Balkinization  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A political crisis or a constitutional crisis?

Sandy Levinson

It seems hard to deny that we are facing (at least) two genuine political crises in the next month of so:  First, will there be a governmenal shutdown and when it occurs (which seems almost certain), how long will it last and how many people will be severely hurt because of it?  The purely political question is who will be blamed, and the pundits and polls (and, apparently, John Boehner in private) predict it will (rightly) be mad-dog Republican terrorists who are choosing to hold the country hostage.  Second, of course, is the question of whether the United States government will honor its debts, or whether, because of these same Republicans, there will be a default, with basically catastrophic results, either immediately or over time, for the national and world economy. 

But mad-dog Republican terrorists have the power to hold the rest of us hostage ONLY because of the particular governmental structure imposed on us by the Framers in 1787, whose Constitution some of you celebrated yesterday.  Perhaps there will be a return, at least with regard to default--I don't know of any clever work-arounds on the government shutdosn--to looking to Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment or the fabled trillion-dollar platinum coin.  But our ever-cautious and concessionary President already conceded, the last time around, the invalidity of the Section 4 option.  He apparently has the unilateral power, according to the White House and its lawyers, to wage war on Syria but not to save the US economy from mad-dog Republican terrorists.  That leaves the trillion-dollar coin.  Or, of course, he could, once more, decide that he "has" to capitulate to terrorism (though only the domestic variety where the terrorists are ensconced in the House of Representatives). 

Sooner or later,perhaps a pundit or, even better, a practicing political "leader," will connect some dots and articulate the same kind of critique of our present constitutional crisis as those persons we celebrated yesterday did of the "imbecile" Articles of Confederation.  But, I confess, I'm not holding my breath, precisely because it's too easy to confine one's ire to mad-dog Republican terrorists rather than to a political structure that allows such people to have completely inordinate (and unearned--recall that Republicans got 2 million fewer votes than did Democratic candidates for the House in 2012) power.  In my book, I go out of my way to present a "defense" of Mitch McConnell's adamant opposition to giving Barack Obama any accomplishments on which he could run for re-election, given that he didn't want to repeat Ted Kennedy's mistakes of collaborating with Bush and thus making Bush's election in 2004 far easier than would otherwise been the case without, say, the prescription drug benefit that Teddy agreed to.  The problem is the ability of the Senate minority leader, unlike the minority leader in any parliamentary system, to throw so much sand in the gears.  But, as I say, it's so much easier to despise McConnell and profess one's love for the Constitution.  Bah, humbug!



Comments:

It's worth noting, (Shouting from the roof-tops, even!) that Republicans are not flatly refusing to raise the debt ceiling. They're refusing to raise it in the manner Democrats prefer. And Democrats, while they'd prefer no government shutdown or default, all else being equal, appear to prefer shutdown or default to avoiding either of them on Republican terms.

IOW, it's a game of chicken, with two players, and if there's a crash both will be at fault. Even if Democrats do seem to think getting their own way on everything is a law of nature, or something like it.
 

As for clever work-arounds to prevent that shutdown, here's a proposal: When the House Friday passes a debt ceiling increase with a clause defunding Obamacare, the Senate can take it up and pass it, too, then the President sign it.

Shutdown neatly averted, all it requires is Democrats not insisting that they're entitled to prevail on everything.
 

Brett's arguments would be plausible -- not true, but plausible -- if there were no history of raising the debt ceiling without conditions. That's been done some 50 or more times in the last 30 years, and other times before that. Raising the debt without preconditions is thus the norm, both in unanimous historical practice and in the common sense view that Congress already authorized the spending which the increase is needed to fund.

Thus, the Republican claim that "both sides are guilty" is simply a lie.
 

Sandy:

But mad-dog Republican terrorists...

Terrorists? Seriously? You are beginning to sound like BB.

...have the power to hold the rest of us hostage ONLY because of the particular governmental structure imposed on us by the Framers in 1787, whose Constitution some of you celebrated yesterday.

Quite the opposite.

If we had a single proportional parliament of the type you admire, it would look like the House of Representatives, the GOP would be in power and would have repealed Obamacare as the voters elected them to do back in February of 2011.

It is only because we have a bicameral legislature with a Senate allocated geographically by state and a president with a veto that Mr. Obama and the Democrats can threaten to block or veto (ie. hold hostage) the appropriations bill funding the rest of the government in order to blackmail the House to fund the increasingly unpopular Obamacare.

