January 13, 2005
Violating the Constitution
Max Sawicky watches the Republican clown show continue:
MaxSpeak, You Listen!: LENINIST-OLIGARCH EXPROPRIATIONIST WATCH: This is becoming too frequent a feature. It never pays to underestimate the craven, reactionary mendacity of the Grand Old Party. Republican Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado takes his stand for expropriation of my Little Nell's Social Security benefits:
"I believe we have a problem with Social Security that will emerge in 2018," he said. "At that point in time, Social Security pay out will be more than what is in the fund put in by working people or employers."
Allard said there are no reserves in Social Security because what is there is automatically transferred into the general fund, leaving a debt of $28 trillion. But he doesn't believe the money will ever be repaid to the fund.
"The money is spent," he said. "I don't believe in my own opinion we'll be able to raise the funds to pay it back."
Yesterday a note from historian David Kaiser crossed my desk that points out that things are worse than Max suspects. Not only does Wayne Allard support policies that are craven, reactionary, Leninist, oligarchical, and expropriationist, it is also the case that Wayne Allard's very words are a gross and unconstitutional violation of his oath of office as a senator. As Kaiser writes, section four of the Fourteenth Amendment begins:
"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."
If the [Social Security] Trust Fund should ever have trouble collecting on that asset... some citizens' organization should file suit under this provision to... reaffirm the validity of the Federal Government's obligation to the [Social Security] Trust Fund.
My view: Why wait? Expel Wayne Allard from the Senate immediately for this gross violation of his oath of office.
Posted by DeLong at January 13, 2005 08:07 PM
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Brad DeLong, one of the more prominent and learned stalwarts against Social Security destruction, makes an excellent point within his amusingly technical call to have Senator Allard thrown in the clink for Constitutional violations: Here is concrete ev... [Read More]
Tracked on January 14, 2005 04:05 PM
Doesn't quite seem like a nice passage of the Constitution, suppressing free speech and political participation and all.. but, hey, it probably is necessary to go after people (not just Senators, all citizens are constitutionally equal here) for their unconstitutional speech on this matter. Lets make use of our First Admenmentright to petition Congress to finally get some implementing legislation for passed -- defend the Constitution! I don't think an unwritten right to privacy can stand up against the Constitutional text here. Good point. Something for whichever party is principled enough to take it on.
Posted by: comment at January 13, 2005 08:54 PM
His 1/11 post had the same title as his 1/13 post you noted. And it's one heck of a title that introduces two very good posts.
Posted by: pgl at January 13, 2005 08:59 PM
Lock him up!
Posted by: praktike at January 13, 2005 09:27 PM
Finally, we cut to the chase: Been wondering for months when they would finally get around to saying it out loud: And with Ponnuru's comment the other day at the National Review Online, and now Allard in the Senate, the game is afoot for all to finally see: THE REPUBLICANS DO NOT INTEND TO GIVE BACK THE SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS WHICH WAS SNATCHED AWAY FOR THE UPPER-CLASS TAX CUT. This is a redistribution of wealth, upward. A major redistribution, to the tune of trillions. How is this being done? In this particular way: PAYROLL taxes (mostly incurred by the lower classes) were increased years ago to create the Social Security surplus, and all of this surplus money was just recently given away in Bush's INCOME tax cuts to the upper classes. Do not be fooled by the diversionary arguments that the surplus account does not really exist, or that it's all fungible, or that we just owe it to ourselves (...if all that is true, it will work the other way around, too), or that tax cuts for the wealthy are necessary to economic growth (...in fact, employment tanked for three more years). It is ALL horse manure. They took money from the poorer folks by raising their taxes, and gave it to the richer folks by lowering theirs. They are using the EXCUSE of Social Security, but Social Security isn't even in half the trouble the rest of the budget is. Start banging the pots and pans. And if there is any journalist or editorialist or TV news reporter in America who does not understand all of this, FIRE HIM AT ONCE.
