Oops, erratum…

by Alan Cohen

Well, I’ve just made my first major blunder as a blogger: posting something I immediately need to retract. My last post, on how to use the threat of giving Republican districts what they’ve asked for in order to break the debt ceiling impasse, was completely off-base. Here’s why:

First, it would be completely unconstitutional, given the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. This states that “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” So there is no credible way to threaten to withhold benefits just from districts that vote a certain way.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would set an awful precedent. Even though in this case (as I believe) it is not a raw political threat, but is actually giving voters what they asked for jurisdiction by jurisdiction, the same principle, if legal, could easily be applied to much more raw political threats, such as to withhold all benefits of certain types from districts held by the opposition as a way to compel people to vote for the majority party. This sort of practice would fundamentally corrupt the functioning of a democratic society.

So, as much fun as the idea was for the debt ceiling crisis, in all practical terms the suggestion was way off base. Thanks to my father for pointing this out.

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