Tag: Debt Ceiling

Oct 23

The Doomsday Debt Ceiling

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The last imbroglio over raising the debt ceiling may be over for the moment but the threat is still hanging on the horizon. Its use as a bargaining tool by the minority to circumvent laws they don’t like and elections they lost is an extremely dangerous tactic that effects not just the American economy but could bring down the global economy and irreparably harm the value of the dollar and America’s reputation of being a good investment. Even the financial and business sectors have called the debt ceiling toxic to economic health. The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, when asked about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling responded, “you don’t want to know.” Martin Wolf, the chief economic commentator at The Financial Times called the debt ceiling law a “doomsday device” that should be repealed. In simple terms he explained why it is too dangerous to use:

The first is constitutional. In a recent article, Neil Buchanan of The George Washington University and Michael Dorf of Cornell (pdf) argue that a binding debt ceiling would create a “trilemma” for the president: “Ignore the debt ceiling and unilaterally issue new bonds, thus usurping Congress’s borrowing power; unilaterally raise taxes, thus usurping Congress’s taxing power; or unilaterally cut spending, thus usurping Congress’s spending power.” Thus, a binding debt ceiling would force the president to violate his obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. The authors conclude that the president should choose the “least unconstitutional” course and ignore the debt ceiling. But, inevitably, whatever the president did would create a constitutional crisis. No responsible Congress would seek to put the president in that position.

The second reason why the debt ceiling is so dangerous is that the administration could not obey it in a non-destructive way. At some point between October 17 and the end of the month, the administration would lack the money to pay its bills. All choices would be dire.

Mr. Wolf explains that the claims of “prioritisation” by the Treasury Department to pick and choose which bills to pay would still be a default (pdf). Mostly, it is not possible since Treasury uses two different computer systems to pay its foreign and domestic bills. The states that the economics effect of choosing which to pay and which to allow to default would effect the Treasury bonds aming them a risky investment. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank heads meeting in Washington last week issued warnings of the grave dangers to the global economy.

In an interview with Bill Moyers’, Mr. Wolf gives his analysis of the debt ceiling crisis.



Transcript can be read here

Oct 18

Congressional Game of Chicken: Hostages Get A Reprieve

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday morning that reopens the government and raises the debt ceiling, officially ending the 16-day shutdown, the White House said.

CNN Breaking News

If anyone thinks that the latest budget crisis is over, or that there was a victory, they are living in the bubble of a fool’s paradise.

This has cost the economy billions, hurt countless individuals in many ways for a deal that merely kicks the can down the road. Come January, unless a long term budget deal is passed, another continuing resolution (CR) will be needed. February is even more ominous when again the US hits its borrowing limit.

Obama should have stood his ground last year when he caved and gave the Republicans the sequester which is far more damaging to the economy than the ACA. Look what happened to the Republican brand. That could have been last year and the Democrats might have stood a better chance of increasing its majority in the Senate and gaining even more than 8 seats in the House.

There is no sense in rehashing what can’t be undone. The Democrats now need to deal with repairing the damage of the last 5 years continuing to hold firm on the budget, ending the sequester cuts for more reasonable spending that will benefit the majority of Americans and finally killing the biggest threat to the US and World economies, the debt ceiling cap.

Time to take the bullets out of the gun.

Oct 15

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s All In, has the most concise and informative summary of the countdown to default.

Transcript can be read here

With days until default, a breakthrough?

With just three days to go until an unprecedented, possible U.S. default, there is some hope at this hour of a deal to re-open the government, raise the debt ceiling, and put an end to the shutdown. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Scott Rigell join Chris Hayes to discuss inner dealings and where we’re at the road to re-open the government.

Oct 12

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Oct 11

Congressional Game of Chicken: The “Creators” of the “American Taliban” Losing Control

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The business community is worried that they no longer have any influence over the Republican Party and place the blame for this current crisis squarely on the Tea Party faction of the House.

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. [..]

In the two previous battles over the debt limit, many chief executives were reluctant to take sides, banding together in groups like Fix the Debt, which spent millions of dollars on a campaign urging Democrats and Republicans to work toward a “grand bargain” on the budget. But with shutdown a reality, and the clock ticking toward default, some of those same executives now place the blame squarely on conservative Republicans in the House.

