Thursday, July 7, 2011

The 14th Amendment

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.

Article XIV.

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

and void.

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contract is no longer valid, but the government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

House Offices.

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.

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