Posted by: Lee A. Arnold at January 13, 2005 09:30 PM
The money can be repaid in the legal sense of the Fourteenth Amendment, without benefiting anyone on Social Security. The treasury will repay the principal (or pay the interest) on the debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund. However, once the Trust Fund has the repayment of principal, the Trust Fund can send that money back to the general government budget. So, while debt to the Trust Fund has been honored in the legal sense, the repayment will not necessarily benefit anyone receiving Social Security. While Senator Allard didn't chose his words carefully, he accurately described the likely functional outcome of legal repayment of the debt held by the Trust Fund.
Perhaps there are other legal mechanisms that prevent the Trust Fund from sending money received from debt repayment back to the general fund. But, you'll have to look beyond the Fourteenth Amendment to find grounds for expelling Senatory Allard.
Posted by: xyz at January 13, 2005 09:45 PM
I say go full hog and default on Treasury bonds. After all,
the money is spent and we'll have problems raising the funds to pay it back.
Posted by: Andrew Boucher at January 13, 2005 10:09 PM
Andrew, we'll have a bigger problem keeping the publicly held debt financed. It's a lot less predictable than the debt held in govt trusts.
Most of the public debt is held short term these days. That means every few years, we have to find new buyers to keep the ball in the air, at whatever price the last marginal buyer is willing to pay.
Wall Street, we are told, says sure, no problem, we'd love to finance another $100 Billion of debt every year to privatize Social Security. Sure they would! But can they guarantee they'll be able to find buyers at a reasonable interest rate for the second ten years of borrowing, and the third, and the fourth? That's how long the transition would take to start to come back into balance, if we privatize Social Security and phase out traditional SS benefits. We'd be in a lot worse fiscal shape between now and about 2050 than if we simply leave SS as it is. After 2050, current revenues should start to match benefits paid (since benefits are being phased out), but we'd still have something like $15 Trillion of debt issued to cover the transition; and that would be traditional, marketable IOUs with the full faith and credit of the US government, too.
What do we do when Japan decides to start cashing in treasury debt to finance its elders? After all, Japan is about ten years further down the demographic line than the US.
Answer: our best bet is to get the current short term budget under control, and make sure any Social Security reform looks fiscally sane during our own lifetimes.
We can't have our short term budget spending $1.50 for every dollar of revenue. And, we can't borrow $Trillions to phase out Social Security.
Posted by: Charlie at January 13, 2005 11:39 PM
If we insist on expelling everyone who opposes the Constitution, where on earth will we find replacements for all the liberal judges and Congressmen?
Posted by: WesB at January 13, 2005 11:48 PM
You're right, Lee. Pretty much all of them should be fired for gross incompetence. They are still going with this idea of false "balance." That is, this side said this, that side said that, who knows what the truth is. It drives me batty.
Interesting Republican argument - the government is going bankrupt! That should reassure the world that it's good to invest here. Any Democrat that isn't arguing that Republicans want to steal your Social Security to pay for tax cuts for the rich should be shot.
Posted by: Unstable Isotope at January 14, 2005 03:46 AM
Not only is the government going bankrupt, but the increase in our trade balance shows the economy is doing really really well, so invest in our country. And the weakening of the dollar really is the strengthening of the dollar.
Being a Coloradoan, I am all for throwing Allard out. However, we need to wait until Owens is gone, or we will have an even goonier replacement.
Posted by: Carol at January 14, 2005 04:12 AM
That's what AngryBear too has been noting
Posted by: eurocent at January 14, 2005 05:32 AM
Impeach the Oathbreakers!!!
Posted by: RT at January 14, 2005 06:56 AM
Ratings agencies have recently been hinting that the US soveriegn debt faces some risk of a downgrade. Even if defaulting "to itself" (actually, welshing on a deal it made to people who have paid into the fund) does not earn a "D" rating, surely evidence that US politicians are willing to ignore standing obligations ought to result in a ratings downgrade.
Interesting that the congressman in question doesn't say "I won't vote to allow the US to meet its obligations to retirees" but that is what his statement implies. Somebody needs to start hounding the guys who take this line about how they would vote. "Are you saying that, after massive tax cuts that drove up the general fund deficie by far more than is needed to stabilize the Trust Fund, you won't allow revenues to be raised to repay the Trust Fund? So you are putting the rich ahead of the middle class?"
