Is the 14th Amendment a failsafe against a US debt default? We’ve pretty much had it up to here with the political parrots and the Debt Ceiling. They, meaning Congress, could agree on waste and redundancy cuts, or raise taxes on people who actually have the money that’s causing inflation, or they could grow the middle class and save money on crime and social services, or they could even selectively spend without having to borrow or raise taxes.
But, no, they want to risk losing reserve currency status for the US dollar instead. This is the Saturday Keynote which wraps up our week’s reporting on invoking the 14th Amendment to prevent a catastrophic default on US Treasuries.
14th Amendment be invoked to avoid a US debt default?
The 14th Amendment states “the validity of the public debt…shall not be questioned.” This clause suggests the President has the power to override the debt ceiling to ensure America pays its bills.
Legal scholars argue the President can invoke the 14th to prevent economic calamity if Congress fails to raise the debt limit. Unilaterally raising the debt ceiling using 14th Amendment powers remains controversial but may be necessary to avert catastrophe.
More responsible budgeting is something all four sides of the table can agree on, but in the meantime, there’s a crisis to handle. Bottom line: The three branches of government shall not question the validity of our debt. In other words, do your jobs.
You can role-play this week’s puzzle at PolicyKeys.com. This week’s political flap started with our Monday Puzzle Drop article. Tuesday was the Tiebreaker of all the conflicted roles. Wednesday, we caught politically strange bedfellows dancing on the debt ceiling. Thursday, you and your political digital twin tipped back some tall cool reasoning. Friday, think outside the news silo with the BOX SCORE.
The last time the Government shut down, it hurt the economy, meaning workers, professionals, small business owners, and the stock market.
And this time, it’s possible we’ll default on US debt which is about the same thing as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This might risk the dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency. Perhaps the stupidest thing a country could do to itself.
Is there a Debt Crisis?
The US total net worth is $150T. The debt is $33T, but $7T is intergovernmental, so $25T is owed to others.
Of the $25T, about $7T is held by our foreign country trading partners (they have to put the dollars we give them somewhere), and the remaining $18T is held by Americans wealthy enough to buy US treasury bonds and notes.
The average US household has a net worth of $750,000. The average household debt is $100,000. So that’s a $100,000 / $750,000 or 13% debt to net worth.
The US total net worth is $150T. The net US Debt is $25T. So, that’s $25T/$150T or 17 % debt to net worth.
Does this sound like an emergency so dire as to risk the full faith and credit of the United States of America?
A household can’t issue their own currency to pay bills.
Let’s bear in mind the US is not like a household, meaning a household can’t print currency.
The US is the monopoly issuer of net financial assets. Net, because banks can also issue currency, but they have to pay it back to the Fed. The US doesn’t have to pay itself back. It’s a book entry.
You can’t spend a net dollar until the US spends it into existence. When you pay your taxes, the money is destroyed, and a number changes on a balance sheet.
To pay down the debt the US has to run surpluses. The only problem is US government surpluses cause depressions.
In 1817, 1852, 1867, 1880, 1893, 1920, 1928, 1998-2001 the US government briefly ran rare budget surpluses, which were followed in short order by equally rare major economic crises – the Panics of 1819, 1857, 1873, 1893, and the Depressions of 1920-21 and 1929, and the Great Recession of 2008 (delayed by the sub-prime lending fiasco). The Great Recession was technically a Depression with 15% U-6 unemployment.
Causation or Correlation?
None of the four schools of economics will likely agree on whether the rare surpluses caused the rare depressions but come on, eight times in a row, really?
Could there have been other factors that forced the surpluses that caused the depressions? Sure, but how come no one can explain that so a precocious 12-year-old can understand it? Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution, is likely the correct solution.
Isn’t insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
You can read more about what might happen with a government shutdown and a debt default in our Monday Puzzle Drop article.
So, what’s the 14th Rub?
Here are the pros and cons of the President invoking the 14th Amendment to avert a debt default, as seen through the eight ways of interpreting the Constitution.
- Textualism: While the text supports debt obligation authority, it does not explicitly approve overriding the ceiling without Congress.
- Original Meaning: Though perhaps intended as a safeguard, the founders likely didn’t envision unilateral executive borrowing power.
- Judicial Precedent: Courts have affirmed executive economic stability powers but deferred debt ceiling control to the legislature.
- Pragmatism: This pragmatically prevents harm from default, though the severity required is debated.
- Moral Reasoning: Honoring commitments seems ethically correct, but bypassing Congress raises moral questions.
- National Identity: Paying debts reflects responsibility, yet undermining democratic norms does not.
- Structuralism: This maintains balance in a crisis but tests the balance of power between branches.
- Historical Practices: While considered previously, firm precedent for invoking the 14th this way is very limited.
If you want to get out of your news silo, pay attention to which schools of interpretation the Supreme Court justices use, case by case. Are they retrofitting their rulings to suit their politics or are they consistent with some mix of these schools?
