Free Markets, Free People

government shutdown


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 20 Oct 13

This week, Michael and Dale discuss the government shutdown.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Well, that didn’t take long

Last night, on the podcast, I predicted the Republicans would fold on Obamacare, end the shutdown, and avoid a technical default on the debt. Less that 24 hours later, it appears that the Republicans have decided to celebrate the Columbus Day holiday by folding. The word is—as of 1:30pm Pacific Time—that the government will be funded through 15 Jan 2014, and the debt ceiling to around 15 Feb 2014. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

My position, as a strategic matter, was that the Republicans have simply been galactically stupid. The reality is that Obamacare, with the current Senate and President, will not be repealed. If the republicans, therefore, were not prepared to shut the government down for as long as the sun burns hot in space, they shouldn’t have shut it down at all.  Moreover, even if we assume, arguendo, that the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government forever, they shouldn’t have done it this month.

Alternatively, they could’ve sent up a temporary debt limit increase first, and ensured that was in place, and then shut the government down. At least that way, they could have a long-term shutdown without the specter of default hanging over it.

Then, they should have delayed shutting down the government until after the Obamacare rollout, which everyone with an ounce of sense knew was going to be a failure. Assuming they could have gotten the senate to sign on to a clean budget deal that would’ve funded the government for some period of time, that would’ve made the Obamacare rollout failure the top story last week. Instead it got overshadowed by the budget fight and the shutdown. The Republicans effectively did the Obama administration a favor. Otherwise, they could’ve waited until the failure of the Obamacare rollout was clear, then could’ve offered to delay the personal mandate for a year, to match the business mandate delay, as a gesture of good will to give the Administration some time to "get the system fixed."

Sure, the Republicans—or at least a plurality of them—were elected to repeal Obamacare. Sadly, the electorate as a whole didn’t provide them with the political power to make that happen. Those Republicans, therefore, cannot simply wave a handful of magical fairy dust and make Obamacare disappear. Absent a new resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or the program’s collapse under its own weight, Obamacare will be the law until 2017. That’s just an undeniable fact.

The shutdown was a big game of chicken. The problem is that I firmly believe that President Obama is fully willing to have the US technically default on its debt rather than agree to let Obamacare loose. He isn’t going to veer away at the last minute. He’ll go all the way to default, then blame Republicans for it, and his water carriers in the media will be glad to repeat that message. As Michael said last night on the podcast, at the end of the day, this isn’t about the debt, or default, or Obamacare. It’s about taking the chance to destroy the Republican Party’s opposition.

And again, I go back to my oft-stated position that I want Obamacare implemented. The electorate effectively voted for it, they rejected the chance to repeal it, so they should get it. good and hard.

All the government shutdown did—a shutdown that the republicans didn’t have any plan to implement, by the way—is expose the Republicans as ineffective and, ultimately, feckless. So, this appears to be ending exactly as I knew it would, with the Republicans having accomplished nothing but cause an unnecessary uproar for a couple of weeks, and obscure the Obamacare rollout’s failure.

It doesn’t do much real-world good to temporarily stand for your principles, without any thought-out plan or strategy, knowing you will eventually cave, with the inevitable result of making it measurably more difficult to stand for your principles in the future.

In basic weapons training, one of the first things you learn is that you never pull a gun on someone unless you’re fully ready to put two rounds into the body and one to the head. In this case, the Republicans pulled the gun, brandished it wildly for dramatic effect, and now appear to be ready to calmly snap it back into the holster.

Fail.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Oct 13

This week, Michael and Dale discuss the government shutdown.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Poll: GOP gets most of the blame for shutdown, but Obama approval dips to 37%

Not that I care, particularly, who gets the blame in all of this.  Frankly I’m with the “a pox on both your houses” group that finds the entire Congress and the President to be equally at blame.  But then there’s the “I’m fine with the shutdown and it is important for the GOP to make the spending point” that finds me mostly on the GOP’s side.

Look, we’ve seen the government shutdown before.  And despite all the scare rhetoric, we’re not going to default on our debt.  Nope, this is about how inconvenient this bunch who continues to want to run up debt can make this shutdown seem to the voters.  The idea, obviously, is to have them screaming and whining enough to push the GOP into their usual position – the dying cockroach, where they give in and let the Democrats have their way.  Result?  The usual – more spending and more debt.

