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Conscience or Constitution?

As fine a Congress as ever robbed the helpless

by Everett Wilson
August 4, 2011

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Conscience or Constitution?



            In one   of Edwin O'Connor's novels,   one character describes another:   "as fine a man as ever robbed the helpless." Congress did not rob the helpless on a large scale this week, but they threatened to and might have, so they deserve the description--especially  those members of the House of Representatives  who voted No on the debt ceiling compromise.   Passage  was uncertain,  and a prevailing negative would have meant that the House failed to meet one of  its  fundamental responsibilities:  to fund the government of the United States.  What the heck?  They voted No anyway.  

            None of them should be re-elected, even the legends and stars; especially  the legends and stars, because they're the ones who  set themselves up to know better and then expect others to  follow their example.  To name names, here are four of them,  from both Right and Left:   Michelle Bachmann,   Ron Paul, Barney Frank,  Charles Rangel. 

                 A No vote under the circumstances when the vote was taken was  a vote of dereliction, not of conscience. On a question of such magnitude, when no time remains for alternative action,   the only conscience a House member must honor is the Constitution, which gives the House the responsibility to see to it  that the United States has the funds to pay its bills,  meet  its payroll, and honor  its contracts. 

            You raise  taxes to do it, you borrow money to do it, whatever it takes, but  you do it.  You don't  play games.  If you would rather follow your conscience than do your job, then resign your seat and let somebody take it who has the common sense to distinguish  between preference and necessity. 

            Responsible grown-ups don't play games when national honor is on the table.  They do not threaten to break their promises or welsh on their obligations. Congress played these games for weeks; finally, enough of  them grew up temporarily and did their jobs.   

            I cut  no slack for  those who kept the game going after the clock had run out, then voted No on the only option left on the table.      It should cost them their political careers; we will probably have to settle for a few of them losing their seats.               However much  they bluster from both Right and Left, they are not Constitutionalists.  Constitutionalists do their Constitutional duty.  It is the duty of the House to fund the government's current obligations--debts we have already incurred.  For a while it sounded as though some of our leaders thought it was okay for us not to.       

            The United States keeps its word and  pays its bills. We can't forgive our own debts.  Sure, some of the debts are shockingly stupid, but they are ours to pay off anyway—even if we have to borrow money to do it.

            Along with those stupid debts, remember,  there are those we owe to people who depend on us for their rent and groceries.  We pay them because we said we would; the entitlement is in our promise to them, not in their need.  Failing to pay them would have meant robbing the helpless—which would have happened had the No voters got their way.   




Comments (7)

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Bob McNaughton from Middletown, CT writes:
August 5, 2011
Striking analysis.

James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
August 5, 2011
The KKK couldn't have written this any better. Anyone knows that there are sufficient tax revenues to pay interest on the debt, pay the troops, and meet Social Security, Medicare, qne Medicaid obl8gations. The only other federal "laws" that exist are intended only to ruin small farmers and small businesses, to imprison domestic brown people of various shades, and to murder foreign brown people. I'm all in favor of downsizing murderous government.

Everett Wilson from Partial Observer writes:
August 5, 2011
I had no idea that a prevailing No vote on the compromise would have issued in the good results in JLW's list. Perhaps we should switch to the parliamentary system and ask Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Barney Frank, and Charles Rangel to form a government and get the job done right!

Sue G writes:
August 6, 2011
But, JLW, as Everett wisely pointed out, all those bills were already incurred, even in you don't like them. You don't change what bills you pay retroactively. Those who threatened to do so either don't understand their job or threatened not to do it. That's not how we ought to do things.

James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
August 10, 2011
Even if I was a "progressive," I would know this much: The Democrats, with solid majorities in both houses in Congress in 2009-2010, had the power to raise the debt ceiling by as much as they wanted, or to abolish it altogether. They did not. Any defender/supporter of Democrats must confront this fact before they start pointing fingers at anyone else.

Raising the debt ceiling wasn't part of their agenda, not even in the "lame duck" session when they knew Tea Party-backed Republicans would take over the house in January. Therefore, they didn't care about it. And therefore, it is disingenuous to point fingers and name names of people who voted against it.

This was nothing but political theater. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi don't care about you, and they don't care about paying the bills. They only care about political ploys to make Republicans look bad in front of an unaware public. This time, they succeeded, but this "crisis" was 100% THEIR fault, and not the fault of those who voted against this deal.

Robert McNauaghton from Middletown, CT writes:
October 20, 2011
Just rereading the column, and the comments. JLW has missed the point of the column.

Besides, no one needs to "try to make Rupublicans look bad in front of an unaware public." Just leave them alone and they do it quite well by themselves.

James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
October 26, 2011
@Robert: Under no circumstances would the Treasury have lacked the money to fund the entitlements, pay troops/veterans, or pay interest on the debt -- for several months at least The crisis was completely manufactured. That is MY point.

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