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There was the following sentence in Sept 29 New York Times article, titled “Obama should ignore the Debt Ceiling”:

“The debt ceiling is the fiscal equivalent of the human appendix — a law with no discoverable purpose. It is one law too many. Once Congress has set tax rates and spending levels, it has effectively said what it wants the debt to be. If Congress leaves the debt ceiling at a level inconsistent with duly enacted spending and tax laws, the president has no choice but to ignore it.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/opinion/obama-should-ignore-the-debt-ceiling.html

What does (the debt ceiling is) “one law too many” mean?

I found the idiom, “one too many” in the freedictionary com, which is defined as a euphemism implying drunkenness that comes from ‘one drink of liquor too many.’

Is “one law too many” a variation of “one too many”?

Is the author Henry J. Aaron, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution saying the debt ceiling is a superfluous fiscal measure by likening it to human appendix?

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    "Is [he] saying the debt ceiling is a superfluous fiscal measure by likening it to human appendix?" Yes. – Kevin Oct 1 '13 at 0:50
  • Also, I hate to go into politics, but "the president has no choice but to ignore it" is just plain wrong. Congress could theoretically ignore the debt ceiling, but not the president; he in no way controls the budget. – Kevin Oct 1 '13 at 0:53
  • @Kevin the president could in now way control the budget, unless he acted contrary to the constitution. the article argues that when faced with either taking an unconstitutional step or allowing a financial crisis to occur, the president should choose the least unconstitutional of three possible unconstitutional alternatives viz. to ignore the debt ceiling – jlovegren Oct 1 '13 at 2:25
  • The accepted answer (in its current form at least) is about as good an answer as you can expect on the English stack. If you want to get into this more, you'd be better off asking on the Politics stack. – T.E.D. Oct 15 '13 at 19:08
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OK the backstory is that the US has a statutory limit on the amount of money it can borrow (or amount of outstanding debt it may hold) called the debt ceiling.

The sentence is not meant literally. This is not the usage you're referring to (as in *I/I've had one too many beers). One law too many suggests that it is an unnecessary law.

"Is the author Henry J. Aaron, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution saying the debt ceiling is a superfluous fiscal measure by likening it to human appendix?"

Yes.

  • I agree with you and Kevin, but how is that not the same usage as 'one too many beers'? "I want some beers, but that last one was one more than necessary/advisable." / "I want some laws, but this one is one more than necessary/advisable." – hunter2 Oct 4 '13 at 9:26
  • @hunter2 I corrected a small error in my answer. When I said it was a different use, I meant that it was figurative. There's really no such thing as one law too many objectively speaking. Yes, one too many beers is subjective too; but, the speaker means it literally. They'd be too intoxicated if they consumed more. Also, I want some laws, is a stretch. You're "reverse engineering" it to fit the context. Most of the time, it's not I want some beers, but... It's usually either a declaration of a level of intoxication, or a negative response to an offer of a/another drink – Giambattista Oct 15 '13 at 19:28
  • As an aside, strictly speaking, the idiomatic use of one too many refers to consumption. – Giambattista Oct 15 '13 at 19:30

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