Culture Wars/Current Controversies

14th amendment threat

The debt-ceiling crisis is the direct result of the antiquated constitution, argues Daniel Lazare, but ‘emergency measures’ would be a gift for Trump

Under the heading of “Be careful of what you wish for”, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are calling on Joe Biden to solve the US debt-ceiling crisis by invoking a constitutional clause declaring that the “validity” of US public debt “shall not be questioned”.

The clause is part of the 14th amendment – one of three post-Civil War amendments adopted between 1865 and 1870 that were designed to seal the union’s victory over the south. By rendering US federal debt inviolable – and by simultaneously declaring that not one penny would go to paying off the Confederacy’s wartime obligations – it supposedly allows Joe Biden to declare a century and a half later that Republicans are violating the constitution by pushing the country to renege on its debts and that he therefore has a perfect right to lift the debt ceiling on his own.

It is a bold stroke that would cut Republicans off at the knees – not undeservedly, since the party’s position is so hypocritical as to beggar belief. After voting for a string of budgets that have enabled the federal government to consistently spend approximately $5 for every $4 it takes in, Republicans are now shocked – shocked – that federal debt now stands at $31.4 trillion, or 120% of GDP, even though they authorised the build-up in the first place.


Leave a Reply