The phrase, "The Gold Standard," is often used to suggest that someone or something is the best of its kind. Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite had achieved the gold standard in nightly news. The New York Times was once the gold standard of print journalism. Many people considered Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" as the gold standard for political talk. Savannah Guthrie has gotten plaudits for her interviews of Jack Lew and Rand Paul this past weekend on that now tarnished show.
We have fallen quite a ways in journalism when the act of asking a tough question satisfies our appetite for good interviewing. I mention this because of two glaring falsehoods uttered by Senator Paul that were allowed to stand unchallenged in his interview. First, he claimed that since the government collects $250 billion a month and interest payments are $20 billion there is no need to default. Secondly, he states that the ratings agencies downgraded the US credit rating because we have so much debt.
While he may have been accurate in citing the amount of monthly revenue and interest payments, that does not mean we cannot default on our debt. Our debt is not solely a function of interest payments on bonds. Our debt is the sum total of all money owed. Every person owed money by the government has equal standing to collect that money. That debt happens to be protected by the Constitution (see the 14th Amendment). Right wing-nuts, especially the elected variety, often talk about how they carry the Constitution with them at all times. I just wish they would read it.
U. S. debt is the international gold standard of debt. I get angry when Republicans talk about the Social Security trust fund as merely a collection of IOU's. They are IOU's in a technical sense, as are all bonds. However, these IOU's have the phrase, "backed by the full faith and credit of the US government," on them. We have honored every single debt obligation incurred since our inception.
New York City was our nation's Capitol once. George Washington was inaugurated as the first President on Wall Street. Thomas Jefferson wanted the Capitol to be near Virginia. Alexander Hamilton said that he would agree to the move on the condition that the newly formed Constitutional government honored war debts. Since then, we have never failed to pay.
During the Meet the Press interview, Senator Paul said that the "Full Faith and Credit Act" required us to not default. The Full Faith and Credit Act is not a law, but a bill, and more to the point it is propaganda. The Constitution requires that we never default. Default, by the way, means missing any payment lawfully accrued.
The second falsehood, the one about the downgrading of our credit-worthiness, requires less discussion. The ratings agencies said at the time, and reiterated last month that the cause of the downgrade was not the size of current US debt, but the fact that Congress was now willing to use the debt limit as a political cudgel.