Anyway, to the AP poll:

The Associated Press-GfK survey, out Wednesday, affirms expectations by many in Washington — Republicans among them — that the GOP may end up taking the biggest hit in public opinion from the fiscal paralysis, just as that party did when much of the government closed 17 years ago. But the situation is fluid nine days into the shutdown and there’s plenty of disdain to go around.

Overall, 62 percent mainly blamed Republicans for the shutdown. About half said Obama or the Democrats in Congress bear much responsibility.

“About half” blame the Dems and Obama. Yet, Obama’s approval ratings drop by 10 points from his previous low of 47%. Hmmm. Must be more to it than “about half”, huh?

But the media spin machine prefers to lay it on the GOP.

As for ginning up support to pressure the GOP to cave, there’s still a ways to go:

More than 4 in 5 respondents felt no personal impact from the shutdown. For those who did, thwarted vacations to national parks, difficulty getting work done without federal contacts at their desks and hitches in government benefits were among the complaints.

And the “impact” with the worst optics (and mostly blamed on the administration)?  The Gestapo like tactics of the Park police and the “Barrycades” at national monuments and parks.

More results:

— Sixty-eight percent said the shutdown is a major problem for the country, including majorities of Republicans (58 percent), Democrats (82 percent) and independents (57 percent).

— Fifty-two percent said Obama is not doing enough to cooperate with Republicans to end the shutdown; 63 percent say Republicans aren’t doing enough to cooperate with him.

— Republicans are split on just how much cooperation they want. Among those who do not back the tea party, fully 48 percent say their party should be doing more with Obama to find a solution. But only 15 percent of tea-party Republicans want that outreach. The vast majority of them say GOP leaders are doing what they should with the president, or should do even less with him.

— People seem conflicted or confused about the showdown over the debt limit. Six in 10 predict an economic crisis if the government’s ability to borrow isn’t renewed later this month with an increase in the debt limit — an expectation widely shared by economists. Yet only 30 percent say they support raising the limit; 46 percent were neutral on the question.

I didn’t look into the numbers on the poll, but I’d bet it is a bit Democrat heavy.  That said, it’s interesting that a majority within that poll said Obama isn’t cooperating enough.  That’s right, that’s over half.  Somehow that’s buried in all of this (and yeah, that’s not just ‘about half’, that’s over half).

And the real story within the poll:

Most Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job, the poll suggests, with 53 percent unhappy with his performance and 37 percent approving of it.

The point?

It seems to me the “blame” is pretty evenly divided.  I guess you can claim the GOP is getting most of it, but when you see an already low presidential approval rating drop by 10 point in the matter of a couple of weeks right in the middle of this nonsense, it’s hard to claim that 53% of the voters aren’t blaming the President.

However, if your messaging is directed toward blaming the GOP, well, you just sort of bury that in the story.

~McQ


What is the budget endgame? And why do I even care?

So, first off, sorry about no podcast tonight. Bruce is away for a few days, and I was caught up in something.

Anyway, how about that government shutdown, huh?

Obamacare is the central issue, of course. Republicans don’t want it, and Democrats don’t want to abandon it. So, the whole government shutdown is really about whether or not Obamacare gets repealed or gutted. Both sides have staked out their claim, and the only climbdown I can see for either side would entail a massive loss of face. I don’t see how any bill that can pass the House can pass the Senate. And even bills with almost unanimous House support, such as a couple of the peicemeal funding deals the House passed this weekend, are DOA in the Senate.

So far, it’s clear that the Senate Democrats won’t take up any piecemeal funding at all, since that is tantamount to surrender. After all, if they go down that path, there is one funding bill the Senate will never get from the House, which is an Obamacare funding bill.

What is the endgame, then? When does some sort of deal emerge? I dunno.

