Some people are claiming that if Congress fails to raise the debt limit, the President can raise it himself unilaterally. The claim is not only wrong, but far scarier for America’s future than a default would be.
Typical of those arguing this way is Bruce Bartlett, the formerly conservative economist who in recent years has been dashing to the left.
Barlett argues that “In the event that congressional irresponsibility makes default impossible to avoid, [the President] should order the secretary of the Treasury to simply disregard the debt limit and sell whatever securities are necessary to raise cash to pay the nation’s debts.”
Initially, you should understand that Barlett’s “Chicken Little” concerns are based on a false premise: That failure to raise the debt limit equals non-payment of national debt. The truth, however, is that there is plenty of revenue to pay the national debt (and the military, too). Doing so requires merely that the government take care of those expenses before continuing to fund other programs, many of them of dubious constitutionality.
But even if Bartlett’s premise were correct, his legal arguments remind us that he is an economist, and not a lawyer. Here are his three principal arguments, and the response to each: (continue reading here.)