You know, I’d never thought about it before, but it’s obvious upon reflection that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.
Think about it. Congress’s most fundamental jobs are to tax and to spend – the “power of the purse.” If Congress passes a budget under which revenues are insufficient to cover expenditures, the Executive has three options, theoretically:
- Borrow the difference. – Raise taxes without Congressional authorization. – Cut spending without Congressional authorization.
Either of the latter two encroach on a core legislative function. If Congress also prohibited the first option (by refusing to raise the debt ceiling) it would be impossible for the Executive to perform it’s responsibilities.
The debt ceiling is theatre, a way of forcing Congress to acknowledge the consequences of its own budgets. If the Treasury were simply to ignore the debt ceiling and borrow what was required under the operative budget, Congress would scream, but really it would get what it wants: a free pass to disclaim responsibility for its own budgetary decisions.
What was that again about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others?