But, I confess, I'm not holding my breath, precisely because it's too easy to confine one's ire to mad-dog Republican terrorists rather than to a political structure that allows such people to have completely inordinate (and unearned--recall that Republicans got 2 million fewer votes than did Democratic candidates for the House in 2012) power.

Parliamentary systems are generally divided into districts like our House and the government is formed by the party which wins a majority of districts. Winning a heavy turnout in a minority of districts while suppressing the vote elsewhere like the Democrats did in 2012 would not have earned them a parliamentary majority.
 

I agree with Bart here.

Perhaps I am incorrect, and if so am happy to concede the point, but I have usually understood Mr. Levinson's (in my opinion invaluable and intelligent) criticisms of our constitutional structure to be based on its several undemocratic features. But this 'crisis' centers on the House, the most democratic institution of our system.
 

Winning a heavy turnout in a minority of districts while suppressing the vote elsewhere like the Democrats did in 2012

I wonder if Mr. DePalma holds sway in a courtroom with the sort of idiosyncratic definition that he makes of vote suppression. The accepted definition involves a variety of dirty tricks (e.g., leaflets advising that Republicans are to vote on one day, which happens to be Election Day, and Democrats to vote on another), bureaucratic legerdemain (throwing people off the rolls because their names are similar to those of convicted felons), intimidation (police checkpoints on Election Day), deliberately insufficient support for voting or registering, voter ID laws that are intended to restrict one's opposition, challenging individual voters' rights at the polls without an actual legal basis to do so, and the like.

Before Mr. Obama's recent election, I had not heard of voter suppression defined as badmouthing one's opponent. I had always thought that entry to and success in the legal profession required vocabulary skills. But perhaps I was mistaken, and all it takes is repeating the same inanity over and over again. I do wonder, though, if lawyers and judges are thus persuaded.
 

Mark, that's what you think is an argument? Once Democrats get what they want on a subject, you're perpetually entitled to win on it forever more?


 

Our Constitution provides checks and balances, so it is said quite often. But if the Constitution permits for the anticipated government shutdown and not increasing the debt cap, then there will be no checks and the accounts of many will become unbalanced. That might cause some people to suffer illness and despair, requiring more medical care and expense. That seems to be the goal of the mad dogs and tea drinkers who spend too much time in the mid-day sun. Of course, Mother Nature is not bound by the Constitution and may bring about floods and other natural disaster chaos, for which there would be no checks and no balance to the lives of those flooded and otherwise damaged by Mother Nature. Maybe, just maybe, as in Noah's day, such floods are a Global Warning. Some lucky duckies live high on hills but those who don't may head for them. So move over.
 

"Before Mr. Obama's recent election, I had not heard of voter suppression defined as badmouthing one's opponent."

It is a first for me as well, idiosyncratic at the least.

"Once Democrats get what they want on a subject, you're perpetually entitled to win on it forever more?"

I'm pretty sure that history includes periods with a GOP Congress and President.
 

Bart DePalma: "Winning a heavy turnout in a minority of districts while suppressing the vote elsewhere like the Democrats did in 2012 "

Bart, you're a liar. Are you willing to admit to your lie?
 

Larry: "Before Mr. Obama's recent election, I had not heard of voter suppression defined as badmouthing one's opponent."

That is because voter suppression is generally a term used by the left to attack the right. I find that using the opponent's terms against him or her is a very effective tactic inside and outside of a courtroom.

I am not going to repeat my lengthy discussion with Mr. W on this subject except to note that negative campaigning has always been used to convince voters not to cast a ballot for the targeted opponent. When a political campaign focuses on why you should not vote for the opponent and not why you should vote for the candidate, it is engaging in de facto voter suppression.
 

Barry asks"

"
Bart, you're a liar. Are you willing to admit to your lie?"

But our SALADISTA is frantically looking for an extinguisher as his pants are once again on fire, before he can answer. Alas, our SALADISTSA has an endless supply of pants.
 

Our SALADISTA's response includes:

" ... engaging in de facto voter suppression."

which is of course fostered by Citizens United.
 

That is because voter suppression is generally a term used by the left to attack the right.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 9:22 AM


I think what Blankshot is trying to say is that badmouthing your opponents is only "voter suppression" when done by Democrats.
 

I don't think, given the multiplying revelations concerning IRS and FEC misbehavior, that you have to limit Democratic vote suppression to just "badmouthing". There was a great deal of more substantive abuse going on of that nature.


 

Brett, that nonsense was debunked long ago.
 

Sandy, I fear your idee fixe is getting the best of you here. Do you really think that in a different constitutional world, the Repugs would not find other ways to sabotage the country and the President? Is there really a constitutional system that can thwart mad-dog political terrorists, as you correctly describe them?
 