The handful of Tea Party extremists, who believe that it’s OK to crash the world’s economy for their ideology, are out of control and unreasonable, not that they ever weren’t. But now the creators of this American version of Al Qaeda are scared. Yeah, they are scared. When you have the Koch brothers writing letters (pdf) to the US Senate insisting that the company was not involved in any ploy to shut down the government in efforts to defund Obamacare and Heritage Action, an arm of the Koch bothers’ Heritage Foundation, telling the House to raise the debt ceiling, you know they’re rattled.

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government’s borrowing authority on the group’s main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy. [..]

That could give Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at least a smidgen of room to maneuver if and when they decide to strike an overall deal: the White House could get a “clean” debt ceiling vote (though of short duration) and the GOP could get a concession or two on the continuing resolution to fund the government’s annual spending.

Taking the cue, the reluctant leader of the pack, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA))and other members of the GOP leadership are meeting this afternoon at the White House to discuss a short term solution to raise the debt ceiling but not ending the government shutdown

Republican House leaders Thursday offered the president and Senate far less than they want in the ongoing financial standoff, presenting a six-week hike of the debt limit, but no deal to reopen the shuttered federal government.While the plan would grant six more weeks before the nation faces the chance of a default, it is contingent on the president agreeing to give up one of his key stances — that he will not sit down and negotiate until the government is reopened and the House stops using the $16.7 trillion debt limit as a lever to extract concessions. The limit is expected to be reached Oct. 17.

Nope, says the White House:

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” an administration official said in a statement.

“It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached,” the official continued, adding that Obama still want a straight up-or-down vote on a measure that the Senate passed to reopen government.

“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the President will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” the official said. “While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

This doesn’t sound very promising. Boehner’s problem is that unless he violates the Hastert Rule and goes the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats for help, there is no way he can get a clean debt ceiling bill to the House floor. Boehner is betting the faith and credit of the US on Obama agreeing to his terms. The president is betting that Boehner will be forced to cave, abandon the Hastert Rule, and put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote.

Reid and Obama are also unsure whether Boehner can actually push his proposal through the House in the first place. They aren’t convinced hard-line conservatives and tea party aligned House Republicans won’t balk, forcing Boehner to turn to House Democrats for support. But any Democratic support would be tied to reopening the government.

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving recess – while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding. At this time, there are no spending cuts attached to the legislation. There is also no vote scheduled.

The game of chicken continues leaving not just the average American at great risk but putting the business community at loggerheads on who to fund to represent them in the long run. This game will have consequences. Question is for whom? And how dire?  

Jan 10

Krugman Calls for President to Mint the Coin

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

US Mint Platinum CoinThis past week calls by Republicans to not raise debt ceiling got little push back from the talking heads this Sunday as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the morning rounds insinuating that it might not be so bad. Lets get something straight that the MSM village is allowing to happen here. The Republicans are conflating passing a budget bill (future spending) with making the payment on those expenditures (past spending). Those two things are NOT the same. The debt ceiling addresses the later and the consequences of even threatening to not pay US debts would have the same, if not greater, negative results as it did in 2011 when the feral children of the House held it hostage. The result of that debacle was the current sequestration bill and “fiscal cliff” crisis.

The inflation that everyone from the Federal Reserve to Wall St. wants to the one thing that would put the US in the same boat as Greece, facing increasingly higher interest rate payments. In other words the debt ceiling and the budget resolution are NOT the same and should not be treated the same.  The sequester and the budget resolution are negotiable; the debt ceiling is not.

This idea of holding the debt ceiling is in fact so dangerous to the world economy that politicians, economist and pundits are calling for President Barack Obama to act by using possibly the only legal means he may have, mint a Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin. Even New York Times columnist and economist, Paul Krugman has change his mind calling for the president to be ready to mint that coin:

Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default? Yes, absolutely. He will, after all, be faced with a choice between two alternatives: one that’s silly but benign, the other that’s equally silly but both vile and disastrous. The decision should be obvious. [..]

It’s easy to make sententious remarks to the effect that we shouldn’t look for gimmicks, we should sit down like serious people and deal with our problems realistically. That may sound reasonable – if you’ve been living in a cave for the past four years.Given the realities of our political situation, and in particular the mixture of ruthlessness and craziness that now characterizes House Republicans, it’s just ridiculous – far more ridiculous than the notion of the coin.

So if the 14th amendment solution – simply declaring that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional – isn’t workable, go with the coin.

