presuppositions of the system," as Noam Chomsky calls them, ensure that the state, under control of either party, consistently and increasingly acts at the expense of our basic individual liberties, Bill of Rights be damned. Thousands of these voters chose to stay true to their liberal principles by becoming (often for the first time in their lives) signed-up Republicans to support Ron Paul in his run for the presidency. In an article that I wrote at the time, I called them "Blue Republicans." The article went viral and the term caught on, leading to the setting up of a Facebook group, the design and distribution of Blue Republican marketing materials aimed at liberals, and even all kinds of guerrilla marketing, such as the surreptitious hanging of banners over Californian freeways, and so on.
The 4th Amendment of the Constitution reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
For reference, here is the Oath of Office sworn by all members of Congress:
"Liberty is not the beginning and the end. Before I believed in liberty, I believed in Love and Truth."
This is the speech I gave at the Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington State Annual Convention. It may be the most important I have given to date.
In Love and Liberty, Robin (Blue Republican)
by Nelson Hultberg | AFR.org
The modern libertarian movement in America was launched in 1957 by Ayn Rand with her heroic novel, Atlas Shrugged. Using its radical advocacy of capitalism as their rallying cry, libertarians have, over the past 55 years, built a powerful political movement upon Rand’s ideas and vision. It is a very persuasive cause they have fashioned. But, unfortunately, its philosophical base contains flaws, which (if not corrected) will doom libertarianism to being nothing more than a footnote to history rather than a formidable force.
In my opinion, the libertarian movement, as presently constructed, is not capable of defeating the monstrous statism that is taking over the modern world? My book, The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values, has been written to explain why and what we must do to restructure the freedom movement to give it the strength to prevail. Following are some testimonials to the book, its Introduction, and information on how to purchase a copy.
“The Golden Mean is an extremely important book that I believe is destined to be a classic…[It] made me think and gave me answers I've never thought of before. I read it from cover to cover and couldn't put it down.” – Mark Skousen, former professor of economics, Columbia University, author of The Making of Modern Economics.
“In a world inundated with political / ideological books, Nelson Hultberg’s brilliant work…stands apart from, and above, anything I have previously read in this genre.” – Robert Ringer, Author of Restoring the American Dream.
“No one can read this book and not have his thoughts and conscience provoked…It is a profound and passionate effort toward healing a major schism that is long overdue.” – Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education.
The prevailing sentiment on the political right today is that there can be no compromise between the forces of libertarianism and those of conservatism. Such an attempted mix is, as Russell Kirk put it, “like advocating a union of fire and ice.” Murray Rothbard’s hard-core libertarians conclude also that the two philosophical views are forever incompatible and that there can never be a meeting ground where conservatives and libertarians will be able to coalesce. This is primarily because libertarians believe that the central dilemma of civilization is liberty and how to advance it, while conservatives believe that the central dilemma of civilization is order and how to preserve it. Moreover, many libertarians believe in the perfectibility of man, while conservatives see man as forever flawed in nature. Therefore, these two groups must go it alone, each fighting for the implementation of its specific worldview on its own.
This sentiment is grievously flawed, and it has led to our present ineffectuality in combating the statism so insidiously consuming the modern world. Neither of the two philosophies of libertarianism and conservatism can stand alone, nor would any clear-thinking person wish them alone upon humanity. A purely conservative country would be a static despotism of traditionalist philosopher kings, and a purely libertarian country would be a cultural anarchy of moral primitives. One of the purposes of this book is to demonstrate that each philosophy only gains validity by adopting strains of the other.