To be “sovereign” means that there is no higher legal authority. This is why, historically, sovereign debt is a bad risk: if the sovereign doesn’t want to pay back the debt, there is no authority that can order the debt repaid.
Francis Menton briefly describes Argentina’s journeys through the United States court system as the South American company attempts to evade debt issued in New York. The end game is near and Argentina’s lawyer told the judge what it will be: ”We would not voluntarily obey such an order [to repay the debt].” The Argentinians are essentially echoing Andrew Jackson’s rebuke of the Supreme Court: “They have made their decision, now let them enforce it.”
I suppose that the courts could seize whatever meager assets the broke country might have in American banks, but American courts have no real means to force Argentina to repay the debt. What the court can do is to deny Argentina access to future New York credit markets, which causes Menton to remark:
” . . . getting cut off from credit would probably be the best thing that could ever happen to Argentina, finally forcing a reduction in its wildly bloated state sector and out-of-control crony capitalism.”
The same would be true for the United States, but I fear that we’re going to have to get a lot closer to Argentina’s miserable state of affairs before we accept it.
Republicans want a delay in Obamacare. Because of the many significant problems with the rollout of Obamacare, and because he has delayed parts of the law himself some 19 times, President Obama should want a delay in Obamacare too. One year gives Democrats an opportunity to fix systemic errors in the software, the regulations, and the law. One year gives nothing at all to the Republicans–nothing–except the opportunity to crow a little bit.
That the President can’t compromise in a way that gives him everything he wants, plus the extra time he needs, is not about business. It’s strictly personal.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn for the link. While you’re here, take a look around.
MORE: Allahpundit and Evan McMurray dissect Wolf Blitzer’s wonderment that it isn’t the Democrats who are the ones begging for a year’s delay.
Exit question: Do national Democrats hate the Tea Party so much that they would take all the (well-deserved) negative reaction over the Obamacare Follies rather than to give in on just the delay even while it benefits them more than Republicans in the long run?
ALSO: Thanks to Ed and Moe.
‘Gestapo’ tactics meet senior citizens at Yellowstone.
How is it possible that both President Obama and the “Tea Party” hold an advantage in the budget standoff? It isn’t a contradiction if you understand that one side has a tactical and operational advantage, while the other side has the long-term strategic advantage.
For the next two weeks President Obama is at a tactical disadvantage as he is sacrificing the interests of his own forces in order to secure a greater goal. So far those most hurt by the government shutdown are government workers who are denied a paycheck. They are, in effect, on strike. But unlike an ordinary strike, where a union’s rank and file walk off the job and accept a temporary loss of income in exchange for a negotiating advantage to secure a bigger benefit, in this strike the workers out of work don’t want the benefit that their union’s leadership (national Democrats) want to secure. That’s because the benefit in question is Obamacare, which no government worker wants and many actual unions have exhaustively tried to avoid. (more…)
Every time the United States gets ready to bump up against another debt ceiling limit, the old 14th Amendment canard seems to make an appearance.
I’ve previously devastated that argument. So too have others. But let me sum up why usurping powers supposedly granted by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment is not just unconstitutional, but counter-productive:
1. Section 8 of Article I exclusively grants to Congress the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.”
2. The obligation to repay all debt supposedly set by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment only exists if you leave out three significant words in that very amendment: ”The validity of the public debt of the United State, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” The debt ceiling is the authorization that allows the Treasury to issue more debt. Without it, there is no “authorized by law.”
3. Even if that isn’t clear enough, Section 5 of the 14th Amendment re-emphasizes that point: ”The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this Article.”
4. The whole reason purportedly given for arguing that the President should use this non-existent power is so that the world’s bond markets won’t be spooked and call into question whether or not debt issued by the Treasury is valid. However, the Constitutional uncertainty of debt issued under such circumstances induces the very market spookiness that those making the argument supposedly wish to avoid.
5. In a contest between violating a law and violating the Constitution, the Constitution wins. The Constitution demands that only Congress can authorize debt. The Constitution also demands that the President must repay debt. It is a mere law (and a relatively recent one) that requires the President to spend every dime that Congress authorizes. The Constitution, therefore simply demands that the President simply prioritize debt repayment over other spending. Sure, that means that he has to violate the 1974 Anti-impoundment act, but it would now be unconstitutional to follow that law without an increase in the debt ceiling. (Plus, it was a stupid law in the first place.)
There’s more from the way-back-machine here and here. Plus this three-year-old anti-anti-impoundment piece from Daniel Henninger.
MORE: From John Hinderaker: “The Federal Government Can’t and Won’t Default on its Debt Obligations.” My five points above tell you why the federal government can’t. To understand why the President won’t default, read this long piece to understand how operationally dependent the Democratic Party is upon debt.