I suspect the Republicans will cave, because Obama will simply veto any bill they passed that defunds the ACA. I just don’t see how Republicans can win this, unless there is some surge of public disapproval against the Democrats that threatens them wholesale in 2014. Unless the Republicans were willing to shutdown the government for…well…ever over Obamacare, then they shouldn’t have shut it down at all. I don’t think Republicans are willing to do that, so I think they’ll eventually fold without accomplishing anything

My view, of course, is that a continuing government shutdown over Obamacare is pointless. I want the ACA fully implemented. I think it will be a staggeringly massive failure, and I want that that failure to occur.  The voters had their chance to elect a Congress and a president that would overturn it.  They chose to do otherwise. So…screw ‘em.  They voted for it. They should get it. Good and hard.

Over and above all that, I go back, once again, to wondering how long all of this can go on. The Right and Left in the country have fundamentally different ideas about the purpose and role of government. Those ideas are completely incompatible. So, why would either side continue to consent to rule by the other?

I just don’t know. I don’t know about any of it. That’s why I don’t write about politics much anymore. I’ve seen the idea of individual liberty be consumed by this ever-encroaching collectivism for my entire life. Nothing much has stopped it. I’m not sure that there’s much of anything that can stop it, other than to let it run its course, and for the American people, hopefully, to realize that the promises of collectivism are false, and that to the extent it brings economic equality, it is an equality of poverty—except for government officials and their cronies, of course. They’ll always have their dachas outside Moscow. Or farms in the Virginia countryside, as the case may be.

And if the American people don’t ever realize that…well…then they don’t, and they deserve whatever they get. I’m pretty sure that what I write about it won’t effect it much either way. And, frankly, the way things have gone for my lifetime, the long slow surrender to collectivism is almost at the point of no return. I expect I’ll do what I can to enjoy the dying fruits of the country our forefathers bequeathed to us for as long as I can, and hope I die before the Levellers finish looting it, and it’s gone.

So, I’ve been driving a new Chrysler 200 for the past few days. I’ll drive it a few more days. Then I’ll write about it this week. That’ll give me a lot more pleasure than writing about Washington power games and the declining state of our political culture ever will.


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Shutdown Theater

Some interesting things are happening for this government shutdown. The most interesting thing about them is that they’re entirely unnecessary.

For instance, the National World War II Memorial is in the middle of the Mall in Washington DC. Like the Korean and Vietnam memorials, it is an open-air monument that consists mainly of a oval arrangement of stone plinths, with a fountain in the center. It is unmanned by government personnel. Yet, for some reason, the Administration has set up fences around it—and other open-air monuments, with festooned with signs declaring the monument “closed”.  In other words, the Administration intentionally spent the time and money to close off open-air monuments that aren’t manned by government personnel anyway. They’ve even tried to prevent actual WWII veterans from entering this unmanned, open-air memorial. These vets didn’t like that, and essentially ignored the barricade.  I suppose that using unmanned, portable fencing to try and intimidate the guys who landed on Omaha Beach in the teeth of withering machine gun fire is not an optimally effective strategy. Apparently, not even the threat of arrest was particularly effective.

Happily, others are resisting these shutdowns, too, as on the Great Appalachian Trail, where the public ignored the barricades put up by the National Park Service and went to the park anyway. But the park service is serious about doing what they can to ensure that the public can’t use any national parks, going so far as to order the closure of the nation’s only privately-run park.

In addition, a number of government web sites have been shut down. Moreover, the government’s position is that all the web sites need to be shut down even if it’s cheaper to keep them running. Now, I can see if there are no personnel available to update the web sites, but the sites themselves are still up. They are merely either shunting off visitors to a “We aren’t going to let you see our web site” page at USA.Gov, or they are simply hiding their content with some extra Javascript coding. So, the sites are actually operational, the content is still there, and in some cases, still being delivered to browsers—along with additional code that hides it. So, essentially, none of the web sites are being shut down. They’re just not allowing you to look at them—even though the sites are still up and running. They aren’t unplugging their web servers, shutting out the lights, and going home, they’re just hiding them from you.