"Once Democrats get what they want on a subject, you're perpetually entitled to win on it forever more?"

There are lots of ways to repeal the ACA. Holding the debt ceiling hostage isn't one of them.
 

Brett:

While the ongoing IRA and FEC harassment of the Tea Party is illegal, I doubt it affected turnout for Mr. Romney any more than voter ID affected turnout for Mr. Obama in 2012, which is to say it had next to no effect.

The 6+ million white working class voters who sat out the 2012 election are a classic Reagan Democrat/Tea Party demographic. These folks did not need IRS tax exempt status to turn out en masse in 2010. I doubt their decision to stay home just two years later had anything to do with IRS status.

Romney was the establishment candidate and only won because the decentralized Tea Party could not coalesce around one alternative conservative candidate. After winning the nomination, all Romney could offer the Tea Party was the argument that he was not Obama.

In contrast, the Democrats know very well that the GOP has won the White House every time they convinced the white working class voters to support them. Thus, Team Obama targeted this specific demographic with a message that Romney was a heartless plutocrat like those who threw many of them out of work. The "kill Romney" strategy worked.
 

"Even if Democrats do seem to think getting their own way on everything is a law of nature, or something like it."

No, they don't. This is a "lie" or at least b.s. (disrespect for the truth), since they repeatedly, including in the very last fight, compromised.

Not funding ACA, which was passed the normal way and is important to the health and well being of the country and is still supported by the President and Senate with chunks of it supported by even Republicans in the House is not not very "clever," at all.

Mark Field cites long precedent, not just followed by Democrats, on how raising the debt ceiling worked. It was not just what the Democrats "wanted" -- it was seen as sane policy by both sides. It was the common sense of the matter that the money was already authorized.

---

As to the OP, yes, Presidents have more power over the military, given their c-i-c power, than power of the purse. Using sections of the Constitution no one seems to have heard of until now (except for a few asides) not being enough here. Note, he went to Congress to get authorization to attack Syria,* it being "war" is conclusionary, and the trillion dollar coin was rightly ridiculed by Colbert.

Prof. Leiter joins and speaks of "repugs." His usual style in place.

* He never totally denied the independent power to use force, though if Congress voted to block him, I don't know what he'd do. His strategy regarding to the economy if default took place and lingered on also is unclear. Since it never happened. Congress found a way to avoid it, bad or not, per their power over the purse.
 

"That is because voter suppression is generally a term used by the left to attack the right."

Perhaps, but this is usually used in reference to things such as laws making voting more difficult, voter intimidation and fraudulent, intentional voter confusion rather than negative campaign ads. Hence the charge of 'idiosyncratic.'
 

Mr. W:

:::smile:::

"Intentional voter confusion" differs from negative campaign ads in what way?


 

"Intentional voter confusion" differs from negative campaign ads in what way?

# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 2:02 PM


Are you really so stupid that you can't come up with any examples on your own?
 

BB:

The question was rhetorical.
 

I do NOT believe that the Tea Party can be compared with Nazis or other groups willing to use truly extra-legal means to impose their will. The members of the House were, quite obviously, elected, and the problem arises from a) the deficiencies of a (not constitutionally required) election system that relies exclusively on single-member districts with first-past-the-post winners plus the ability of skilled gerrymanderers (in the current period Republicans, simply because they were the big winners at the state level in 2010, in the past Democrats) to render irrelevant the views of millions, and on occasion, as at present, the majority of Americans. So Brian Leiter is right that I continue to be riding (or beating) my hobbyhorse, but I think he is wrong to deny its relevance.
 

I do NOT believe that the Tea Party can be compared with Nazis or other groups willing to use truly extra-legal means to impose their will. The members of the House were, quite obviously, elected, and the problem arises from a) the deficiencies of a (not constitutionally required) election system that relies exclusively on single-member districts with first-past-the-post winners plus the ability of skilled gerrymanderers (in the current period Republicans, simply because they were the big winners at the state level in 2010, in the past Democrats) to render irrelevant the views of millions, and on occasion, as at present, the majority of Americans. So Brian Leiter is right that I continue to be riding (or beating) my hobbyhorse, but I think he is wrong to deny its relevance.
 

The question was rhetorical.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 2:19 PM


Most of your posts are rhetorical BS.
 

You topic is nice. I think it help all online business
 

"plus the ability of skilled gerrymanderers"

Come on, now, Sandy! Surely you're aware that, given the way Democrats distribute themselves, insisting on piling themselves up in small geographic regions where they comprise 90% or more of the voters, nothing short of egregious gerrymandering would fail to under-represent them? No skill is required at all to gerrymander people who've already gerrymandered themselves.

