James K. Galbraith noted that the debt ceiling was first enacted in 1917 as cover when the government issued Liberty Bonds to pay for World War I, “to reassure the rubes that Congress would be ‘responsible” even when the country went to war. It was, from the beginning, an exercise in bad faith and has remained so every single second to the present day.”

Galbraith, who teaches economics at the University of Texas at Austin and is author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, notes, in “Hawk Nation: A Guide to the Catastrophic Debt Ceiling Debate” at New Deal20.org (7/11), that the effort to force default on the public obligations of the US is plainly unconstitutional. “Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states, in simple language, that public debts, once duly authorized by law and including pensions, by the way, ‘shall not be questioned.’ The purpose of this language was to foreclose, to put beyond politics, any possibility that the Union would renege on debts and pensions and bounties incurred to win the Civil War. But the application is very general and the courts have ruled that the principle extends to the present day.” So the so-called “deficit hawks” who are using the debt ceiling to take budget hostages are enemies of the US Constitution.

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