(to the tune of Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”)
We’ve been given a reprieve until February 7. Barely enough time to choke down Thanksgiving dinner and hold back on holiday spending before we’re faced with another threat of government default.
In this week’s New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg talks about Lincoln’s fears after the Civil War. While southern congressmen were out of the picture (during secession), Congress passed some of its most far-reaching legislation: a national currency, the Homestead Act, a transcontinental railroad, support for higher education, and the definitive abolition of slavery.
Lincoln worried about the mischief that might occur when the southern states returned to the legislative halls. Hence the 14th Amendment:
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. Amendment XIV, Section 4.
“Benjamin Wade, president pro tem of the Senate, explained that the national debt would be safer once it was ‘withdrawn from the power of Congress to repudiate it.’ He and his colleagues didn’t say just that the debt could not be put off, or left unpaid. They said that it couldn’t even be questioned.” (My emphasis)
Obama should warn the minority ahead of time. Set a date. If the sledgehammer threat of default is held over another budget, that action would automatically invoke the Fourteenth Amendment.