As for the rest, you seem a bit out of touch with public opinion; Note question 16: A plurality of the public oppose the debt ceiling being raised, even if the outcome is default.
 

"No skill is required at all to gerrymander people who've already gerrymandered themselves."

People do not move to places with the political district in mind. They move to places and then politicians draw the lines based on where the people are.
 

And if they chose, for whatever reason, to live mostly where people of the same political persuasion are the overwhelming majority, then any system of geographically compact districts without proportional representation is going to under-represent them. Only districts deliberately designed to enhance their representation, (Gerrymandering, in other words.) would fail to have this effect.

Again, not saying there's not a little gerrymandering going on, but it takes no skill to draw districts which under-represent people who insist on living in such politically disproportionate enclaves. Rather it would take skill, and nothing short of genuine gerrymandering, to avoid it.
 

Mr. W:

The Democrats are a culturally urban party and concentrate in cities because they want to live there.
 

"Geographical compactness" is not now and never has been an objective criterion for drawing district lines. The only thing that should count is people.
 

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""Geographical compactness" is not now and never has been an objective criterion for drawing district lines."

Ok, that's hilarious. You're redefining gerrymandering here, so you can later justify committing it to compensate for Democratic voter distribution patterns.

You're full of it. Geographical compactness has indeed been a traditional standard for objective districting.
 

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Brett, your own link supports me, not you.
 

Mark:

A gerrymander is a long and unusually shaped district designed to gather opposing party voters into one district.

A compact district is the antithesis of a gerrymander.

Sorry Virginia, there are no GOP gerrymanders of Democrats.
 

The link, somewhat amusingly, says:

One of the "traditional" redistricting principles, low compactness is considered to be a sign of potential gerrymandering by courts, state law and the academic literature. More often than not, though, compactness is ill-defined by the "I know it when I see it" standard.

As Mark Field says, not an "objective" criteria, though it might be "considered" as such.

Especially with modern computerized techniques, the gerrymanders can be "compact" too.

Relying simple on people to district in various cases can help different parties. Sadly for Republicans, these days, they are a minority party in many cases, so not gerrymandering would hurt them, yes. Not always.
 

Republicans, not Democrats, are engaging in political blackmail. Republicans, not Dems, are willing to shut down the government by refusing to pay for spending previously authorized by Congress. Obama should issue a $5 trillion coin and put an end to this blackmail for the rest of his term in office.
 

On an episode of Suite Life on Deck, Cody tricks airhead London by adding a few zeros to a dollar bill to make it a "$1000" bill. The coin gimmick doesn't seem to me much less silly.

Others have pointed out why detail-wise, though even those who propose it are not always that concerned it is Colbert-level satire, but that still is my basic problem with the whole thing.

It sounds just too silly.
 

Joe: Especially with modern computerized techniques, the gerrymanders can be "compact" too.

To start,a gerrymander is a long and unusually shaped district. By definition, a compact district cannot be a gerrymander.

No matter how many computers you use, the only way to gather opposing voters into a compact district is if opposing voters have decided of their own volition to live in the same neighborhoods within that district.

Claiming the GOP legislature's gerrymandered urban Democrat voters is like blaming a fisherman for the fact that fish travel in schools.
 

we've had a constitution a long time, only now do we have these shutdowns - hmmm.
 

Andrew:

This is the first time in American history that major new spending and programs were enacted without majority or at least plurality voter support.

Brave new world.
 

The Republicans have just passed the appropriations bill funding the government except for Obamacare in the first effort to use the appropriations power to defund a welfare state "entitlement."

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/20/house-passes-spending-bill-defund-obamacare/

Long past time.
 

This is the first time in American history that major new spending and programs were enacted without majority or at least plurality voter support.

Brave new world.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 1:50 PM


LOL I wonder why President Romney hasn't already killed Obamacare?
 

Long past time.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 1:57 PM


Actually, I think it's the 47th time, but it's tough to keep track. No doubt this will fail in a similar manner to the last 46 attempts.

 

"A compact district is the antithesis of a gerrymander."

Well, that is sort of the point, that gerrymandering should not be thought of as a geographical exercise, but a political one. To paraphrase Mark Field's comment, it has to do with drawing lines to divvy up people in politically advantageous ways. Compactness cannot be the defining feature of what is a gerrymander since, as you and Brett seem to acknowledge on some level, in certain population distributions such 'compact' districts will be highly advantageous to one party over another.
 

