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The Constitution and the National Debt

Congress is perilously close to defaulting on the loans the United States has received from other countries. Not only is it irresponsible for our country to default on its loans, but the consequences would be serious for US citizens and for our financial institutions.  Although there has been much blaming, buck passing, and finger-pointing – the responsibility for the budget and the debt clearly lies with Congress. It was unwise to pass tax cuts while the country was fighting two wars and irresponsible to insist on extending the tax cuts while our country was still at war, deeply in debt, and trying to recover from an economic recession.

The Constitution is clear about the responsibilities of Congress. Article 1, Section 7  says:

 “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

 It goes on that the President must sign the bill for it to become law, and if he does not, it shall be returned to Congress to reconsider it – or to overcome the President’s objection by passing it in both houses by a two thirds majority .

Further, Section 8 continues:

 ” The Congress shall have Power: To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. “ Among the powers enumerated is:  “To borrow Money on the credit of the United States”.

 Would it be wrong to assume that the body given the power to borrow the money would not also be responsible for paying the debt – particularly when that same body has the responsibility of creating the budget?

Congress is clearly responsible for raising the revenue to pay our debts and run our government. Amendment XVI to the Constitution, passed in 1913, says:

 “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” 

 However, many of our Legislators have sworn an oath not to carry out the responsibilities of their office. (1) As of 2009, 172 members of the House of Representatives and 34 members of the Senate had taken Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes.  Clearly, the pledge conflicts with their responsibilities under the Constitution and those who took the pledge need to decide whether their loyalties lie with the U.S. Constitution or with an anti-tax ideology.

(1) Those who signed the anti-tax pledge at the federal level are listed at  http://s3.amazonaws.com/atrfiles/files/files/Federal%20Pledge%20Signers%20112th%20Congress.pdf

Look up those who signed in your state and contact them.  Those who signed from Oklahoma, my state,  are Sen. Tom Coburn* (R), Sen Jim Inhofe (R),  Representatives John Sullivan (R),  Frank Lucas (R), Tom Cole (R), and James Lankford (R).

And if your state is unable to meet its financial obligations, those at the state level who have taken the anti-tax pledge are listed at: http://fredericacade.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/list-of-your-states-signers-signed-to-grover-norquist-controversial–pledge/

* In all fairness, Senator Coburn has worked on a bi-partisan budget solution and recently drew Grover Norquist’s ire by suggesting we might have to raise revenue.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

Research credit:  Barbara moore

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No Responses to “The Constitution and the National Debt” »

  1. Chuck Riley Says:

    Just because Congress CAN Constitutionally collect revenue Via most any way and for any purpose…without recourse…It DOESNT MEAN that they MUST, NEED TO and/or SHOULD!

    Your opinion, as stated here simply makes sense ONLY if one we are to 100% accept your extremely bias premise!

  2. admin Says:

    Should we not have money to run our government or pay our debts? Senator Coburn, in his “Back in Black” analysis, identified billions in earmarks that could be cut to reduce our debts, but Congress is not likely to vote to end their favorite earmarks. If we can’t cut earmarks and we can’t raise taxes, then how can we ever pay off our debts?

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