How to disarm Trump’s Treasonous “Nuclear Weapon”

By William K. Black

Donald Trump’s specialty is unintended self-parody and his recent statements on Fox News about how Republicans should engage in domestic economic terror by using a “nuclear weapon” against our economy prove that one can become wealthy and famous without having even the most tenuous grasp of patriotism, reality, logic, or ethics.  Here is Newsmax’s story of Trump’s treasonous ode to nuking the nation.  (Newsmax is an ultra-right site sympathetic to Trump, so their description was not slanted against him.)

“‘Look, the Republicans are sitting there with a nuclear weapon, so to speak,’ Trump said.  ‘They have the debt ceiling coming up. They can use that as part of negotiations, and they should.’”

Trump completed the self-parody by using these words to describe the talks about the “fiscal cliff.”

“‘The whole thing, the whole charade going on in Washington is politically irresponsible, what’s going on is unbelievable,’ Trump said on Fox News’s ‘Fox and Friends.’”

So true, it is “irresponsible” for Congress to fail to prevent the “fiscal cliff’s” austerity from inflicting a recession on us.  Logically, given Trump’s warning that austerity would cause such grave damage on the economy that it would be irresponsible to allow it to occur he must oppose austerity as a response to the Great Recession.  Logical coherence is not part of Trump’s toolkit.

In a brief interview Trump twice managed to contradict his logic about the need not to inflict austerity on our economy.

“Trump called the cliff a ‘curb’ because a deal of some sort will ultimately be hammered out, he believes. What is crucial is to push for a ‘big deal’ because Republicans have leverage, in the form of the upcoming debt ceiling debate.”

Trump describes the “fiscal cliff” as more like a “curb” because he is confident that the parties will reach a deal to undo its economy-destroying austerity.  He then pushes for a “big deal.”  That phrase is code for supersized austerity – an austerity program in the $4 trillion range that would be inflicted for a decade.  Inflicting severe austerity for a decade could cause multiple recessions.

Trump’s second internal contradiction was his enthusiasm for the prospect that the Republicans would blackmail us by threatening to nuke our economy.  What does Trump want the Republicans to extort via their nuclear blackmail?  Trump wants austerity through deep cuts to the safety net and social programs and he wants no increase in taxes for the wealthy.  Trump claims it is “irresponsible” to go off what he describes as a “curb” (aka, the “fiscal cliff”) because the austerity it would impose would cause a recession.  He wants to extort even deeper and longer austerity (and deeper and longer recessions) and force ever greater inequality on the nation.  Logically, that should be hyper-irresponsible.

It would give a normal person pause to put these phrases in the same argument:  (1) the Republicans “should” “use” the threat of the “nuclear weapon” (causing a default on our national debt) and (2) it is essential that we avoid “politically irresponsible” positions.  Trump clearly has no internal alarm that goes off when he contradicts himself only seconds apart.

Causing a default on our national debt is stupid, immoral, and un-American

Many writers have explained that not raising the debt ceiling does not reduce our debt – it causes us to default on our debt.  Trump thinks the Republicans “should” threaten to cause us to default on our debt.  He calls that the Republican Party’s “nuclear weapon” because it would cause such catastrophic damage to the nation.  The U.S., unlike nations using the euro, has a sovereign currency.  We allow the value of the dollar to float freely and we borrow in our own currency.  As a result, we can never be forced by external pressures to default.  We are not exposed to the bond vigilantes.  Even with large deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios we are able to borrow at exceptionally low interest rates because we can never be forced to default.  We can, however, choose to default voluntarily.  That is what Trump wants the Republicans to threaten to do, because he knows it could cause grave harm to our, and the world’s, economy.  Trump advocates economic treason as a means of extorting political advantage for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the American economy and most Americans.

A voluntary default would also be immoral and un-American.  The U.S. has the ability to pay all its debts, as it has for centuries.  There is no moral basis for us not to pay our debts to our creditors.  Defaulting would require us to violate every principle that made the nation great.

Only an incompetent negotiator could be extorted by Trump’s nuclear weapon threat

There are three reasons why any competent negotiator would cause Trump’s strategy of threatening to ruin the U.S. economy to blow up in the Republican Party’s face.  The primary problem with Trump’s strategy is that it is a nuclear strategy.  A nuclear strategy cannot be used – it can only be threatened.  If the Republicans pop a nuke and cause a national and global crisis they will destroy their Party.  They know that will happen.  No competent negotiator would give in to such a suicidal and treasonous threat.

Even if the Republican Party were so vile and treasonous as to be willing to nuke the U.S. and global economy President Obama could readily trump their effort at extortion.  President Obama can, and should, defuse Trump’s “nuclear weapon.”   He has three ready means to do so.  He can invoke the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, create money without issuing debt, or coin trillion dollar platinum coins.  These presidential options to defuse Trump’s nuke have been explained at length by other writers, so I will not do so here.  (I’ll note only that it is a common misconception that a nation with a sovereign currency issues debt for the purpose of obtaining funds for the government.  We routinely create money through keystrokes on Federal Reserve computers – and do so without creating inflation.)

