Truth Test: Mo Brooks on Shutdown, Debt Ceiling

(WHNT) – While the government remains shut down, rhetoric catches fire, and it’s our job to douse it with facts – when necessary.

We took statements from Congressman Mo Brooks (R-5th) to our Political Analyst Jess Brown for review.  We started with this quote from the Congressman, “A government shutdown has an adverse effect on our economy, although we’ve had through the 1970′s and 1990′s we’ve had seventeen government shutdowns, and as you know, we had a thriving economy in the eighties and in the nineties.”

Brown says, “It’s factually correct.”

That’s enough to earn a rating of true, though there’s more you should know.  For instance, the majority of those seventeen shutdowns were three days or less.  The average length – just six and a half days, which we’ve already passed with this shutdown.
The point is not all shutdowns are created equal.  Brown warns, “If [the statement] leads voters to believe that shutdowns are a common occurrence, and that when they occur they have no consequence, I would disagree with that generalization.”

Though again, we should emphasize the Congressman’s statement is factually accurate.

Our Verdict: True

Now let’s carve into some of the real meat, and talk debt ceiling.

Here’s the Congressman: “There is no circumstance in which America would default on its loans unless that’s what the President wants to do to punish the American people under the circumstances that we’re in.  We have roughly $2.5 trillion dollars in revenue per year, and interest on our debt is in the neighborhood of a quarter of a trillion dollars.”

So does the president really have that power?

Brown says, “I know of no statutory authority that allows a President to say, ‘I’ve got to make the interest payments on the national debt.  I’ll go make that payment and just automatically with the presidential authority and no authorization from Congress, I’ll just take money from other agencies of the government to which Congress has appropriated certain amounts of money.’”

Here’s the bottom line of what Brown is saying – it’s possible the President could prevent the United States from defaulting on loans, but it would represent a massive expansion of the President’s power, changing the constitutional balance of how the government decides what to pay for.

Our Verdict: Misleading

Ok, so now let’s get to the root of what Brooks is claiming.  He says the shutdown is necessary to change our nation’s course.

The reason?

He says the government could become insolvent, “It would be this decade.  If we continue borrowing money at a rate of a trillion dollars a year, then we will probably see an insolvency and bankruptcy within this decade.”

But to predict that, you have to pin down a lot of moving variables.

Brown notes, “You’d have to make all sorts of projections about our economy and the capacity of foreign nations and their economies to buy our bonds and a variety of things.”

That’s why we’re not going to make a ruling here.  We asked the Congressman for a prediction on when he thinks government insolvency could happen, and he gave us one.

Only time will tell us if it comes true or not.

Our Verdict: None