Let’s be very clear about what’s happening here. None of these things are unfortunate consequences of the government shutting down. These things are nothing more than intentional attempts to make the shutdown as inconvenient as possible.  This is shutdown theater, and nothing more. It is enraging, because it is just a cynical PR move to make the shutdown seem more inconvenient than it actually is.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 29 Sep 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the government shutdown and Republican party.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Apr 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss this week’s government shutdown battle and the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Musing about government shut down

Obviously the first and most important point to be made about the possibility of the government shutting down this week is the fact that had Democrats, who held a majority in both the House and Senate last year, done their basic job of passing a budget, this wouldn’t be an impending problem.

Now, unsurprisingly, it has devolved into a political battle pitting the Republicans on the side of cutting spending as their constituency insists upon (and voted for) against Democrats who, failing to do their job last year, now are dragging their feet in the Senate (the House passed a continuing resolution to fund government 46 days ago) and making veto threats from the White House.

Funny, how politics works, isn’t it?  Those who didn’t do their job last year or provide any leadership on the subject are now actively working against passage of a stop-gap funding measure and prepared to blame those who are attempting to fix the problem for any government shutdown which might occur.

While he had every opportunity to weigh in on the budget last year when Democrats didn’t pass one, now that he sees political advantage in weighing in (he just started his 2012 re-election campaign remember) we finally hear from President Obama:

“What we can’t be doing is using last year’s budget process to have arguments about abortion; to have arguments about the Environmental Protection Agency; to try to use this budget negotiation as a vehicle for every ideological or political difference between the two parties. That’s what the legislature is for, is to have those arguments, but not stuff it all into one budget bill.”

Now he takes a stand.  When his party failed to pass a budget last year?  Crickets.  Apparently fully prepared to live on continuing resolutions during the tenure of the Democratic controlled Congress, now he’s putting his foot down.  Instead of working to ease the situation and negotiate a settlement that would be acceptable to both parties, he threatens a veto.

“On the issue of a short-term extension, we’ve already done that twice. We did it once for two weeks, then we did another one for three weeks. That is not a way to run a government.

No kidding.  But where in the heck was the president last year when Congress failed in its duty and set this predicament up?  The government has been working on “short-term extensions” since October of last year.  Now, suddenly, they’re a problem.

I don’t disagree with Obama’s points, I just am disgusted by the disingenuousness of the argument.  Not that it surprises me, however, at all.

But when government shuts down, and the blame game begins, remember the reason that such a situation even developed in the first place.  Congressional nonfeasance and lack of presidential leadership.

~McQ


Is a government shut down gaining favor among voters?

Apparently, according to a Rasmussen poll, a majority think a government shutdown would be a good thing if it led to deeper cuts in spending.

I’m not sure how seriously to take this in light of other polls which say Americans want cuts but not to any number of our most expensive entitlements.

That said, let’s look at the numbers in the Rasmussen report.  Again, as far as I’m concerned, the key demographic here is “independents”.  They’re the swing vote in any national election.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats say avoiding a government shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans – and 67% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties – disagree.

That works out to 57% of the total saying that deeper spending cuts are more important than avoiding a government shutdown.

To most that would mean the GOP is on the right track pushing deeper cuts.

Oh, and one little note here, just in passing – all of this could have been avoided if the Democratic Congress had done its job last year and passed a budget.  As it turns out, I’m glad they didn’t because just like the health care bill, I’m sure we’d have been stuck with an expensive monstrosity.  But what’s happening now about “government shutdown” is a direct result of Congressional Democrats not doing their job. 

That said, let’s look at another interpretation of the numbers from Rasmussen.  This one shows the divide between “we the people” and “they the politicians”:

There’s a similar divide between Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-two percent (52%) of the Political Class say avoiding a shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Mainstream voters put more emphasis on spending cuts.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Political Class voters say it is better to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at a level most Democrats will agree to. Sixty-six percent (66%) of those in the Mainstream would rather see a shutdown until deeper spending cuts can be agreed on.

Most of those in the Political Class (52%) see a shutdown as bad for the economy, but just 38% of Mainstream voters agree.

So … what is it going to be GOP?  Stick with your guns or cave?

BTW, using the Rand Paul “we spend $5 billion a day in government” standard, a shut down sounds like a money saving opportunity doesn’t it.  Call each day a defacto spending cut.  10 days, $50 billion. 
 
I like it.

~McQ