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Is it less "silly" to mint a perfectly constitutional $5 trillion dollar coin, deposited to the account of the Treasury, or to accept a catastrophic default of the debt or to capitulate to mad-dog Republican terrorists? I go for the coin, on the assumption that the President isn't going to invoke Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

One of the things that lawyers do, of course, is to make "creative" and "inventive" arguments in order to escape going over one or another cliff. Perhaps it's like Madison claiming in Federalist 40 that the Convention didn't violate their charge only to "revise" the Articles of Confederation (or, in the alternative, he seemed to suggest it was perfectly proper because of the "exigencies" facing the country). We are facing serious exigencies at this very moment, and there is no good reason to believe that mad-dog Republican terrorists will release the hostages (who happen to be the American people) voluntarily.
 

I think compactness can be cited as a rebuttable criteria that the districting is benign but as Brett's link suggests, in practice, it can be played around with so much, it is of limited value.

The important bottom line to Mark Field's statement is that districting should be about the proper division of people into districts. Geography (or rather compactness) is not the be all end all here.

The fact a "uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure" was involved in Gomillion v. Lightfoot was not the deciding factor. It was that "this essay in geometry and geography is to despoil colored citizens."

The whole picture, bottom line, is what we should worry about.
 

I don't think it an either/or, Prof. Levinson.

Long term, when dealing with "mad-dog terrorists," gimmicks don't work well. Again, it being "silly" is not the only thing. Others gave reasons why it is silly.

Ending the unanimous rule in amending the Articles was not "silly." They didn't pretend somehow, e.g., Rhode Island wasn't a full state or something.

Anyway, part of my concern here is the power of the purse is legislative. I find too often Daddy Obama is supposed to save us (or our representatives) from ourselves. Fake solutions there just paper over things. Long term, such phony coin solutions do not to me seem that helpful.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Sandy: Is it less "silly" to mint a perfectly constitutional $5 trillion dollar coin, deposited to the account of the Treasury, or to accept a catastrophic default of the debt or to capitulate to mad-dog Republican terrorists?"

Article I, Section 8 grants Congress the power to coin money and the statute enabling Treasury to perform that act for Congress nowhere permits the President to create a $5 trillion dollar coin as currency. The provision cited by the brainiacs who came up with this illegal scam applies to making commemorative bullion coins which are not currency.

Our tax revenues, even at their current economic depression level, are far more than than necessary to service our debt as required under the 14A. If President Obama defaults on our debt in violation of the 14A because the House will not increase the debt ceiling, Congress should immediately impeach him.

The only legal action among your three options is for the President to sign the House appropriations bill which continues spending at current levels for the government apart from Obamacare.
 

Notice that the House has now passed a bill funding the government. A debt crisis will now be a result of the Democratic Senate deciding that default is preferable to an unpopular program being defunded, NOT the House flatly refusing to fund the operations of government.

No doubt most of the MSM, who aspire to being a government run media as an alternative to going the way of buggy whip manufacturers, will attempt to obfuscate this. I think their power to do that has been waning.
 

Brett:

The Democrat media is not obfuscating this, they are faithfully repeating the Democrat lie that the House just voted to shut down the government.

The GOP needs to repeatedly pass the current appropriations bill, march en masse out to the House steps and condemn the Democrats for refusing to fund the government. After doing this enough times, even low information voters will begin to get what is going down.
 

You dimwits don't really expect people to buy that bullshit, do you?
 

Brett:

Well maybe not all low information voters...
 

"Notice that the House has now passed a bill funding the government. A debt crisis will now be a result of the Democratic Senate deciding that default is preferable to an unpopular program being defunded, NOT the House flatly refusing to fund the operations of government."

This is not the same as the debt ceiling issue and it doesn't involve "default". There is no "debt crisis" when Congress fails to pass a budget, though there can be lots of other bad consequences.

In your haste to blame the Senate, though, you seem to have left out the blame for the House that's an essential part of your pseudo-symmetry.

 

A debt crisis will now be a result of the Democratic Senate deciding that default is preferable to an unpopular program being defunded, NOT the House flatly refusing to fund the operations of government.

The program is not "unpopular." Republicans have admitted that chunks of it is popular. The public at large supports it or wanted a bigger program. The particular part that is unpopular to some degree is partially so because of public ignorance and/or a desire to have their cake & eat it too.

