Got into a "discussion" in the comments thread at Eschaton yesterday about the "full faith and credit of the United States" with someone who claimed it mattered not a bean what Bush said about the Social Security trust fund, since that money was owed to the government by the government, and so it could repay whenever it wanted to, on whatever terms it chose, unlike bonds held by foreign investors.
Well, of course, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. And making such hairline distinctions has nothing to do with reality. As witness the New York Times editorial this morning:
Imagine this: On his next trip to Japan, President Bush visits the vault at the Bank of Japan, where that country's $712 billion in United States government bonds is stored. There, as the cameras roll, he announces that the bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, are, in fact, worthless i.o.u.'s. He does the same thing when he visits China and so on around the world, until he has personally repudiated the entire $2 trillion of United States debt held by foreigners.That sums it up pretty nicely, I think.
Mr. Bush rehearsed just that act on Tuesday, when he visited the office of the federal Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.Va. He posed next to a file cabinet that holds the $1.7 trillion in Treasury securities that make up the Social Security trust fund. He tossed off a comment to the effect that the bonds were not "real assets." Later, in a speech at a nearby university, he said: "There is no trust fund. Just i.o.u.'s that I saw firsthand."
Fortunately, the governments, institutions and individuals who hold United States debt can tell a publicity stunt from a policy statement. Still, casting aspersions on a basic obligation of the United States government is insulting and irresponsible.