If you think that this possibility isn’t serious, consider the fact that the feral children of the House now do introducing legislation to prevent the president from minting the coin

And now a US Congressman has come out against the coin idea and is proposing a law to ban it (via Matthew O’Brien). Ironically, this action actually legitimizes the coin option. [..]

In the past, hiking the debt ceiling was pretty painless, but some in the GOP are staunchly opposed to doing it, raising the specter that the US will default on its obligations.

It’s because of this that some people are getting more excited about the “Platinum Option,” which refers to a technical loophole in the law that allows the Treasury to create platinum coins in any denomination, theoretically up to a trillion and beyond. [..]

We’ve posted his full press release below, but the key thing here is that the idea is now legitimized, as a GOP Congressman implicitly acknowledges that the coin idea is currently legal.

Note that in his press release, the Congressman uses the flawed analogy of comparing the US government to a small business. Unlike governments, small businesses can’t print money. And small businesses can’t “deficit spend,” the way governments can.

The opponents of this idea are also wrong. Josh Borrow, who writes at Bloomberg‘s The Ticker, enumerates why their arguments are all wrong and concludes:

Minting the platinum coin would be less economically damaging than any of the above options, which is why Obama should announce he will pursue it if the debt ceiling is not raised. Hopefully, inflation hawks will be so alarmed by the president’s intention to use his direct monetary authority that they will choose to cut a deal and we’ll never actually get to the minting stage.

But if Republicans call Obama’s bluff, he should be ready to mint that coin – – and to save the economy by doing so.

Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

 

Jan 05

Going Platinum: Sign The Petition

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

US Mint Platinum CoinThe next “plateau” in the on going “Mythical Cliff” debate is the unconstitutional debt ceiling which the Republicans are now threatening to take hostage to demand draconian cuts to social security and other programs while sparing defense. With the settlement over the Obama tax cuts out of the way, the $1 trillion dollars in sequestration cuts are scheduled to take effect in two month at the same time authorized spending will “hit the roof,” setting up the showdown between the feral Tea Party dominated Republican held House, the roadblocked filibustered Senate and the ever capitulating White House. Still very much in danger are Social Security and Medicare which President Barack Obama has refused to take off the table and keeps offering up as sacrifice as part of an agreement. To get what they want the Republicans are willing to let the government default on its debt

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week, “we Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown” in order to achieve spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

On Friday morning, meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told members that he was prepared to use the debt ceiling fight as leverage to get spending cuts. According to a source in the room, Boehner showed fellow lawmakers the results of a survey by the Winston Group, a GOP polling firm, which showed that 72 percent of Americans “agree any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.”

“The debate is already under way,” the speaker said.

Elsewhere on Friday morning, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican, penned an op-ed making a similar argument.

   Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country.

   The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.

Calling this a “government shutdown,” even a partial shut down, is just plain spin that will result in an even deeper recession than the last one from which we have yet to fully recover. In a letter from Matthew E. Zames, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase and the chairman of the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee lists what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised:

  • First, foreign investors, who hold nearly half of outstanding Treasury debt, could reduce their purchases of Treasuries on a permanent basis, and potentially even sell some of their existing holdings. [.]]
  • Second, a default by the U.S. Treasury, or even an extended delay in raising the debt ceiling, could lead to a downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating. [..]

    Third, the financial crisis you warned of in your April 4th Letter to Congress could trigger a run on money market funds, as was the case in September 2008 after the Lehman failure. [..]

    Fourth, a Treasury default could severely disrupt the $4 trillion Treasury financing market, which could sharply raise borrowing rates for some market participants and possibly lead to another acute deleveraging event. [..]

    Fifth, the rise in borrowing costs and contraction of credit that would occur as a result of this deleveraging event would have damaging consequences for the still-fragile recovery of our economy. [..]

    Finally, (..) because the long-term risks from a default are so large, a prolonged delay in raising the debt ceiling may negatively impact markets well before a default actually occurs.

    Obviously, the Republicans did not learn from the last hostage threat that resulted in a market down turn and the downgrade of the US credit rating. That debacle resulted in an extension of the Bush tax cuts and, now the permanent Obama tax cuts. Without tax increases as leverage the President and the Democrats have very little wiggle room.

    That brings us to the elephant in the room that most of the MSMS, some so called progressive blogs and pundits, including Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, have laughed off as “not serious,” the “Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin Solution” (TPC). Guess what, they aren’t laughing at this any more. We may not be able to print money but we can mint coins of any denomination. From Paul Krugman:

    The peculiar exception is that clause allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination it chooses. Of course this was intended as a way to issue commemorative coins and stuff, not as a fiscal measure; but at least as I understand it, the letter of the law would allow Treasury to stamp out a platinum coin, say it’s worth a trillion dollars, and deposit it at the Fed – thereby avoiding the need to issue debt. [..]

