Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some Questions about the Debate on the Debt Ceiling

The executive branch is constitutionally required to implement the laws passed by the Congress and signed by the President. Thus it is required to implement this years appropriations and the current tax code. It is also required not to exceed the debt limit. If the debt limit is not increased by July 2, what is the constitutional action by the executive branch?

The government spends about one-third of its budget servicing the debt. If the debt ceiling is not increased, then the government will have to roll over some of the debt that is maturing and will face higher interest rates in doing so, so the portion of the income devoted to debt servicing will increase. There will have to be significant cuts in government spending if the debt ceiling is not increased and the executive branch implements that ruling of the Congress. It is estimated that about half the funding for the rest of government would be cut. In that case would it be better to cut Social Security, Medicare, support for the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, funding for the FBI or the CIA?

Section 4 of the 14th amendment to the Constitution 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." Does that mean that the United States may not default on its debt? Does it mean that it may not default on social security payments?

We hear that businesses are sitting an a huge amount of cash but not investing it in their businesses, nor in hiring new staff. Why do the Republicans think that reducing taxes, by increasing the money held by businesses and business leaders will lead them to spend more on creating employment?

How can our political leaders view the threats of defaults from Greece and other European countries, with their threats of contagion and not remove the artificial threat of not extending the debt ceiling, much less the real threat of U.S. second-dip recession?

The best way to increase revenues to the government is to grow the economy and employment. Why is that approach not emphasized in the debates over increases in tax revenues and cuts in government expenditures?

How can some Republicans call for a complete overhaul in the tax code and simultaneously reject any thought of a change in how progressive our taxes are?

How can Republicans, facing a tax rate that is lower than any time since the 1950s, and recognizing that there were many periods of growth in that interval, say that tax increases would necessarily cut growth?

Some 5,000 changes in the tax code have been put in place in recent years, and the tax code is notoriously complex. Yet some Republicans seem to be calling for a complete revision of the code before September first. What are they thinking?

Why do Republicans think that reducing government spending, given that such spending results in employment in government and in the companies selling to government, would increase employment in the short term?

How can some Republicans feel that cutting the one element of last year's health legislation that is most likely to cut Medicare costs is likely to help reduce the deficit?

It is important to avoid a second dip recession and indicators suggest that we are very close to one now. It is important to reduce the deficit, and a plan is needed to do that over a period of a decade or longer. What is the proper balance between pump priming now and budget cuts now and later?

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