Poison pills, caps notwithstanding, should be credited as credit is due. The House realizes that 1/2 of Congress and the President rejects the poision pill, which defunds something the public as a whole supports and is as a whole good policy. If I agree to fund the household's budget if my housemates agrees to become vegetarians, and my housemates rejects my proposal because they are not vegetarians (and eat meat for religious reasons), it not their fault I put forth an unreasonable requirement.

The House never "flatly" refused. It was always a matter of "we will do it [as Mark Field noted, rejected long held common sense practice] if you do 'x' " -- like hostage takers.

No doubt most of the MSM, who aspire to being a government run media as an alternative to going the way of buggy whip manufacturers, will attempt to obfuscate this. I think their power to do that has been waning.

Government run media? What are you talking about? You are the one "obfuscating" here, Brett.
 

And, what Mark Field said.

Likewise, apparently, some in bad faith supermajority requirement (beyond a 60 vote threshold, as things went) is necessary to pass ACA. OTOH, if a simple majority of the House does something, it now is the obligation (to avoid "fault") for the Senate and the President to sign on.

Also, now, precedent is not really determinative. I realize politics is often a matter of Calvinball, but sometimes, pretty blatant.
 

Well maybe not all low information voters...
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 5:20 PM


;;;chuckle;;; What do you think of President Romney's first term, you putz?
 

What I'm talking about, Joe, is the revolving door situation between MSM outlets and this administration, with at least 15 media figures covering the administration and then later being hired by it, and a couple dozen related to people in the administration.

They're getting very close to erasing the boundary between the news media and the government, doing this.
 

Article I, Section 8 grants Congress the power to coin money and the statute enabling Treasury to perform that act for Congress nowhere permits the President to create a $5 trillion dollar coin as currency. The provision cited by the brainiacs who came up with this illegal scam applies to making commemorative bullion coins which are not currency.

When I was a kid, I was a coin collector. I am sure I still have my collection stored somewhere.

In any event, I can assure you that all the commemorative coins I collected that were minted by the US Mint were legal tender and had denominations.
 

Far be it for me to deprive Levinson of the full experience of outrage-gasm for repeating "mad dog Republican terrorists," but what exactly is terroristic about the Republican bill which funds every program and department of the United States government, including the EPA, food-stamps, Social Security, food-inspectors, civil-rights enforcement, etc., EXCEPT the one program that the majority of Americans - well-represented by the House - do not want, and never wanted?
 

Dilan:

The statute specifies exactly what coins are currency down to their dimensions and contents.
 

Bart:

That's a dodge.

If you did that in court, the judge would repeat his or her question over and over again until you gave a straight answer.

I said, commemorative coins are legal tender. They are. Your reply was nonresponsive to that.

A statute that grants the mint the power to mint a commemorative coin grants the mint the right to mint it as legal tender. There's no such thing as "commemorative non-legal tender bullion coins".

There's definitely an argument that the platinum coin solution is ridiculous. But you are trying to make it illegal, and it isn't.

 

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Dilan:

I read the statute when this illegal plan was first floated. The statute breaks down coins into currency and commemorative and bullion coins.

Currency is precisely defined by coin as the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, etc.

The section cited in this scheme was for commemorative and bullion coins, not currency.

No sane bond holder is going to accept payment in digitized dollars based an a $5 trillion Obama coin. Indeed, the inability to tell what dollars are based on the Obama coin would likely tank the value of the dollar.

This plan is not silly as Sandy claims, but rather insane banana republic stuff.
 

Speaking of " ... rather insane banana republic[an] stuff." this is our SALADISTA's MO.

 

I read the statute when this illegal plan was first floated. The statute breaks down coins into currency and commemorative and bullion coins.

Currency is precisely defined by coin as the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, etc.


Bart, you want to cite some law on this, or are you just pulling it out of your ass?

I think I just told you, I OWN COLLECTIBLE, COMMEMORATIVE, US MINT BULLION COINS WHICH ARE LEGAL TENDER. They come in denominations, and they are legal tender. That's how commemorative coins work. The mint puts out the "175th Anniversary of the Erie Canal Commemorative Silver Dollar", or whatever. It contains a specified percentage of pure silver. And it's obviously worth much more than a dollar. But it IS, in fact, legal tender. It has a stated denomination ("ONE DOLLAR") engraved on the coin and it is legal tender.

You don't know what the hell you are talking about. I suspect you don't collect coins. But at any rate, you need to back off on this one. You are making shit up. As I said, if you did this in front of a smart judge you would be completely embarrassed until you either said "my statement was erroneous" or you looked like a complete idiot in front of your client. Back off on this one.

