Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Are we dumb enough to default?

The US Constitution's 14th amendment should put default out of serious talk in 2013. Section 4 explicitly takes the possibility of defaulting on the US debt out of the question. But what it does not say is how the government is expected to deal with the unprecedented situation of Congressionally passed spending exceeding Congressionally passed spending limits. Which yields, the spending or the limit? One of them has to go so that the US doesn't violate its own constitution but which will it be? I don't think that it's widely understood that the preferred GOP solution, that the spending stops, would necessarily give the Obama administration great leeway in cutting. The very predictable result is that Democrat party spending priorities would be protected while GOP spending priorities would bear the full force of the cuts. The preferred Democrat solution, that the debt ceiling be breached, would make any sort of debt ceiling legislation moot and would turn the politics of spending quite strange, very likely to the long-term detriment of the spending priorities of the Democrat party. So both parties see a conflict between their short term interests and their long term ones. Whichever one wins right now is likely to be in serious pain down the road. But what if we end up doing neither? What if this crew ends up being so incompetent that paralysis is the rule of the day and we just stop paying our debts? When I was younger, I scoffed at such scenarios. Surely they can't be that dumb. But yet, by all evidence, they are that dumb. It really is the stuff of nightmare, to be ruled by fools.