Is The Debt Ceiling Unconstitutional?


According to the 14th Amendment, some economists and legal experts say, America’s debt ceiling limit is not Constitutional. Should Congress refuse to raise the ceiling, President Obama could theoretically invoke the Amendment and render Congress’ vote Unconstitutional.

The 14th Amendment appears to have been created with the intention of ensuring the federal government could borrow money freely in order to defend the nation or to pay pensions. As with most of the American Constitution, the language is vague, the concepts are intended for another era, and nobody can really agree whether the Amendment’s language applies to our current situation.

Those who don’t think it does argue that the Amendment was written at a time before multinational banking, credit cards, foreign borrowing, and unbalanced budgets became the country’s norm; before the concept of interest; and before FDR’s New Deal social programs (Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment, etc) were implemented.

Those who think it does argue that the Amendment allows the government to borrow money endlessly in order to enable continuous funding for all social programs, including the ones that were created during the New Deal.

The problem that I see with that latter point of view is that we would literally never become a debt-free nation. Instead of funding current government programs with the funds that current workers are paying into them, we’d forever be funding it on money borrowed from foreign governments. How would future presidents be able to pay off the debt plus the massive interest while continuing to fund the programs? If we cannot do that now, we’ll never be able to do it as the debt increases further.

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    1. Tip of the Day 11: FDR’s New Deal « Econoblog
    2. What Is Fiscal Policy? « Econoblog

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