    In reality, to pursue the thought further, the coin really would be as much a Federal debt as the T-bills the Fed owns, since eventually Treasury would want to buy it back. So this is all a gimmick – but since the debt ceiling itself is crazy, allowing Congress to tell the president to spend money then tell him that he can’t raise the money he’s supposed to spend, there’s a pretty good case for using whatever gimmicks come to hand.

    But there is a solution to preventing a real fiscal crisis and Josh Barrow at Bloomberg has an ingenious solution to both the debt ceiling and the TPC and why we need to “go off the platinum cliff”:

    This law was intended to allow the production of commemorative coins for collectors. But it can also be used to create large-denomination coins that Treasury can deposit with the Fed to finance payment of the government’s bills, in lieu of issuing debt.

    What the law should say is that the executive branch may borrow to pay whatever obligations the federal government has, but may not print. Unfortunately, when we hit the debt ceiling, the situation will be backwards: The administration will not be allowed to borrow, but it can print in unlimited quantities.

    This points toward an interesting solution.

    If Republicans start issuing a list of demands that must be met before they will raise the debt ceiling, Obama should simply say that he will issue platinum coins as necessary to pay government bills if he cannot borrow. But, to avoid causing long-term inflation expectations to skyrocket, he should pledge that he will have the Treasury issue enough bonds to buy back all the newly issued currency as soon as it is allowed to do so.

    And then he should offer to sign a bill revoking his authority to issue platinum coins — so long as that bill also abolishes the debt ceiling. The executive branch will give up its unwarranted power to print if the legislative branch will give up its unwarranted restriction on borrowing to cover already appropriated obligations.

    Here that Barack? Dare them to destroy the face and credit of this country, then flip that coin on the table along with the bill. Wanna bet they’ll bite?

    Meanwhile, we need to encourage our weak kneed president to do what Atrios said

    Sign the petition to Mint the Coin

    Jan 04

    The Next Mythical Cliff: The Debt Ceiling

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    The sequel to the the Bush/Obama tax debacle  is the unconstitutional debt ceiling. According to the 14th Amendment, the US has to pay its bills, even if the government has to borrow the money through bond sales. So the debt ceiling is another manufactured “cliff” that was created to curb spending which it didn’t, obviously, or we wounded be having another media side show staring the White House and the Congressional leadership. So get comfy and grab you favorite munchies as we watch the 99% get raked over the coals.

    President Obama:

    Obama Debt Ceiling Statement: Limit Increase Not Up For Debate After Fiscal Cliff Showdown

    from Reuters

    “While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they have already racked up,” Obama said in remarks in the White House.

    McConnell: Spending fight coming whether Obama ‘wants it or not’

    by Alicia M. Cohn, The Hill

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

    President Obama will get a fight over government spending with a hike to the debt limit “whether he wants it or not,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote Thursday.

    In an op-ed for Yahoo, McConnell wrote that Republicans would focus on reducing spending in the next Congress, and in conjunction with the debate over raising the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. Congress will likely need to take action on the debt limit within the next two months.

    “The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it’s the fight he is going to have, because it’s a debate the country needs,” McConnell warned.

    Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

    Boehner tells GOP he’s through negotiating one-on-one with Obama

    by Russel Berman, The Hill

    Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: he’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.

    and just to prove that the 113th Congress will bear little difference to the 112th

    Let the games begin: Thunderdome

    Dec 12

    The Debt Ceiling Myth & the Platinum Coin

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    US Mint Platinum CoinOnce again the Republicans in Congress are threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling in order to get concessions from the Obama administration. Those concessions would involve severe cuts and changes to the social safety net that our most vulnerable citizens rely on to stay out of poverty but would not solve the so-called problem of the US debt obligations and deficit spending. We’ve been down this road before and it resulted in the extension of the Bush tax cuts and an increase in the deficit.

    This could all be rendered irrelevant quite easily and very legally by the minting of one or more platinum coins in denominations determined by the Treasury Secretary. Here’s the law, 31 USC § 5112 – Denominations, specifications, and design of coins:

    § 5112. Denominations, specifications, and design of coins

    (a) The Secretary of the Treasury may mint and issue only the following coins: [..]

