A feature of divided government, especially when the House of Representatives is not controlled by the president’s party, is “debt-ceiling chicken.” The president’s party tries to bluff, with threats of a default, the House, which is responsible for initiating money bills, into giving the president whatever he wants, usually more money for redistribution, and no cuts to entitlement spending. The House does the same thing, usually pressuring the other party to accept spending cuts.
The cliff they’re both speeding towards is an unprecedented default on the government’s debt, which currently stands at $31 trillion. Each side calculates that voters will blame the other party, which will slam the brakes first as the cliff approaches. This year Joe Biden, or whatever Edgar Bergan or Edith Wilson is actually calling the shots, until a week ago took a hard stand against any negotiations on raising the debt ceiling with a “clean bill” as the early June deadline looms.
The spectators of this show usually decry the “partisanship” and lack of “bipartisan” cooperation the two parties are exhibiting. Yet disputes over the budget illustrate what the Founders had in mind when they crafted a divided and balanced government––to exploit this factional competition, which reflects a flawed human nature and its passions and interests, in order to protect freedom by setting ambition against ambition. Also, this process can force a more careful consideration of a proposed policy, and sift out the dangerous features and a bringing to light better ones.
Money is integral to this process. The desire for gain accompanies ambition and the lust for power. The ensuing disparities in property, as Madison pointed out, are the cause of rival political factions. Control of the public fisc allows factions to pursue their ideological aims at the expense of others.
During the writing of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris similarly identified the major factions as comprising the poor and the rich, those with “great personal property” and the “aristocratical spirit.” The “Rich will strive to establish dominion & enslave the rest. They always did. They always will.” To check the ambition of the “rich,” “the popular [non elite] interest will be combined [against] it. There will be mutual check and mutual security.”
Benjamin Franklin, in the convention’s discussion about compensation for the president, made a similar point in terms of government offices: “There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money,” which when united in one man “have the most violent effects. . . . The struggle for them [in England] are the true sources of factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless & mischievous wars.” A power like that of the proposed president will attract “the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits.”
These arguments based on a passionate and corruptible human nature explain why the Founders gave the “power of the purse” to the House of Representatives in Article 1.7.1.: “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.”
The fuel of ambition is money, as we have seen over the last two years as the Biden administration has borrowed trillions of dollars in order to subsidize the Dems political clients like public school teachers and corporate “green energy” grifters. Slowing down the growth in the yearly deficits that feed our monstrous debt lessens the Dems’ power to finance bad policies.
But why the House? Remember, originally the Senate was appointed by state legislatures, and so only indirectly accountable to the people. Given that money is the fuel of ambition, the Founders argued that money bills should originate in branch whose members were directly elected every two years, to counter the more powerful Senators who have six-year terms.
As future vice president Elbridge Gerry said, the House “was more immediately the representatives of the people, and it was a maxim that the people ought to hold the purse-strings.” The House of Representatives, James Madison added later, “were chosen by the people, and supposed to be best acquainted with their interests, and ability.” The “power of the purse,” in addition to acting as a check on the whole government, protected federalism by giving the sovereign states leverage over the greater powers of the Senate to check the president.
That’s why George Mason argued against giving the Senate the “power of the purse”: “Should the [Senate] have the power of giving away the people’s money, they might soon forget the Source from whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy.” Benjamin Franklin agreed: “It was always of importance that the people should know who had disposed of their money, and how it was disposed of.” Again highlighting the foundational belief in a flawed human nature and its lust for power, Mason continued, “An aristocratic body, like the screw in mechanics, working its way by slow degrees, and holding fast whatever it gains, should ever be suspected of an encroaching tendency. ––The purse strings should never be put into its hands.”
Finally, James Madison argued for the House controlling money bills as necessary checking the less democratic branches of the government: “The house of representatives can not only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government. They in a word hold the purse, that powerful instrument . . . This power over the purse, may in fact be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
This last argument explodes the claim today, usually from the technocratic progressives, that the House carrying out its Constitutional duty to check an overweening federal government is “obstructionism.” The only thing they are obstructing is the progressive ambitions for power and dominance at the expense of the Constitution and our unalienable rights.
And make no mistake: Our government’s relentlessly growing debt fueled by deficit spending paid for by borrowing; and its swelling entitlements long headed for bankruptcy, are now approaching disaster in a decade. Medicare and Social Security––which, along with other health care programs, consume nearly half the annual budget–– especially are at risk. Medicare Part A, covering hospital care, has enough money to pay benefits until 2028. The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund that funds retirement and survivors benefits, will run out of money in 2034.
Meanwhile, the Dems keep squandering money on “green energy” subsidies and other pork while they fret over “transgender” pronouns, parents protesting over inappropriate public-school curricula, and phantom “white supremacists.” Worse, military preparedness and national security spending is stinted even in the face of China’s naked ambitions.
