Yesterday Bill Clinton suggested that President Barack Obama ignore Congress and just raise the debt ceiling limit himself. He would supposedly invoke the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as his rationale and let the courts decide the issue. Obama demurred.
This is all no accident. Having worked in the White House I can tell you that no former president, let alone one whose wife is the secretary of state, would sandbag the White House by making such a statement without checking in for instructions.
My guess is that Clinton called and told the White House what he was going to say and why and what impact it would have. And the White House mulled it over and decided it would work for them.
What is going on? Several things.
First, the statement shows that Bill Clinton is very much in Obama's camp. This is important because Clinton was the last president to balance the budget. His economic stewardship is looking better and better when compared to the runaway spending of the Obama administration with its $1.2 trillion annual budget deficits.
This puts Clinton and all of his prestige on the line with Obama and his European style neo-socialism.
Second, it serves as a threat to an already diminished U.S. Congress. "The president might just do this without you."
Third, this illustrates just how dangerously close we are to abandoning the Constituion altogether. More and more this is a nation ruled by the celebrity of the presidency and the national media.
Time magazine recently devoted a cover story to the debate. By any standards, we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis. How did this happen?
How did we wake up one morning to find our system of government changing right underneath our feet?
As a student of history, I can say that this should come as no great surprise. This is what happens when there is a severe economic downturn.
The last Great Depression saw the rise of communism and fascism in Europe, with Stalin and Hitler and the death of more than 100 million people. In this, perhaps the second worst depression in world history, we in America are experiencing some of the more traumatic political changes.
To be sure we don't have jack-booted soldiers goose-stepping down Pennsylvania Avenue but we are seeing the unthinkable, national leaders playing loose with the great American Constitution and freely, even joyously abandoning the free enterprise system.
While European governments are turning to the private sector and backing away from the welfare state, France, for example, reducing its payments for social services across the board, America is moving forward at a rapid pace.
In 2003, President George W. Bush launched a $1 trillion, off the books, war in Iraq. In 2008 he bailed out the banks, which in turn gave their executives $1.3 billion in bonuses with those same tax dollars that very same year.
The move ran up record annual deficits of $500 billion. In Europe, when governments nationalized banks they were proudly called "socialist" governments. Francois Mitterrand was the "socialist" president of France. Slow to catch on, the American media and public continue to refer to George W. Bush as a "conservative" Republican president.
Upon his election and with a full Democratic House and Senate behind him, President Barack Obama rolled out a stimulus package the likes of which the country had never seen. At a price tag of $787 billion, the president promised the plan would create and save 4 million American jobs. "Shovel ready jobs," he called them.
At first there was a knee-jerk reaction in the media and the nation. Didn't such massive spending guarantee a revitalizing of the economy?
Questions remained about whether it was right on wrong in the long term but all seemed to agree we would get a bump. In July, 2009, Newsweek proclaimed, "The Recession is Over." But in fact, Newsweek was over. And the recession was still ongoing with unemployment higher than it ever was under Bush.
Then came outcries of corruption. A USA Today study showed that counties who supported Democrat Barack Obama for president received twice as much money as counties who supported his Republican opponent. Recently, Obama joked, "I guess shovel ready wasn't very shovel ready, was it?" Numerous university studies have concluded that zero jobs were created.
Bill Clinton's comments yesterday seem a bit like a lifesaver being thrown to a drowning man, the downing man being Barack Obama.
The last president to actually balance the budget was saying that he would just raise the debt ceiling arbitrarily. After all, we can't default.
Meanwhile, on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Ron Paul made the point that we default all the time. When we allow the Federal Reserve to print money we are defaulting by knowingly and deliberately paying seniors diluted dollars.
We are cheating our contract with them, defaulting on the promised payments. The numbers are the same, but what they can buy is now much less.
There was the greenback default of 1862. There was the liberty bond default of 1934. The national media would have you believe that this is mostly a congressional problem now. But history is not so easily duped.
With Obama in the White House and controlling the U.S. Senate, and with his unprecedented spending and borrowing and creating of new money, he needs a way out as much as the Congress or this will be seen for what it truly is: the Obama default of 2011.
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