    (k) The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.

    Those coins would be deposited with the Federal Reserve and used to make good on the obligated debt of the United States.  This is a legitimate option  for President Barack Obama and the argument has been made that it may be his duty to order the minting of Trillion Dollar Platinum Coins  to protect the US from failing to pay its obligations. Here is the explanation of what a trillion dollar coin does from blogger letsgetitdone at Correntewire:

    If the Mint coins money in denominations appropriate for commonplace retail transactions than the coins involved can be exchanged among parties as needed. But what happens if the Mint coins platinum money with face values in the trillions of dollars? Then that money can’t be used for exchange as a practical matter, because there are no buyers who will accept the trillion dollar coins in exchange. So, if the Treasury wants to use such coins to fill the public purse with money it can later spend on debt repayment or Congressional deficit appropriations, it must transform high face value coins into divisible money; i.e. reserves in its Fed spending account. [..]

    In the case of $One Trillion proof platinum coin, the profits are its face value minus a few thousand dollars. So that amount would be “swept” into the Treasury General Account (TGA), which is the account used by Treasury to perform Government spending.

    A very good way to look at high value platinum coins is that they are legal instruments for the Treasury to use the unlimited “out of thin air” reserve creation authority of the Fed to fill the public spending purse, the TGA, for public purposes. In effect, platinum coin seigniorage involves the Treasury commandeering the power of the Fed to create reserves and place them in the TGA, perhaps, depending on what the Treasury chooses to do, in the many Trillions of dollars.

    The coin’s value is not limited to one trillion dollars, according to the law, the Treasury Secretary sets the value. Letsgetitdone makes the argument for a $60 trillion coin that would be a political game changer:

    {..} because it institutionalizes the idea that there is a distinction between appropriations, the Congressional mandate to spend particular amounts on particular goods and services, and the capability to spend the mandated accounts by having the funds (electronic credits) in the public purse (the TGA). In a fiat currency system, the capability always exists if the legislature provides for it under the Constitution, as it has under current platinum coin seigniorage legislation.

    But the value of the $60 T coin, and the profits derived from it, is that it is a concrete reminder of the Government’s continuing ability to buy whatever it needs to meet public purposes, and its continuing ability to harness the authority of the Central Bank to create reserves to support the needs of fiscal policy. It demonstrates very clearly that the Government cannot run out of money, and that the claim that it can is not a valid reason for rejecting spending that is in accordance with public purpose.

    So, please keep in mind the distinction between the capability to spend more than government collects in taxes, and the appropriations that mandate such spending. The capability is what’s in the public purse, and it is unlimited as long as the Government doesn’t constrain itself from creating credits in its own accounts. With coin seigniorage its capability could be and should be publicly demonstrated by minting the $60 T coin, and getting the profits from depositing it at the Fed transferred to the Treasury General Account (TGA).

    On the other hand, Congressional appropriations, not the size or contents of the purse, but whether the purse strings are open or not, determines what will be spent, and what will simply sit in the purse for use at a later time. So there is a very important distinction between the purse and the purse strings. The President can legally use coin seigniorage to fill the purse, but only Congress can open the purse strings through its appropriations.

    Is there anything congress could do to stop the president from issuing a coin like that? No, there isn’t. Could they impeach him? Well they could try, but I doubt they would get 67 votes in the Democratic held Senate. Nor would impeachment of a president who rescued the economy be very popular with the public.

    Last year during the last budget hostage situation, Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale Law School, wrote this:

    Like Congress, the president is bound by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “(t)he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.” Section 4 was passed after the Civil War because the framers worried that former Southern rebels returning to Congress would hold the federal debt hostage to extract political concessions on Reconstruction. Section 5 gives Congress the power to enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions. This does not mean, however, that these provisions do not apply to the president; otherwise, he could violate the 14th Amendment at will.

    Section 4 requires the president not to put the validity of the public debt into question. If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, there will not be enough incoming revenues to pay for all of the government’s bills as they come due. Therefore he has a constitutional obligation to prioritize incoming revenues to pay the public debt: interest on government bonds and any other “vested” obligations. [..]

    An angry Congress may respond by impeaching the president. However, if the president’s actions end the government shutdown, stabilize the markets and prevent an economic catastrophe, this reduces the chances that he will be impeached by the House. (After all, he saved the country.) Perhaps more important, the chances that he will be convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, are virtually zero.

