The government will be tapped out on Oct 17, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Unless, that is, Congress takes:
… immediate action to raise the federal debt limit, which stands at $16.7 trillion.
Mr. Lew went on, as Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post reports, to do a little sermonizing.
“The United States should never have to choose, for example, whether to pay Social Security to seniors, pay benefits to our veterans, or make payments to state and local jurisdictions and health care providers under Medicare and Medicaid. There is no way of knowing the damage any prioritization plan would have on our economy and financial markets. It would represent an irresponsible retreat from a core American value: We are a nation that honors all of its commitments.”
One's instinct is to agree with all this lofty stuff. But also to ask a question.
We know the artificial limit on the nation's debt is whatever Congress says it is. And that sentiments like Mr. Lew's shift with the political winds. Before he became president, Barrack Obama was employing the same sort of rhetorical notes to justify his opposition to raising the debt ceiling.
But if the political number is arbitrary, then what about the real number? Is there such a thing? Is it possible to know what it is? Will there be recognizable signs that we are coming up against it? When that happens can Congress do something about it?
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew refused to say on national TV this morning whether the politically appointed counsel of the IRS, William Wilkins, has been asked about his participation in the federal agency's scandal:
"Chris, I am leaving the investigation to the proper people who do investigations," said Lew. "I don't think it's appropriate for me to do the investigation."
President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Jack Lew, the current treasury secretary, said today at a Capitol Hill hearing that he was aware "questions had been raised" about the IRS when he was at the White House:
"I was not aware of this audit until I met with the inspector general on March 15, 2013," Lew says.
A senator follows-up, "Had you heard of anything at the White House regarding -- "
Treasury secretary Jack Lew asked Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, to resign his post in response to the reports that the IRS had unfairly singled out conservative non-profit groups for close scrutiny. Miller has resigned, President Barack Obama said in a speech Wednesday night. The New York Times has more:
Jack Lew, who has been nominated as the next treasury secretary, oversaw up as many as a hundred Cayman Island investments when he worked at Citi Bank as chief operating officer of the alternative investment services unit, SEC disclosures reveal. It has previously been reported that Lew himself had been invested in a fund that was based in the Cayman Islands.
There weren't many memorable lines in President Obama's State of the Union speech. Indeed, only one leapt out at me: "As long as I’m commander in chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad."
In a premature celebration of Chuck Hagel's nomination being voted out of committee, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last night. At 1:48 a.m., the White House put out a "Statement by the President" denouncing the test. One understands such statements are staff-written. But presumably President Obama stayed up late or was awakened to review personally a statement put out in his name on a serious foreign policy matter.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama called Cayman Island investments "the biggest tax scam on record." Now, in 2013, President Obama has nominated Jack Lew, who had $56,000 in Cayman Island investments, to be the next secretary of Treasury.
It’s an old basketball adage that teams that apply a full-court press don’t like to be pressed themselves. They like to force the action, not have it forced on them. In a similar vein, those who seek to centralized power by spearheading the passage of new federal laws generally don’t like to obey those laws themselves. Laws are something for other people to dutifully obey — less important people.
Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, says he will oppose Barack Obama's nomination of Jacob Lew for Treasury secretary. " Sessions released a statement Thursday afternoon criticizing Lew's nomination. Here's an excerpt:
Jack Lew must never be Secretary of the Treasury. His testimony before the Senate Budget Committee less than two years ago was so outrageous and false that it alone disqualifies.
By choosing White House chief of staff Jacob Lew as his new treasury secretary, President Obama is bracing himself to battle congressional Republicans in 2013, not seeking bipartisan compromises with them. If confirmed, Lew would succeed Tim Geithner in the treasury job.