The nearly four-year-long stalemate of the Great War ended only because fresh American troops arrived on the front lines in the summer of 1918 at the rate of 10,000 a day. Twenty-one years later the Allies envisioned another lengthy trench-style war when they relied upon a line of interconnected, powerfully-fortified concrete bunkers named after French Minister of War, Andre Maginot. A generation after the First World War, and only six weeks after the second war began in earnest, the whole of France was under German rule.
A mere 100 hours after the American-led offensive to liberate Kuwait began, the war was over. A dozen years later a similar ground offensive was nearly as quickly concluded . . . but that war was only beginning.
It is human nature to extrapolate linearly from the past. Investment advisers in the 1920s and the 1990s, as well as real estate professionals in the oughts, forecasted incredible and continuous increases in value. Climatologists 30 years ago observed sharply colder winters of the late-seventies and forecasted a new ice age; a generation later many of those same scientists watched temperatures climb and extrapolated that to a future of rising seas and scorched lands.
Here we are today, eighteen years after the last government shutdown and Democrats blithely predict a certain public relations victory while many Old Guard Republicans, still snakebit by the past, fear for their electoral futures.
Life has a way of not staying on script.
Conventional wisdom holds that military service disproportionately attracts minorities and men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many believe that troops enlist because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country. Others believe that the war in Iraq has forced the military to lower its recruiting standards.
. . . studies that examined the backgrounds of enlisted personnel refute this interpretation.
I have to admit that in 2001 I accepted the CW that the militarily disproportionately accepted poor minorities. And then I checked for myself. I did a very similar analysis to this Heritage Foundation study and discovered a very similar result: Americans from the poorest backgrounds are the least likely to join the Army.
A few notes about my study:
1. It was three computers ago and I’ve lost all the raw data, but the results are still clear in my mind. Take that for what it’s worth–yes I encourage skepticism–but to partially allay that, I posted the same thing back in 2005.
2. I looked at FY 2001 Active Army enlistments, USMA enrollees, and ROTC contracts. That was before September 11th for all but the last three weeks of the year. Additionally, it was only Army data. Sad for an Army man to admit: of the services, the Army has the worst record when it comes to marketing to high quality applicants. In other words: if the Army looked good, the other services (especially Marines and Air Force) are bound to look even better.
3. I didn’t break my data down into census tracts, but to zip codes, which is a less discrete variable. However, I did look at individual zip codes with which I was personally familiar, and I found that evidence from those areas matched the results of the overall study.
4. I looked at census data for 17-24 year olds, which is a the usual target market for Army recruiters. It’s unclear from the Heritage study how they accounted for age.
Bottom line results of my study: the least likely quintile of zip codes to send recruits into the active Army, was the economically lowest-ranked quintile. By far. In other words, the 20% of poorest neighborhoods were the least likely to send people into the Active Army (the easiest of the four services to enter). My going-in hypothesis was the opposite. I expected the poorest neighborhoods to provide the most recruits. I was wrong.
Instead, I suppose, that the poorest neighborhoods are those that are the most likely to produce 17-24 year olds who are ungraduated from high school, with a disqualifying criminal record, and/or unable to pass a drug test.
More to the point: One-fifth of our nation’s children are growing up in neighborhoods where they don’t even have the military as a realistic possible path to betterment. Ouch.
*Standard disclaimer to tell you that these are my opinions only and not those of DoD, and cetera.
Frank J. Fleming wonders “Why does the government hate conservatives?” And by “government,” he implicitly means the 1.8 million civilian employees of America’s largest employer. It’s a good question. But I think that it doesn’t go far enough in wondering who these 1.8 million people are.
One truth almost universally and uncritically accepted is that the American civil service system implemented by degrees during the early Progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is a good thing. Perhaps now is the time to question the wisdom of government by tenured appartchiks. Whatever its downfalls, the spoils system at least had the benefit of a thorough housecleaning every four to eight years. Absent such high turnover, the current system erects a legalocracy of inefficiency behind which anonymous and unfirable cogs operate with impunity for decades and generations. Without fear of ever being outside the system, government workers themselves have every incentive to complicate that system in their own favor. Rules become undecipherable, the pace of action becomes glacial, and budgets grow unsustainably large. Meanwhile, administrations come and go and the bureaucracy continues to grow.
James Taranto has argued that if the ongoing IRS scandal didn’t generate in the White House that it is actually a far worse outcome for Americans than if the President himself directed the targeting of conservative groups. His point is that if the targeting is spontaneous, then it is indicative that the government itself has become politicized.
