Debt Limit Fight, Back to First Principles
My friend Neil Cavuto of Fox News had me as a guest on his show recently to talk about the fight over the government ‘shutdown’. I decided that at times of crisis, it’s essential to go back to first principles, and the first principles regarding this topic are found in the text of, and commentary about, the US Constitution. The Big Question here is not now much to spend next month, but rather who has the authority to decide. It is a question of the separation of powers. Watch the video here, or read the transcript below which has edited for clarity and accuracy. TV time is compressed time, and I’m afraid I compressed the process of the creation of the British House of Commons into too short a space in my initial phrasing.
Neil: “Congress is getting the bad rap, right? My friend – this guy’s a brainiac, by the way – Jerry Bowyer says, “You’ve got it the other way around, Mr. President and everyone else. The Congress is actually our great inspiration here.” Explain, Jerry.”
Jerry: “Well, the President might want to take some time to put up his feet, grab a bowl of turkey chili and open up the Constitution that he’s sworn to uphold, and look at Article 1 Section 8 which lays out the powers of the United States Congress in regards to spending and borrowing. It’s perfectly clear that those powers are entirely legislative powers, especially with an emphasis on the House of Representatives — the lower house — and there is absolutely no obligation whatsoever to negotiate with the President. In fact, we created a Congress precisely as a buttress against presidents who begin to act like kings and want to spend without paying any attention to the economy of the public purse. That’s why the founders – I went back and I read Madison’s notes on the Constitution and I read others’ notes during the Constitutional Convention — we know why they did that; they did it precisely for moments like this, when spending is out of control, so that that little House of Representatives, which is the branch closest to the people, is able to stop someone as powerful as a president from overspending and overborrowing.”
Neil: “Well, two things there: Madison never had to eat turkey chili and secondly—“
Jerry: “He wouldn’t have been caught dead with that.”
Neil: “… Would this have been envisioned, what we’re seeing now? In other words, a shutdown of the government: would…our creators have liked that?”
Jerry: “Yes. I think it was envisioned; I think Article 1 was written exactly for presidents like this. Look, what the founders saw is from the English history – is that kings always want money, right? They always want wars; they always want welfare; they always want power. And what happened with [the process which began with] the Magna Carta…was that people said, “Hold on a second… If you want our money, we’re not going to leave it up to you, O King, to decide what the taxes will be or how much is borrowed. If you want our money, we need a House of Commons.” Our Congress is simply the same idea: they looked at English history and they saw that presidents would want to become kings, and so they put in there a House of Commons that can say to the president, “I don’t care how powerful you are, I don’t care how persuasive you are, I don’t care how much you insult us.” This little group of people that’s closest to the people – elections every two years – can say ‘no’ to you and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
Neil: “That’s an interesting perspective… a twist on things, but then again, you’re a twisted guy, Jerry, a brilliant guy.”
Jerry: “You know, it’s going back to first principles. [The President] eats turkey chili but the body politic ends up with gas. That doesn’t seem fair to me.”
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.