Not everything you want to believe about the law is actually the law. In this case, the law contains a loophole-- and it is, indeed, a loophole and is fairly criticizable as that-- which allows the minting of platinum coins of any denomination. Those coins, just like any other commemorative bullion coins minted by the US mint, would be legal tender.

No sane bond holder is going to accept payment in digitized dollars based an a $5 trillion Obama coin.

Bart, this is the sort of example of why I think a lot of conservatives on the Internet are douchebags. This is a perfectly good policy argument against the platinum coin. I agree, even if it was minted, the administration would need to convince the bond market that the debt was good and the bondholders wouldn't have to bring a court case to collect their money. I suspect, by the way, this is the real reason that Obama doesn't want to mint the platinum coin-- government debt has to be reliable, and this sort of thing carries the risk and cost of litigation.

But that isn't the same thing as saying it's illegal. There are lots of times when someone effectively "buys a lawsuit" by doing something, but the action gets upheld in court. You are conflating two separate issues here, and you are doing it deliberately.

You need to take a step back here. You make a lot of arguments in website comments sections. Some of those arguments are about things you have studied carefully. I don't agree with everything you argued about military commissions and Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, and neither did the Supreme Court, but you had clearly read a lot of the cases dating all the way back and gained some level of expertise about what they say.

But you try to speak with the same authority about subjects you actually know nothing about. You clearly don't know the first thing about how commemorative coins actually work, because you are making an argument that the numismatic community would howl at. You need to take a step back. Not everything liberals or Obama might want to do is illegal, even if you think it would be a bad idea. And you are not the world's foremost legal scholar-- just like all of us, there are parts of the law you know very well and parts of the law you don't. You reflect badly on the profession, and badly on your ideology, when you talk out of your ass. It needs to stop.
 

Dilan:

The commemorative dollars you describe are produced under the statutory authority to make dollar coin currency. The section cited for the platinum Obama coin is in the section of the statute authorizing Treasury to produce bullion coins for commemorative and other purposes.

I broke down the statute here some months ago when this banana republic idea was floated the first time. I am on vacation now using a iPhone to post this and am not going to attempt to rewrite that mini brief. If you want to verify what I am asserting, find the original article proposing the Obama coin, look up the cited ststutory provision and then read the entire statute.

Finally, I am not attributing this illegal scheme to Obama or his administration. So far as I know, it has been limited to progressive op-eds and blogs by people like Sandy who should know better. Don't you find the very idea bordeline insane?

 

I think I mentioned, I think the POLICY argument you made against it, that the bondholders wouldn't trust the bonds, is a very good one. I believe Josh Marshall at TPM made the same point, and I think it's the reason the Obama Administration doesn't want to do it.

But in terms of legality, bullion coins are also legal tender. American Eagle coins, which are bullion coins, are legal tender.

There's basically NO category of congressionally authorized US mint coins that aren't legal tender. You are trying to make one up.

You are doing what conservatives too often do-- assume everything you disagree with must be illegal. This isn't.
 

is the revolving door situation between MSM outlets and this administration

Thomas Jefferson funded an alternative press, giving one person a job at the State Dept. even so the guy would have money coming in while writing anti-Federalist material.

The "revolving door" of public to private occurs in a range of areas and the expansion of media jobs with cable etc. provides more chances. FOX, e.g., has a lot of former Bushies. It is just a current application of an old deal.

They're getting very close to erasing the boundary between the news media and the government, doing this.

I think you are exaggerating the breadth of the back/forth numbers-wise and any concern should be general -- not just government voices, but general power that be voices.

This still doesn't get you to:

who aspire to being a government run media as an alternative to going the way of buggy whip manufacturers

It means that if we are going to have so many commentators, a logical talent pool are those who worked in the area being commented about. There remains a large number who do not work for the government.

Anyway, just to remind, back in the day, the "problem" was even worse -- papers were in effect official voices of each side.
 

"But in terms of legality, bullion coins are also legal tender. American Eagle coins, which are bullion coins, are legal tender."

Well, yes, they can be legal tender. That is to say, you can pay a ten dollar debt with a numismatic gold Eagle, if you're stupid enough to do so. However, as the mint and treasury have only been statutorily authorized to issue coins in particular denominations, they can't up and mint a trillion, or even million, dollar coin. I suppose, theoretically they might be able to mint microscopic lead Eagles to roughly the same effect... The destruction of any credibility the Treasury department retains, that is to say.
 

"Anyway, just to remind, back in the day, the "problem" was even worse -- papers were in effect official voices of each side."

No, that wasn't worse, as the sides were the parties, not the government, and both were represented. That's a much, much better situation than having most of the media deciding to be the unofficial voice of ONE of the parties, in government.
 

