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Affluent Christian Investor | May 22, 2019

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Debt Limit Fight, Back to First Principles

Photo: United States Constitution

Photo: United States Constitution

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.”

Neil: “Touché.”

 

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