Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Country for Smart Men

For the debt limit to even be an issue at all is a blight to our democracy, and indeed an insult to our intelligence.

In the US, congress requires the president to do things (which necessarily requires spending money) by passing laws, and also authorizes the president to collect certain taxes to pay for those actions. Should there be any shortfall in the taxes collected, the president is nonetheless required by law to spend the required amount of money by borrowing the difference. Furthermore, the president is bound by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, in part:
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.
Thus, to anybody even vaguely versed in math, the president clearly must borrow whatever is necessary to do the job that he or she is required to do by law, and pay the money back later (with some interest, naturally).

Yet, we have an additional law referred to as the "debt limit" that caps the amount that the president is allowed to borrow, and Republicans are using this to threaten President Obama. Not being able to borrow means the President will have to not comply with certain spending, collect more taxes, borrow beyond the cap, or borrow without paying it back. The first three options violate laws, and the last option violates the Constitution.

Democracies is often messy, because the more people are allowed to voice their opinions, the more opinions you will have, and resolving the differences among 300 million citizens is no doubt a difficult and messy job. However, what we're showing the world right now is that our democracy is not just messy, but downright stupid.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The False Mother

For a political party that seems to enjoy being more patriotic than thou, the Republicans have shown great disrespect for the founding principles of this country.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by the president, and further declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. For good measure, it was also one of the focal issues in the presidential election, in which the opponent lost. The basic provision of the ACA that insurers should not be allowed to reject costly customers, but in exchange customers cannot be allowed to get insurance only after getting sick (and costly), while probably still not as good as a single-payer system, is nonetheless astoundingly sensible.

Now, House Republicans generally abide by the so-called "Hastert Rule", under which a bill is brought to the floor only if it has the support of a majority of Republicans. In other words, Democratic votes are sidelined, and not permitted to join with a Republican minority to pass laws.

This 113th House of Representatives is composed of 435 members, 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. This means that as few as 118 Republicans (just over 27% of the House) can prevent a bill from becoming law.

When this 27% is irresponsible enough to use government shutdown and default as a hostage to destroy the ACA, no sane person can say this is how the system is supposed to work. You might say that all they want is to delay the ACA, but seeing that these Republicans have already pointlessly voted dozens of times to repeal the ACA, you would be a special kind of stupid to think that the same tactic won't be used to delay it another year. You would be just adorable if you thought this tactic wouldn't be used against abortion, gay marriage, marijuana, and whatever else they don't like.

At its core, democracy requires the minority to accept the results of a vote. The sore losers have refused to accept the law, refused to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court, and refused to accept the results of a national election. They are dangerous and anti-democratic, the Republican politicians who are cowed by their threats are complicit, and the Republican voters who put them there are responsible. As in the story of King Solomon presented with a baby claimed by two mothers, the wise reader should not have to think very hard to decide who is the false mother willing to have the baby cut in half.