"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010

Monday, December 7, 2009

Does the Constitution Empower Congress to Bankrupt the United States?

In previous essays and articles, TheFundamentals has cited the USConstitution with emphasis on Article I, Section 8 which specifies the Powers of Congress (please refer to TheFundamentals, June 8, 2009,”Enumerated Powers” for all eighteen powers.) The first sentence of this section gives Congress the power to….pay the Debts. Here is the entire wording of the first of eighteen powers given the US: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. “To pay debts.” The constitution leads with: to pay debts! The second sentence gives Congress the power to….borrow money on the credit of the United States. It is interesting that the order is first, pay the Debts and, second, borrow money. However, there is no mention of Congress having the power to accumulate debt and not repay it. Also, there is no mention of Congress being able to build debt to a level that would reasonably precipitate a bankruptcy. There is a requirement in the following Section 9 requiring that “…a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” The founders knew that they had better require transparency even back then.

So, Congress has the power to borrow on the credit of the country (there is no other way to interpret this phrase; it assumes the responsibility of the congress to maintain the “credit” of the United States) and the power to pay Debts and a regular accounting of receipts and expenditures must be published. But, nothing about the power to bankrupt the country.

How about a simple Constitutional Amendment to clear up the issue? Could be worded as follows:

“All Debts of the United States must be repaid within 10 years of their creation and the total of all Debts owed by the United States to persons, entities or agencies, foreign and domestic, cannot exceed, in total, two times the current annual total tax receipts of the United States.”

Pay back the Debts, Congress. It is one of your limited powers and you need to become much more proficient at exercising it. You are not empowered to bankrupt the country. You are responsible for the credit of the country. Stop spending now; pay down the debts that you have created before you bankrupt the country.


Patrick Flynn said...

There are two issues on this subject that render the whole idea pointless.
First, the antiquated notion that the government actually adheres to the Constitution.As Al Gore said, and many in govt. believe, the Constitution is a living,breathing, document, by which each generation decides what it says and means. Therefore, what it meant in the 1920's may be entirely different than what it means now.

I know, I know.These rascals actually take an oath before assuming office to defend the contitution. After which they ignore it. Such hypocrisy is boundless.

Secondly, the idea of amendment that thefundamentals continually calls for is so out of reach as to be impossible. Amending the contitution is a lengthy,complicated process. To ask those in offices on both the federal and state level to impose upon themselves some form of restraint is absurd.
Besides,the length and breadth of how the constitution is ignored, any amendment would have enough " national emergency" loopholes it would be comic if it weren't so sad.

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