    Since Pres. Obama is no longer faced with reelection and the Republicans in the House are again threatening to default on its obligations without deep cuts to the social safety net and protect the 1% from tax hikes, there is no reason for the President not to mint that coin.

    These are the articles by letgetitdone that were referenced and are all well worth reading:

    Coin Seigniorage: A Legal Alternative and Maybe the President’s Duty

    Beyond Debt/Deficit Politics: The $60 Trillion Plan for Ending Federal Borrowing and Paying Off the National Debt

    Origin and Early History of Platinum Coin Seigniorage In the Blogosphere

    What Does The Trillion Dollar Coin Do?

    The Trillion Dollar Coin Is A Conservative Meme

    Dec 30

    Kicking the Debt Ceiling Into 2013

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    While he is on vacation in Hawaii, President Barack Obama will ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling for the third and last time under the agreement that was negotiated last August. The increase, which is expected to be made by December 30, can only be stopped by passage of a “resolution of disapproval” which the President can veto. That isn’t likely since the last resolution was blocked by the Democrats in the Senate and since Congress in recess until the end of January, well past the 15 days Congress has to vote in the resolution of disapproval.

    Pres. Obama is expected to ask for authority to increase the borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion which is within $100 billion of the current cap of $15.194 trillion. The motivation to request this raise now is mostly political and tied to the election next November, as noted by David Dayen at FDL:

    In numbers that came out earlier this month, the deficit under current law for Fiscal Year 2012, ending September 30, is set to be right around $1 trillion. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for the White House to get to the next election without having to deal with the debt limit again, especially if new measures like the payroll tax go unfunded. [..]

    That seems to be the motivating factor here. The White House simply does not want to go through another bruising debt limit fight again before the election. That places a limit on borrowing in the next fiscal year. It explains why the “fight” over the American Jobs Act wasn’t that major a fight, because passing all of the measures without paying for them immediately would require raising the debt limit again. And paying for them immediately would make the stimulative effect irrelevant. A couple of the measures, like the payroll tax and unemployment benefits, could conceivably pass while allowing the Treasury to squeeze past the elections under the debt limit. But the numbers are pretty close.

    David Weigel at Slate points out, with some amusement, another reason to make the request now:

    Both parties like to vote against debt limit hikes, when they can — makes for good TV ads. The problem this time is that they may never get a chance. The Washington Post‘s sharp congressional reporter Felicia Sonmez points out that Congress is actually out of town until January 17. [..]

    Congress is still playing the unconstitutional game of pro forma sessions to prevent the president form making recess appointments. Technically, the resolution could be passed but it would have to be by unanimous consent and that is just not going to happen. So as Weigel notes unless some renegade congress critter demands a vote, even Congress keep from getting near the “burning wreckage” of this fight.

    Aug 09

    White House: Still Punching Hippies

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Yes, it an old video but it deserves resurrection from time to time. This is one of those times. When you’re failing and looking to blame someone blame the left, it’s all our fault. This is the fall back that the White House has consistently used since Barack Obama took office. I chuckled at Jon Walker’s article at FDL Action using the Scoobie Doo analogy of the White house tactic of laying the blame on the left for their failed policies from the pathetic health care bill to the Dodd-Frank reform bill and now the economically disastrous debt ceiling deal.

    It would seem the White House is basically taking the perspective of a Scooby Doo villain in concluding why their brilliant plans fail. Hanging upside down in a comically oversize net with their rubber monster mask removed they yell, “we would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling progressive bloggers!”

    A meeting that took place recently with White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and progressive advocacy groups was described as “tense” by Politico‘s Ben Smith:

    Sperling faced a series of questions about the White House’s concessions on the debt ceiling fight and its inability to move in the direction of new taxes or revenues. Progressive consultant Mike Lux, the sources said, summed up the liberal concern, producing what a participant described as an “extremely defensive” response from Sperling.

    Sperling, a person involved said, pointed his finger at liberal groups, which he said hadn’t done enough to highlight what he saw as the positive side of the debt package — a message that didn’t go over well with participants.

    (emphasis mine)

    If this has a familiar ring of “Groundhog’s Day”,, you’d be very correct. John Aravosis of AMERICAblog recalls attending one of those meetings in 2010 with Jared Bernstein, who was Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to VP Biden:

    I guess what struck me as most interesting about the meeting were two things. First, when Bernstein noted that, in trying to solve the country’s economic problems, the administration faces “budget constraints and political constraints.” By that, I took Bernstein to mean that the stimulus could only be so large last time, and we can only spend so much more money this time, because we’re facing a huge deficit, so there’s not much money to spend, and because the Hill and public opinion won’t let us spend more.

