The Aftermath

Well, the Apocalypse was avoided–Congress made its deal on the debt ceiling, the United States government did not go into default, social security checks got mailed out on time, and life as we know it did not come crashing to a halt.

And now for the retrospective…

I’m not surprised that a deal was made.  There was too much pressure on both sides to make it happen.  We don’t have a monolithic, leftward leaning media as we did back in the 1990s when the government shut down, and Bill Clinton and the press blamed Newt Gingrich and the Republicans.   In 2011 the major newspapers and big networks could talk about how Republicans were refusing to compromise, but Fox News and the Internet were right there demonstrating that it takes two sides to not make a deal.  Both sides of the story were out there; both political parties had people making principled stands and both sides had their share 0f political opportunists.  Most importantly, both sides were going to take heat if a deal didn’t get made.

I’m not surprised that it was a last minute deal.  This resulted in more stress for a lot of people, but it made sense to me.  Why strike a deal early?  The two parties had fundamental disagreements, so why wouldn’t they hold out until the end, hoping that the other would give in just a little more?

I was surprised that President Obama played the Social Security card.  If the government started to run low on money, it had lots of options–closing federal parks, sending home non-essential employees, stopping the pay of Members of Congress, etc.–why did the President try to cause a panic among senior citizens?

I’m glad the President did not try to unilaterally raise the debt limit by citing the 14th Amendment.  That idea was suggested, but President Obama showed no enthusiasm for it.  It truly was a bad idea.  The clause in the 14th Amendment that relates to debt is about Civil War debts.  The government was saying that it was not going to be responsible for paying the bills that the Confederate government had incurred.  In the process of saying that, the amendment says that it is not disregarding legitimate US debts.  There is nothing there about empowering the President to raise the ceiling so the government can incur future debts.  Thus, it would have violated the Constitution for the President to suddenly invent this power.  So, again, I’m glad he didn’t.