Several nights ago I was channel surfing before going
to bed and I briefly watched a discussion on the 14th
Amendment to the Constitution. I didn't think much
about it at the time, but the next morning I looked it up.
Section 4. 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.
But neither the United States nor any
State shall assume or pay any debt or
obligation incurred in aid of
insurrection or rebellion against
the United States, or any claim for
the loss or emancipation of any
slave; but all such debts, obligations
and claims shall be held illegal
Section 5. The Congress shall have
power to enforce, by appropriate
legislation, the provisions of this article.
This amendment was obviously written to limit
claims against the government for losses suffered
during and as a result of the civil war. However,
I was struck by the wording that implies all debts
of the United States will be paid. There is no
constitutional grounds for having a debt ceiling,
other than as a goal.
By my reading Congress has no grounds to stop
payment on any existing debt. It says the validity
of U.S. Debt, authorized by law, shall not be
questioned. Now Congress can zero fund any
new expenditures but it is obligated to pay all
debts, including bonds,(T-bills, etc), existing
contracts, and pensions. I find it hard to believe
that the term pensions would not now include
social security and medicare.
Now the people on SS and Medicare, essentially
have a contract with the government, once the
government begins withholding for these. If the
citizen, does not get 40 quarters of deductions,
or dies before reaching the prescribed age, the
contract is no longer valid, but the government
can't just arbitrarily take away the Constitutional
protected pension. The Republicans in congress
want to deprive citizens that may have been
upholding their part of the contract by paying
into the system for more the three decades.
Privatizing these forms of pensions doesn't
relieve to government of their obligation.
Remedies within the constitution could include
increasing withholding, requiring later beginning
of pensions, and even reduction of benefits
(ie only pay 70% ,not 80%, of future healthcare
benefits. They can also stop withholding of pay
from new entrants, and deny new participants
from entering the contract.
If our government does decide they have the
ability to shut down the government, rather
than raise the arbitrary debt ceiling, I have
some suggestions for the President.
1. Immediately turn off the power (lights and
air conditioning) to the Capitol and Senate and
2. Stop payments of all Federal Employes
(except the military and VA). 3. Furlough all
air traffic controllers, so the offending
politicians can't leave town. – Let them sit
down by the reflecting pool and settle their
Another thing that struck me was that
apparently pensions was not a dirty word.
Good companies have traditionally looked
after their employees (and vice versa), with
the promise of retirement for those who
spent their life working for the company.
Congress gives their members retirement
funds for just a few years work—read
that attendance. For the butterflies that
like to skip around and work at different
places which may offer more incentives
and remuneration, 401k and other
substitutes for a retirement program are
great, but they do not instill any loyalty.
On the contrary, this type of benefit
implies the worker has only finite value,
which may be changed at any time.
Government workers (not top executives)
and teachers, have been willing to accept
smaller paychecks in order to ensure
stability. This has worked well for both.
Outsourcing of jobs, at the expense of
existing employees, has become a modern
fad among executives anxious for short
term profits which will gain them
generous rewards. However, these cost
savings, have seldom benefited either the
stock market price or dividends, if any,
to stockholders. The frequency which
corporations and now some States are
severing ties with their once loyal
employees, is distressing. Employees
pride in their work and careers are
suffering, and undoubtedly will, in the
long term, adversely effect the quality
of the work force, which has been the
backbone of American middle class.
It has always been a sign of quality to
be labeled-- Made in America by Americans.