A return to the spoils system, admittedly, would not fix that, as almost definitionally such a system is partisan. But there is a difference between a partisan government that owes allegiance to a temporary leadership and a politicized government whose only allegiance is to the continued growth of government itself. As Taranto argues, if this is the case then “government itself has become a threat to the Constitution.”
While Democrats generally embrace a larger government, they would be mistaken to believe that they too aren’t in the crosshairs of certain branches of the bureaucracy. In the realm of Defense the tilt of those who work there has been generally Republican, as that party has been more predisposed to greater Defense spending over the last couple generations. The entrenchment is so deep that even when a Nobel Peace Prize winning President who ran on a platform of decreased wartime activity finds it difficult to reverse course. One can’t help but to wonder how much of the argument in favor of opening yet another Mideastern front in Syria came from self-serving bureacrats whose departments and budgets would expand as the result of the military action.
Isolated from firing as they are, civil service bureaucrats are impervious to change. At worst, they hold the line and wait four to eight years for a change in government. But they never retreat. And hence, the apparatchikacy continues to grow.
Returning to Fleming’s question we stumble across the obvious answer, Why does government hate [fiscal] conservatives? Because fiscal conservatism necessarily means a decrease in the size of government. And nothing is more dangerous to the bureaucracy that has become the fourth branch of government. What is scariest is that if the apparatchikacy itself wins in a battle against the citizenry that supports it, then we are no longer citizens, but have instead returned to the days of 1775 where we are subjects of an unelected government.
A. Barton Hinkle raises the same concern:
” . . . it is not a happy thing to note that the fourth branch of government – the administrative state against which Republican politicians rail – is largely impervious to elections. And that despite the uproar over domestic surveillance, an activity the election of Barack Obama was supposed to curtail, the general consensus seems to hold that such monitoring will continue unabated. Politicians come and go; autonomous agencies and mass surveillance are here to stay. Elections still matter a great deal in the U.S., but they matter now less than they once did – and less than they should.”
* These opinions are my own and not those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.
When determining if we should do anything about global warming, I propose a four-step approach:
1. Are global temperatures warming?
2. Do the negative consequences of the change outweigh the positive consequences?
3. Can we do anything that will reverse the change?
4. Do the net positive consequences of the action outweigh the net negative consequences of doing nothing?
Notice, the steps have nothing at all whatsoever to do with whether or not global warming is anthropogenic. The climate’s “naturalness” is actually irrelevant. If a 10 kilometer-wide asteroid were hurling toward earth at 100,000 km per hour, it would be a completely natural event. However, just because the meteor wasn’t anthropogenic doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t take actions to deflect it.
Notice also, that we could change question 1 from “warming” to “cooling” and the four-step approach still works. And quite frankly, cooling is probably a more historically problematic situation.
If the answer to any one of the above four questions is “No,” then we should do absolutely nothing about a changing climate. If the answer to all of the questions are “Yes,” then, and only then, should we take any actions.
This is not the discussion we have been having for twenty years. Instead, we have been chased onto an anthropogenic side path well worn by Rousseauian “modern man is bad” theorists. The discussion over naturalness is not only, as I have already said, irrelevant, it is also self-destructive, as the question itself presupposes that natural is good and that anything that deviates from it must be returned to a state of nature.
Peter Ferrara: Global Cooling is Here
Thanks to Glenn for the link. It’s nice to see something I wrote a month ago still relevant today. Also here and here.
Edited to add the word “net” to question #4 per a comment from a reader.
The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan lays out the known facts of the IRS case and concludes that it requires a special prosecutor. She’s right, and frankly, it’s amazing how in a week, the American media has pretty much come around from the question of if a special prosecutor is needed for the IRS investigation, to how broad should be the limits of the special prosecutor’s investigation?
But here’s where Noonan gets it wrong. Right in the last paragraph:
“Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.”
Actually it wouldn’t be “tragic” if the American people were not to have confidence in this or any arm of their government. It would be exactly what the Founders called for.
My favorite quotation from the entire 85 editions of the Federalist Papers is this one from Federalist 25 by Alexander Hamilton:
“The people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
In fact, you could almost sum up the gist of the entire Constitution with that single statement, as the Constitution attempted to set up a system where no branch of government was in sole possession of the means of injuring our rights. How far we have strayed, however, when the wing of the government that determines how much of our labors are to be taken into the Federal trough also inquires about our associations, our religious practices, and soon, our medical care.
Peggy, you are right to call for a special investigator. But you are wrong to assert that it is a tragedy if, as a result of this scandal, we no longer have confidence in the IRS. The real tragedies would occur as a result of believing that any branch of government was deserving of our unsuspicious confidence.