No U.S. president who respected his or her oath of office would allow such a treasonous “nuclear” assault on our nation to succeed.  As the New York Times article reported, President Clinton, a competent negotiator who faced down the Republican’s efforts at budgetary extortion, explained that he would honor his oath of office and invoke the 14th amendment “without hesitation” “and force the courts to stop me.”

The third reason why any competent president would call Trump’s bluff and defuse his nuclear weapon strategy is that any other negotiating strategy would destroy his presidency.  If Obama were to give in to the extortion the Republicans could raise the debt limit only minimally and repeatedly use their nuclear weapon to extort Obama and force him to adopt every policy the Tea Party desired.  Obama’s knowledge that allowing Trump’s extortion strategy to succeed would destroy Obama gives Obama the correct incentives to call Trump’s bluff or to trump his extortion strategy through the three methods noted here.

Trump’s hypocrisy on partisanship

Newsmax’s story does not include one key quotation from Trump about his nuclear weapon.

“Billionaire businessman Donald Trump said he thinks the debt ceiling is Republicans’ ‘nuclear weapon’ in the ongoing negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

‘The Republicans have a very strong negotiating position,’ Trump said on a call to “Fox and Friends” Monday morning. ‘The debt ceiling’s coming up in another month and a half, and the debt ceiling is going to be devastating to Democrats if the Republicans want to play that card.’”

The Newsmax story quotes Trump’s ode to non-partisan “cohesion.”

“‘You’re looking at what’s going on and you see the lack of cohesion in Washington, probably, maybe in history it’s never been anything like it.’”

Partisanship is the problem according to Trump, and the solution is for the Republicans to threaten to pop a nuke (force the U.S. to default on its debt) that would ruin the U.S. and global economies because such extortion “is going to be devastating to Democrats.”  Trump’s nuclear weapon, unless defused by Obama, would be “devastating” to Americans, not just Democrats.  Indeed, it would be devastating to people throughout the world.

The trio interviewing Trump on “Fox and Friends” did not point out any of these examples of self-parody or logical incoherence by Trump.  The trio made no criticism of Trump’s treasonous proposal to hold the U.S. and global economies hostage in order to inflict austerity and extort ever greater inequality.  Here’s a thought experiment:  what would the trio’s reaction have been if any Democrat had gone on “Fox and Friends” and stated that the Democratic Party “should” use a “nuclear weapon” on the American and global economies unless congressional Republicans agreed to everything the Democrats desired?

22 Responses to How to disarm Trump’s Treasonous “Nuclear Weapon”

  1. Obama should initiate a preemptive strike and announce that is is going to start minting large denomination platinum coins immediately.

  2. should read, he is

  3. Quote, “President Obama can, and should,….. invoke the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, create money without issuing debt, or coin trillion dollar platinum coins. ”
    Please disregard all other words of this article.
    CHALLENGE, IMPROVE, USE AS YOUR GUIDE:
    “President Obama can, and should,….. invoke the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, create money without issuing debt, or coin trillion dollar platinum coins. ”
    “OMG- President Obama need only to join with Bernanke and “QE American Prosperity” ‘justaluckyfool

  4. RE: “Here’s a thought experiment: what would the trio’s reaction have been if any Democrat had gone on “Fox and Friends” and stated that the Democratic Party “should” use a “nuclear weapon” on the American and global economies unless congressional Republicans agreed to everything the Democrats desired?”

    The above requires higher order thinking skills. Note the pyramid at that link. Also note that empathic thinking or ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes’ would fall in the ‘analysis’ layer of the HOTS pyramid. Then remember we are dealing with Fox News (both the network and the viewers of said network) have trouble making it through the ‘knowledge’ and ‘comprehension’ levels let alone being able to move up 2 additional levels.

    I remind you that this is the same party (‘Fox News’ and ‘Republican Party Propaganda Network’ are interchangeable, right?) whose Texas Party Platform contained the following: “Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

  5. Dear All

    How about calling ‘it’ Growth Dividend,
    instead of deficit?

    ever yours
    Bob Eisenberg

  6. ARTICLE I, SECTION 8.

    The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

    To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

    AMENDMENT XIV, SECTION 4.

    The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
    ___

    In 25 words:

    The Congress has both the unconstrained authority to b0rrow on the credit of the United States and the constitutional obligation to uphold the public debt.

    What part of their Oath do they not understand?

