There are many things I do not understand about the progress of this so-called debt negotiation. But of many here’s one that perplexes me the most. If Hill Republicans will not allow the government to continue borrowing money beyond the current statutory debt limit, I think there’s probably a decent constitutional argument that the president must shut down parts of the government and many government payments before defaulting on the country’s debt obligations. I’m not saying there’s any force that can compel him to do that. But I can’t see where the constitution doesn’t provide pretty clear guidance on the question. There’s enough money coming into the Treasury to service the payments on the current debt. But if you don’t borrow more money you have to shut down vast amounts of federal outlays. And the most logical places to start are with Social Security payments and Medicare reimbursements. Stuff like cutting Social Security checks in half starting the following week.
There are plenty of ways you could piece it together. But I think it’s fair to say that there’s no way to do it without immediate and huge cuts to entitlements and the military. Discretionary spending just isn’t a big enough piece of the pie. So why the adamant refusal to put this in front of the public? It seems quite clear to me that if what was coming in early August was an immediate 50% cut in Social Security payments and/or a similar cut in salaries to members of the military and a lot else that the tenor of this whole conversation would be quite different.
And if this all sounds hyperbolic, where exactly do you think the money is going to come from if there’s no deal?
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.