This is especially interesting for liberty-led suits and justice-based suits. An AI could rate each judge on their interpretive consistency. Would that be outside-the-silo news?
Since liberal justices tend towards Pragmatism and Moralism, and conservative justices towards Textualism, Originalism, and Structuralism, it’s hard to imagine how invoking the 14th Amendment to avoid a catastrophic debt default would be overruled if appealed. If so, perhaps we need to upgrade to a Grand Supreme Court which is #30 on the US Public Policy Leaderboard (US-PPL).
The Debt Ceiling Shootout
It’s sudden depth on the debt ceiling. In role-based politics, some roles are conflicted about their views—not being solid red or solid blue. Political Parrots think people in these roles are stupid. We know better. Smart people think for themselves.
Should we invoke the 14th Amendment
to avoid a US Debt Default?
You can read all about how the roles that were conflicted in their views were called by POLI and the ones that our editors disagreed with and changed in the Tuesday Tiebreaker article.
Here’s how the Tiebreaker ended.
In Sudden Depth, the editors broke the tie on 5 roles that ended up 1 YES and 4 NO for a Net 3 NO.
In the second half, we Called a Fowl on POLI plays on 10 roles that ended up with 6 YES and 4 NO for a net of 2 YES.
The Two Tiebreaker Halves ended up with 7 YES and 8 NO for a net of 1 NO out of 128 roles.
The net of the Tiebreaker is ‘NO’ by 1.
POLI predicts that the final version of the puzzle has an error margin of ± 4% of 128 roles or about 11 roles.
The error margin is determined by 256 deadlocked ‘supreme courts’ with each role being the chief justice in both an assumed 5-4 and 4-5 court. Each court is determined by close ties to other “like” roles.
For this puzzle, there were 15 Noisy guests out of 128 roles, which means 113 Roles were rather easy to call.
Here are the four oddest couples for and against invoking the 14th Amendment to avoid a catastrophic debt default.
Four Odd Couples IN-FAVOR
Party Favor Democrats &
Party Favor Republicans
Urban Professionals &
Big Tech &
Four Odd Couples AGAINST
Rural Full Time &
Corporate Lobby &
Free Press &
Border and Order Republicans
Social Media &
You can get all the lurid details of how they met, their first squabble, and how they kissed and made up in the Wednesday Politically Stange Bedfellows article.
Every Thursday your political digital twin quenches your thirst for knowledge with a personal public policy advisor report. While we put the finishing touches on our online tool, you can see how it’s done for a random citizen.
Meet this Week’s Random Citizen
Meet Random, a 30-something independent spirit with a fascinating upbringing. This social butterfly’s Republican lobbyist parent became an entrepreneur. Now in rural America, Random co-habits with a Democrat Dove. To span the divide, Random is now a Liberty Independent, a professional with experience with Multi/Nationals, Brands, Importers, and Local Builders.
Wow, a whole lot is going on inside this person’s head, huh? When you add up these sixteen roles’ forecasted opinions for this random individual, the score is…
YES 12– NO 4 = net +8 YES
The possible scores here are +16 to -16, so +8 indicates that Random is strongly leaning in favor of invoking the 14th Amendment to avoid a debt default, barring one or more of the NO reasons being way more important than all the YES reasons. Since this is a fictitious people, we’ll never know.
You can get a full breakdown of how the 16 roles fighting for control of Random’s mouth stuck it out in our Political Digital Twin article.
Just like a sports event, the PolicyKeys weekly puzzle has all sorts of interesting stats. Here’s the final score.
We predict an 84% ±2 vast super-majority of roles in this country to support Invoking the 14th Amendment to Avoid a Debt Default, including a majority of each of the four sides of the political table, making this a US Public Policy Leaderboard (US-PPL) worthy idea.
Congress’s approval rating is 21%, the Supreme Court’s is 40%, the media’s 27%, and the average score of the policies on the PolicyKeys™ US Public Policy Leaaderboard (US-PPL) is 73%, with many above 80%—Politics 4.0 is already a 2x to 3x better model of US political sentiment and direction than politics as usual.
See more stats in our Friday BOX SCORE article.
Congress acts more like a hormone driven high school than the most powerful body on the planet. They both love their party more than country. Both parties have had total control over the past 50 years, and yet the middle class has shrunk. Blaming each other for everything that goes wrong and taking credit for success—is getting really old. Old like we need new behaviors in our elected officials. Where can we agree? Why don’t you want to know?
Where Can We Agree?
(Why Don’t You Want To Know?)
You can play this week’s puzzle at PolicyKeys.com.
US Median Household Income
St Louis Fed
Average Household Debt
US Total Net Worth
The Rise and Fall of American Growth
Princeton University Press
The Clinton Surplus
U6 Unemployment over 15% in 2008
St Louis Fed
The 2030s Great Depression
Why America Will Remain the World’s Only Superpower
American Enterprise Institute
How much would a debt default damage the US?
Christian Science Monitor
The Validity of the Public Debt Shall Not Be Questioned
It takes guts to see things from all four sides of the political table.