    The Ambassador to Oafistan: http://www.bgladd.com/DonaldDiplomat.jpg

  7. Quote,”The Congress has both the unconstrained authority to b0rrow on the credit of the United States and the constitutional obligation to uphold the public debt.
    What part of their Oath do they not understand?”
    WHAT PART do you not understand ?
    Certainly they have the authority but where is it stated that they must act, except when running for office.
    Then the winners are allowed to betray those who voted for them while at the same time become one of the top 10%’ers.
    Why is it ? “Isn’t it correct that 100% of all the gain since 1976 has gone to the top 10%.
    http://rwer.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/in-the-usa-when-income-grows-who-gains-1976-2008-chart/
    “That’s right: 100 percent to the top 10 percent and zero for everyone else.”
    How great a job are they doing , ” to b0rrow on the credit of the United States …to uphold the public debt.”
    Wait for the ultimate betrayal; When Obama announces his nomination for Sect of Tres.-
    want a sure bet ? It won’t be one “for the people”, it will be “a bankster”.
    “justaluckyfool (Google Account)

    • It’s pretty simple:

      “where is it stated that they must act”

      Article I, Sections 7 & 8 (Congress) —> Amendment 14, Section 4 (unspecified) —> 31 USC 3010(b) (Congress), then —> 67 votes to override (Congress) should it become necessary. All pretty much in Congress’s court. They must act. Obama didn’t write and enact 31 USC 3101. Obama doesn’t get to legislate appropriations.

      The public debt “shall not be questioned.” Doesn’t say by whom, but the inference is rather clear. Wherein lies the Power of the Purse?

      Unless, of course, you want to foment some phony-assed Constitutional Crisis. Bring SCOTUS in to referee some New Year’s Eve Fiscal Massacre? Yeah, right.

  8. A resort to the 14th Amendment is unnecessary. There is a stronger argument to be made first, which is that the debt ceiling, in conjunction with other statutes, puts the President in the position of having to violate his oath of office, no matter what he chooses to do. Consider:

    – The debt ceiling prevents the issuance of new debt.
    – The spending in question is already legally authorized; the President cannot withhold it.
    – Obviously the President cannot unilaterally increase taxes to cover that spending.
    – Other statutes require spending to be offset by either taxes or debt issuance

    In this scenario, every possible action taken by the President will result in at least some prima facie violation of his Constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. A policy that creates this circumstance is Constitutionally absurd, and can be ignored at will.

    In such a case, the President has a duty to disregard at least one of the four legal constraints creating this situation, for it is better to violate one legal obligation, than to violate them all. And the only criterion he is obliged to follow in doing so, is to select the one which, in his judgment, will do the least Constitutional damage.

    • One option the president has is to order the mint to strike large denomination platinum coins (PCS) and use the proceeds to pay down the debt. This action is already on the books and simply requires a presidential order. Further information at New Economic Perspectives.

    • The spending in question is already legally authorized; the President cannot withhold it.

      Congress is in charge of both authorizing spending and appropriating the funds to carry it out. If Congress authorizes spending but doesn’t either appropriate funds or authorize the issuance of debt to carry the spending out, then I don’t think the President has violated his oath when the executive branch fails to spend.

  9. Charles Fasola

    Mr. Black,
    You validate and promote what the moron, Trump, declares simply by acknowledging him. Why? Why, waste effort and time doing so? There are far more important fish to fry than that piece of s&^t!!

  10. All this talk about minting coins and the constitution misses the reality. These fools don’t care about any of that. In fact they think you are the bigger fool.

    • I think the point is to not go along with the charade of “we have no choice, we must destroy the economy, since we’re out of govt money”.

  11. The President can use the three options mentioned by Bill. However, appealing to the unconstitutionality of the debt ceiling legislation on the basis of the 14th might be rejected by the Court if the issue gets that far on grounds that the President could have taken care of all obligations and still complied with the debt ceiling given the existence of the platinum coin and a second option, I’ll discuss shortly.

    Second, issuing money without issuing debt comes down to using the platinum coin, because the Executive can’t issue reserves or, except in small amounts, print money. The authority to issue unlimited money and banks reserves was delegated by Congress to the Fed. The Fed, however, can’t issue reserves to the Treasury, because Congress has prohibited it from extending credit to the Treasury.

    Third, the platinum coin would work and would probably have the best chance of the expedients we’ve discussed thus far of surviving a Court challenge, since the language of the 1996 legislation is plain enough in its failure to specify a limit to the Secretary’s authority to define the face value of a platinum coin.

    Fourth, however, the President can also have the Treasury issue debt instruments called consols. Consols pay interest in perpetuity; but their principal never has to be repaid by the Government. Because this is true, The amount of money “borrowed” through a consol doesn’t count against the debt ceiling. See beowulf’s comment: here.

    • Gimmicks. He doesn’t have the balls. He’d be impeached. And hung in effigy from the Carolinas to Colorado.

    • It seems to me that the 14th amendment only comes in where there is a threat of default. But Congress can argue that Geithner can prioritize the spending, and put debt service at the top of the list – and so there need be no default.

  12. “It seems to me that the 14th amendment only comes in where there is a threat of default. But Congress can argue that Geithner can prioritize the spending, and put debt service at the top of the list – and so there need be no default.”

    True. But how will people react to dranconian cuts in social programs? Hmmm. This might be just the thing to drive home what Republicans really want.

  13. Pingback: Obama commits Unilateral Disarmament as a Debt Ceiling Negotiator - New Economic Perspectives