October 1 2013
Okay, folks, you can relax--NSA won't be spying on you today.
That's a joke and it comes from a cartoon a friend of mine is sending around. It features a pensive guy, who is thinking:
Is there a government shutdown? Who will spy on me, waste my money, and have contempt on me?
From a practical point of view, only "non-essential" government workers will be affected by the shutdown. (You mean we are paying people who do non-essential jobs?) Still, I don't by any means want to make light of this shutdown. Any shutdown is still a serious matter. It is the outcome of an inherent propensity to overspend on the part of government. This AP article lays out how we got here. Also significant will be the political ramifications of this shutdown, which we can't know yet.
Perhaps I am a suspicious person but it seemed to me that Virginia’s Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who appeared on Fox’s Sunday talking heads program, was positively salivating for a government shutdown. Of course, what the senator actually was saying was that a shutdown would be horrible and that it would be the fault of the Republicans.
Well, here we are after late last night the Senate voted down a House-passed Continuing Resolution to keep funding the government that included a delay of a key part of ObamaCare. So really the shutdown revolves around ObamaCare, which hits a significant milestone today with the debut of the exchanges. The Senate also held onto massive subsidies for Congress that will prevent members and their staffs from feeling the full impact of ObamaCare. The rest of us aren't so lucky.
The Continuing Resolution with the delay provision was, as you know, a much watered down version of the original CR, which would have defunded ObamaCare. Leaving aside the issue of who will be blamed for the shutdown and whether Senator Ted Cruz was right to launch his faux-filibuster, was the defund strategy simply nuts?
James Poulos on Forbes this morning writes:
In all likelihood, Republican efforts to defund Obamacare are toast — and sooner rather than later. It appears to be a fantasy that a bill to defund would even make it to president Obama’s desk.
This straightforward reality has prompted many reasonable observers to ask why frustrated conservatives would bother risking a government shutdown over the affair. Suck it up and move on, they say — even if Obamacare is stupid or bad.
And they are being reasonable, but they’re also wrong.
The Republicans, a significant swath of the public believes, are intransigent jerks. But Poulos thinks that this is unfair. A dog of a law should be defunded, he argues. He writes:
Defunding anything occurs to us as a slippery slope — a slippery cliff. If you defund this, what’s to stop future crazy Members from trying to defund anything they don’t like?
What indeed? How else are bad laws to be disposed of? Repeal? Debates around repeal are the same debates: repealing a law that is a budget item is defunding it (and then taking its penniless body out back and hitting it with the shovel).
Our fear of a Congress consumed by efforts to defund disliked laws has inspired us to think that nothing should be defunded. In fact, we are so convinced that everything should be funded that we fear the only way to make good on our conviction is to always fund more than everything, a.k.a. increase the debt ceiling.
We have become a society that rather than creating haggles over how to divide up what has been created via taxes. Robert Samuelson calls this the “spoils society.” Every fiscal debate in Congress, it seems to me, revolves around whether we are to be a spoils society.
Another thing that is being played out in Congress now is Republican response to the way ObamaCare was rammed through Congress. If the Democrats had not taken advantage of temporary control of the presidency and both houses of Congress to pass an unpopular law with no compromise and no input from the other side this might not be happening.