Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Republican crazy talk about the debt ceiling

By Robert Reich

"I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on every newscast, that if we dont raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our debt,"saysSen.Tom Coburn, R-Okla. We wont. Well continue to pay our interest.

This is crazy talk. While the Treasury Department could prioritize interest payments after October 17 the day the Treasury Department says it no longer has legal authority to pay the nations debts and not pay Social Security and Medicare, this would buy a few days at most.

Meanwhile, interest rates will soar, stock prices will plummet, the global economy will begin spiraling downward, and millions of Americans wouldnt receive their Social Security and Medicare.

So why are Republicans talking like this? Because they want to sound as if theyre willing to blow up the economy if they dont get their way. A crazy person with a bomb is much scarier than someone holding a bomb who looks and acts reasonable. Sounding crazy is part of the Republican bargaining strategy.

But the President and the Democrats must not give in.

If we get to October 17th and the Republicans are still holding the nation hostage, the President has only one option: He must ignore the debt ceiling and order the Treasury to continue to pay all the nations bills.

He should rely on Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law shall not be questioned. The debt itself is clearly authorized by law because its the direct result of laws authorizing the U.S. to spend and to tax. The showdown over the debt ceiling is over payment of the debt, not the legality of the debt itself. Arguably, what the Constitution requires trumps any law governing the debt-ceiling.

If Republicans disagree, let them try to impeach the President. Their polls are already dropping. The latest Washington Post-ABCpollshows 70 percent of the public disapproving of their tactics (65 percent disapproved before the shutdown), while the Presidents disapproval remains at 51 percent. An attempted impeachment would reveal to the public just how crazy Republicans have become.

Cross-posted from Robert Reichs blog.