General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

What does it mean in the 14th Amendment when it says that the public debt "shall not be questioned"?

Asked by LostInParadise (31494points) May 26th, 2023

What does it mean to question the debt and who, if anyone, is suggesting that we do so? This seems to be odd wording. It is not a matter of whether or not there is a debt. Everyone acknowledges that. It is a matter of whether the debt limit should be increased.

This is the related part of the 14th Amendment:
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. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

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9 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

I believe it means that legal debt has to be owned…it’s ours. It spells out what is legal debt. But it goes on to specify what would be considered illegal debt. I believe this was put into place as a sort of punishment for the southern states…to keep them from claiming war debt or claims of loss of property (the slaves) following the war.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it came about because of the debt accrued during the civil war, saying that any debts will be honored and paid. Moreover, it is securing government bonds, treasury bonds, putting the obligation of the debt into the constitution should prevent questioning the payment of the debt.

In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, the question of the debt ceiling should be dealt with when approving more spending. It’s really a budgeting issues.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie I agree with you. It doesn’t seem like the debt ceiling should not need approval as a separate item since these are budgeted items we have contracted to pay for already.

My take on the 14th amendment is that it is also saying that the government will not reimburse slave owners for the loss of their “property” although I recently learned that Lincoln had previously done so when the DC enslaved were freed.

As a side note, France demanded reparations for slave owners after the successful Haitian revolution and now Haiti is trying to get France to pay that money back.

seawulf575's avatar

As for the debt ceiling, when things happen in my life that require money I don’t immediately have I can use credit cards. When I hit my limit on all my credit cards and I need more money (or just want more things) I don’t get to tell the credit cards to extend my limit and just keep spending. Eventually all that debt has to be paid off. In Washington DC they have, for decades, not really cared about the national debt. There is no fiscal responsibility. There is a belief that they can just raise taxes to pay for all their wish lists. It is time to figure out how to pay down the debt. That starts with spending less. Just like in your own personal life, figure out what is truly a necessity, what you might need, and what you just plain want. If you make everything a necessity, you are lying to yourself. But congress cannot or will not take the effort to make those decisions. They are to corrupt and afraid they will piss off the wrong people.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 It’s both, we need to increase taxes and decrease spending. Both should be addressed.

The Republicans want to decrease taxes and increase spending, which means in practice they don’t care about being fiscally responsible. They say they want to decrease spending, but then they put forward all sorts of earmarks and happy to take federal money. It is a recipe to have to print more money. The Democrats do some more spending than I would like, but they are more willing to pay for it.

SnipSnip's avatar

@seawulf575 The bill of rights predated the civil war by 70 years.

As of right now at least five other people think this is a “great answer.”

seawulf575's avatar

@SnipSnip but the 14th Amendment didn’t get ratified until after the Civil War.

SnipSnip's avatar

@seawulf575 Thanks for the correction.

filmfann's avatar

It means we will honor our debts.
Kinda flies in the face of the current baloney.

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