    That struck me as GOP talking points winning the day, and I said so (Professor Kyle wrote about this very notion the other day on the blog). The only reason we’re facing a budget constraint is because we gave in on the political constraint. We permitted Republicans to spin the first stimulus as an abysmal failure, when in fact it created or saved up to 2m jobs. Since Democrats didn’t adequately defend the stimulus, and didn’t sufficiently paint the deficit as the Republicans’ doing, we now are not “politically” permitted to have a larger stimulus because the fiscal constraint has become more important than economic recovery.

    And whose fault is that?

    Apparently ours.

    Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven’t done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.

    Jon Walker summed up this blame the left game that the White House is playing as another failure that faults everyone but themselves and their Republican allies:

    If people see the the positive tangible effect that a policy has on their lives, they won’t care what anyone has to say about it.  Likewise, if a handful of writers sign on to the White House Happy Talk PR campaign, bad policy will never become broadly popular.  The administration’s failure to convince either bloggers or the public about the benefits of a particular action is most likely a signal that it is insufficient, ineffective, destructive or incompetent.

    Personally, I am more that tired of being told by Obama supporters that we on the left are tea partying, Republicans and racist for criticizing President Obama’s right wing appeasement policies and his failure to follow up on his campaign promises. I’m tired of being told that by criticizing Obama I am emboldening the tea party, so I should STFU and go away. The truth be told they are the tea party Republican allies who are promulgating the right wing policies that will be the destruction of everything that has been gained since Franklin Roosevelt, all because of a well spoken bright shiny object has dazzled them and still does.  

    Aug 06

    Congress and Obama Ignore History at Our Peril

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    One  of the signs of insanity is repeating the same mistake in hopes of a different outcome. Seventy five years ago, the congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt did exactly the same thing that congress and President Barack Obama did on Wednesday with the same results.

    FDR’s Recession

    By the spring of 1937, production, profits, and wages had regained their 1929 levels. Unemployment remained high, but it was considerably lower than the 25% rate seen in 1933. In June 1937, some of Roosevelt’s advisors urged spending cuts to balance the budget. WPA rolls were drastically cut and PWA projects were slowed to a standstill. The American economy took a sharp downturn in mid-1937, lasting for 13 months through most of 1938. Industrial production declined almost 30 per cent and production of durable goods fell even faster.

    Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938, rising from 5 million to more than 12 million in early 1938. Manufacturing output fell by 37% from the 1937 peak and was back to 1934 levels. Producers reduced their expenditures on durable goods, and inventories declined, but personal income was only 15% lower than it had been at the peak in 1937. In most sectors, hourly earnings continued to rise throughout the recession, which partly compensated for the reduction in the number of hours worked. As unemployment rose, consumers’ expenditures declined, leading to further cutbacks in production.

    The Roosevelt Administration reacted by launching a rhetorical campaign against monopoly power, which was cast as the cause of the depression, and appointing Thurman Arnold in the anti-trust division of the U.S. Department of Justice to act, but Arnold was not effective. In February 1938, Congress passed a new AAA bill which authorized crop loans, crop insurance against natural disasters, and large subsidies to farmers who cut back production. On April 2, Roosevelt sent a new large-scale spending program to Congress, and received $3.75 billion which was split among PWA, WPA, and various relief agencies. Other appropriations raised the total to $5 billion in the spring of 1938, after which the economy recovered.

    The stock market plummeted over 500 points yesterday wiping out any gains from the recovery since 2008. The market is continuing to fluctuate after rather weak jobs report. While the U-3 dropped to 9.1%, it was due mostly to workers who are no longer seeking employment or are now in the ranks of the under-employed and jobs creation was weak. So after the debt ceiling deal and the worsening European banks situation, investors lacked confidence that the US could increase productivity.

    But the White House and Congress insist on sticking to their story that if they hadn’t given the hostage takers all they wanted with no jobs stimulus or revenue increases, they wouldn’t have gotten the debt deal and the markets would have crashed. As John Nichols said in The Nation, “Unfortunately, it was wrong. Not just morally wrong. Not just politically wrong. Not just economically wrong. It was wrong with regard to the cherished markets.”

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