As Jeffrey H. Anderson writes, “While real per capita defense spending has dropped, Great Society spending has skyrocketed. To quote [The American Main Street Initiative’s] Quick Hits, ‘In real per capita spending, we spent more than five times as much on defense in 1975 as on Medicare and Medicaid combined. By 2019, we spent 56% more on Medicare and Medicaid than on defense.’ What’s more, ‘In 1975, the costs of Medicare and Medicaid consumed 7% of all federal tax revenue. In 2019, they cleared 30%.’”
Every nation, as Adam Smith famously said, has a lot of ruin in it. But our ruin will come sooner than we think if Republicans fail to do their Constitutional duty as the Founders intended, and at least slow down our feckless spending of money we don’t have. And we the people need to cheer them on and ignore the propaganda from the Dems and their media jackals. Winning the game of debt-ceiling chicken is a good place to start getting our country back on course.
Mo de Profit says
The government will create more inflation, then their debt will be reduced.
The wealthy elites will gain from inflation as their assets increase in value.
The poor lose because their income effectively decreases.
Whenever and wherever the government gets involved in anything they cause prices to rise. The government creates inflation deliberately.
Jason P says
Excellent summary explaining why the House controls spending.
During the Constitutional Convention (CC) there was some controversy on giving the President veto power over Congressional legislation. The older guard, raised on Roman virtue and strict separation of power (re: Polybius) feared overlapping checks and balances would lead to corruption. The young turks in the CC pushed for checks and balances. Virtue (as Adams touted in his oft quote “our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”) was replaced with clashing vices (as Hamilton said of the British constitution “[Purge] it of its corruption … it would become an impracticable government …”)
It’s imperative that the House of Representatives regain control of spending. If not now, when?
Algorithmic Analyst says
I paid my bills for next month in advance, in case the financial system collapses. If it takes more than a month to fix this, I have no idea what will happen.
Jeff Bargholz says
Stock up on water and emergency rations. And if you don’t have a pistol, you need to buy one. I’m telling you as a guy who gets into conflict on a regular basis, you need to be prepared. You want to kill them. You don’t want them to kill you. Fuck that shit.
Algorithmic Analyst says
Yeah, we came 2 or 3 days away from running out of water around here, a few years ago when the power was out for 8 days during wildfires. The water tank is on a hill nearby and they need power to pump water up there I guess.
a. PETER SCHIFF and JEFFREY SACHS, both brilliant economists, are saying over and over and over again that
the US dollar will collapse, hyperinflation will result…….all by itself.
b. They also say if there is a war with CHINA……the collapse will be faster.
Another factor that would destroy the economy is this…….the Globalist US government has said,via its henchmen,that it would DESTROY the TSMC chip factories in TAIWAN if
China invades Taiwan.
In fact,doing it, would DESTROY the WORLD economy, right away 2 billion, 200 billion……………..no, 2 TRILLION dollars in loss.
1. First of all,China does NOT need to invade Taiwan to win,in a war.It just has to BLOCKADE it.
2. The Globalists know it,and so use the word “invade,invade”.
This is their plan, create a FALSE FLAG,say China has invaded Taiwan,destroy TSMC,the biggest CHIP factory in the world.
3. Former National Security Advisor under Trump, ROBERT O’BRIEN, said the US would do it in case of an invasion/ CIA False Flag operation.
Politician SETH MOULTON,Democrat party, has said the same thing.
Asked about Moulton’s comment ,the DEFENSE minister of……………….TAIWAN Chiu Kuo cheng said to the journal TAIWAN NEWS: ” The armed forces are responsible for defending
Taiwan and its people,MATERIALS and STRATEGIC resources. Therefore if they want to bomb this or that,
the armed forces will NOT tolerate this kind of situation.”
DANNY HAIPONG,pro-mulitpolar world,talks about it,check out:
“Taiwan DESTROYS the US for Threatening TSMC in War with China”
Onzeur Trante says
Meanwhile Biden is out of the country to promote green energy spending initiatives.
Hold on, America.
What I like best is that Biden and Karine Jean-Pierre constantly say to the press that the House has to raise the debt limit and not one of the members of our gallant press corps responds, “Er, they already did. The ball seems to be in YOUR court.” Great times. Great times.
Stephane S Lubicz says
It is about imploding the country from inside and outside.
Stephane S Lubicz says
It is about imploding the country from in and out!
Mark Sochor says
The founders assumed that common sense and a sense of responsibility with the peoples money would continue in the house who had to answer to the people every two years. They never envisioned a professional class of grifters being voted in year after year by an ignorant electorate who expected to get something for nothing.
angelo barbato says
Who will blink first? The RINOS of course!
A very good article. I think a debt default would wake the American people up to the concept that nothing is free. If you want all these social programs, then you have to pay for them. The fact that 60% of the American people paid no Federal Income taxes in 2020 should be a wakeup call that the entire tax system does not work. The same applies to corporations as well.
An amendment added to the U.S. Constitution requiring a Balance Budget each year is the only solution. No borrowing money anymore in the future.