Sandy:

From the post above: "the problem is our total lack of a mechanism for proportional representation. The best formal election systems in the world are Germany's and New Zealand's (modeled on Germany)"

Why do you think that proportional representation based on party, where some number of party establishment chosen candidates are sent to Congress, would be superior?


 

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To answer Mr. DePalma's question, I prefer proportional representation systems of the type that Germany has (with a reasonably high 5% threshold to get into Parliament) because it does a far, far better job of actually reflecting public opinion than does the first-past-the-post single-member district. In the age of computer-drive gerrymanders, both Democratic and Republican (though, because of 2010, it's Republicans who are the current villains), try to create districts that intentionally render irrelevant as large a percentage of the vote as possible congruent with assuring a "safe margin" for the preferred party's candidate.

Or, if one is disturbed by putting candidates exclusively in the hands of political parties, then one can adopt other forms of p.r., such as those used in Ireland. But the fact remains that we have not only a truly dysfunctional constitution, but also (and independently) a backward, often anti-democratic, and dysfunctional electoral system.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Sandy:

I understand (if not totally agree with) your desire for proportional representation.

I would suggest that some version of the ranked candidate system would be better than any system where you vote for parties and the party bosses choose the candidates to accomplish your goals.
 

However, as the mint and treasury have only been statutorily authorized to issue coins in particular denominations, they can't up and mint a trillion, or even million, dollar coin.

No, the platinum coin statute permits any denomination. Hence, the loophole, and why it has to be platinum.
 

No, that wasn't worse, as the sides were the parties, not the government, and both were represented.

Different sides are represented today (FOX/MSNBC, e.g.). Members of parties (like Jefferson) were in the government.

That's a much, much better situation than having most of the media deciding to be the unofficial voice of ONE of the parties, in government.

"Most" of the media are not "one" side -- there are a range of positions. Back in the day, the press actually specifically tried to be the official voices of parties. Now, there (if somewhat less so on some outlets) is some concern for an overall neutrality.

Again, now and in the past people went back/forth from private and public positions, including in the media. The current media provides more opportunity for analysts who logically come from the area they analyze. But, even then, "most" aren't & they want jobs, not for the government to control the media. That was your claim.
 

" Now, there (if somewhat less so on some outlets) is some concern for an overall neutrality."

It's easy to imagine that, if the side most of them have chosen to prostitute themselves to is your own. It's easy to tell yourself, "I'm right, so of course media striving to be objective are going to come down on my side most of the time."

But there's plenty of objective evidence, such as patterns of political giving, to blow away the notion that the media are roughly divided. No, they don't come down on your side most of the time because you're right. They come down on your side most of the time because they're on your side.

Eventually we're going to get either that openly partisan media we had at the time of the founding, and for most of our history, or we're going to get genuine state run media with censorship of everybody else. I'm hoping for the former.
 

Joe:

The news media is dominated by the establishment left and is very left when compared to the population at large.

http://archive.mrc.org/biasbasics/biasbasics.asp

The US has a long history of partisan media, but the modern era since the 1960s is by far the most slanted to one side.
 

The wingnuts are correct. Large corporations are notoriously left leaning.
 

BB:

Big business has no real problem with pay to play big government hobbling small to medium businesses.
 

Blankshot, I have no idea what that has to do with the blatantly left leaning conglomerates that own modern media companies.
 

Given Prof. Levinson's preference for some form of parliamentary system, I'd be interested in his thoughts about the German election results. Merkel seems likely to form the next government, despite having received just 42% of the vote.
 

By any measure a) she scored an impressive electoral victory (though not a majority) and b) as proportional representation "requires," she's going to have to find some coalition partners instead of presuming to declare an unequivocal "mandate" on the basis of her 42%. Compare the defective English system, where Margaret Thatcher strove forward with 42% of the vote, with the far better German one.
 

I don't think anyone can look at the past decade or so of American political history and conclude that if the founding fathers actually believed in what they were doing (rather than just crafting the only compromise they could pass), they were anything other than complete imbeciles at political theory or governance.

They just put way too many veto points into the system, if they believed their rhetoric about the evil of "faction", they certainly did nothing effective to stop it from happening, and they generally were way more concerned about the possibility that majorities might pass something bad than they were about governmental dysfunction.

Most likely, they were much more concerned with preserving slavery in the South than they were with creating any sort of a decent government.

Sandy's right. In a perfect world, we'd get rid of the whole thing (at least the portions dealing with structure rather than civil rights) and start over.
 

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