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January 14, 2013

Top Headline Comments 1-14-13

Happy Monday.

Patterico has an exclusive about prosecutorial overreach and potential misconduct in the federal case against tech genius Aaron Swartz for "liberating" thousands of JSTOR academic articles. Swartz co-authored RSS 1.0 at age 14, built the platform that eventually became reddit, contributed to what became Creative Commons. He took his own life on Friday, at age 26, just as federal prosecutors disclosed that they'd withheld a crucial email in the case that could have sent Swartz to jail for 30 years. Alas, it's moot now. Patterico has more on the whole mess.

A New York state senator is claiming that an attempted burglary has been tied to the Journal News' publication of the names and addresses of gun owners.

Both the Treasury and the Fed have ruled out the platinum coin. On Sunday, Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley announced via email: "“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit."

That's good news. The platinum coin, like the IOU idea and the 14th Amendment idea, were just ways that Democrats wanted to use to allow Obama to sidestep negotiating with Republicans over the debt ceiling.

I have to admit to some irritation with Coley's vague statement. Does it mean Treasury and the Fed think the coin is illegal, unconstitutional, or just impractical? Does it mean the production of platinum coins for other purposes would be okay? Treasury and the Fed aren't saying, but have definitely killed the platinum coin trick proposal, so the debate over the coin's legality will remain an academic one.

I don't remember if I wrote about this at the time, but in light of this Politico piece, in which GOP officials are quoted as saying that many in the House GOP want to force a government shutdown, I thought I'd repost this bit of advice from Patterico: "If you don’t want to be blamed for a government shutdown, don’t say you’re trying to achieve a government shutdown."

That Politico piece and, apparently, the GOP officials who talked to Politico make some embarrassingly idiotic statements about what they think is going to happen if we blow through the debt ceiling. First, and most importantly, hitting the debt ceiling does not mean the U.S. will automatically or even immediately be in default of its loans. The government can prioritize its principal and interest payments over other spending. Legally, I think the government is required to do that, but the Democrats keep saying they'll spend the money on entitlements and cowboy poetry first even if it means missing loan payments.

Second, hitting the debt ceiling without a deal does not mean that there will be a government shutdown. This is the dumbest part of the Politico article and the GOP officials' threats. In the context of the debt ceiling being reached on February 15, they say their bosses aren't afraid to force a government shutdown if Obama doesn't allow spending cuts -- except hitting the debt ceiling on February 15 won't result in a government shutdown. The federal budget is authorized through the end of the current continuing resolution, which doesn't expire until the last week of March.

Similarly, letting the sequester go through will not result in a government shutdown either. It will trim federal department and agency budgets, but not close them down.

So the bloviating GOP officials whispering to Politico about shutdowns aren't serious about avoiding the debt ceiling or fixing the sequester. They're just jawing about a shutdown so they can boast to their own constituents about how tough they are, even if that's an utterly stupid and impossible claim in the current situation.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:55 AM

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