Posted by: kharris at January 14, 2005 07:03 AM
xyz - As I recall, the statutes that authorize the use of trust funds (Social Security is just one of many) are pretty specific about them only being used to hold surpluses. So, when notes are redeemed, only the proceeds in exceess of the amount needed to pay current obligations may be put back into trust.
Posted by: JerryN at January 14, 2005 07:13 AM
I wrote to my very red senator Conrad Burns (just as smart as the wad of Copenagen in his mouth) and told him us baby boomers weren't going to be too damn happy about overpaying all this money into a trust fund surplus for 22 years only to have the damn govmint take it away from us. His reply was: "One way to solve the Social Security problems, as well as the complex income tax situations, is to reduce payroll taxes substantially and then require workers to place that money in private retirement accounts of their choosing Surplus tax revenues could help facilitate the transition to a private system, while ensuring the benefit payments to current retirees would continue."
Since the only "surplus" tax revenue is SS taxes, apparently the plan is not only to not pay the trust fund back, but to finance the transition with SS payments. Apparently the "complex income tax situations" he hopes to solve are how to finance the tax cuts for the rich while making the working folk pay for everything.
Posted by: Dick(no, not that one) at January 14, 2005 07:40 AM
But it will trickle down. Right? Right?
Posted by: Mandos at January 14, 2005 08:23 AM
I hate to burst your euphoric bubble re: your "Violating the Constitution" post of January 13, but surely the section of the 14th Amendment your friend David Kaiser brought to your attention refers NOT to ALL pension obligations incurred by the US [such as Social Security], but rather ONLY to those
".....incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion....": i.e., for pensions promised to
those who served in the cause of the Union in the Civil War. By its plain language, the sentence refers only to "...debts incurred for payment of pensions.....for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion..."
Much as I may want to believe otherwise, I do not believe that Wayne Allard or any other pro-privatization Federal legislator can be said to have violated this section of the Constitution. I am not aware of any Union soldier or bountyhunter who has been denied a pension by Allard or any one else. Absent that, the first sentence of Section 4 of the 14th Amendent does not apply. Whatever else Wayne Allard may have done, he is not guilty of a "gross violation of his oath of office" with respect to the first sentence of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment.
Derek L. A. Hackett
[You need to read the beginning of section 4 again.]
Posted by: derek at January 14, 2005 11:36 AM
Contact this moron. Valid zips are 80919, 80920, 80304. Area codes 303 and 719. Contact page in my url.
Posted by: Zappatero at January 14, 2005 12:03 PM
You mean the start of section 4 where it says "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law"? Forget the qualification about pensions of any sort. He's saying that we're not going to pay back a portion of our public debt.
Posted by: Paul at January 14, 2005 01:49 PM
xyz wrote, "The money can be repaid in the legal sense of the Fourteenth Amendment, without benefiting anyone on Social Security. The treasury will repay the principal (or pay the interest) on the debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund. However, once the Trust Fund has the repayment of principal, the Trust Fund can send that money back to the general government budget."
JerryN wrote, "xyz - As I recall, the statutes that authorize the use of trust funds (Social Security is just one of many) are pretty specific about them only being used to hold surpluses. So, when notes are redeemed, only the proceeds in exceess of the amount needed to pay current obligations may be put back into trust."
No, xyz is completely right. While there is indeed statute as you (JerryN) say, the statute can be changed. That is to say, those of us who have paid into the system have no "property rights" attached to those sums we've paid in. (Meaning if the Rethuglicans choose to welch on the social security contract, we can't sue under the Constitutions "takings" clause.)
Posted by: liberal at January 14, 2005 02:06 PM
Class warfare, anyone?
For starters, we need to start putting the social security surplus into instruments that are harder to spend. Like French or German government bonds, or stocks, or gold, or anything more secure than the current "trust us" fund. This would also have the beneficial effect of making the general fund deficit's true size visible. Obviously it couldn't happen with the current power mix but something like this needs to be part of the discussion.
Posted by: Bill Arnold at January 15, 2005 03:17 PM
Derek L.A. Hackett--check out Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 330, 354:
The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: 'The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law , ... shall not be questioned.' While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression 'the validity of the public debt' as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.
Posted by: brown skinned man at January 16, 2005 05:31 AM