|Oct. 8th, 2013 @ 07:19 pm Hostage Politics|
So how about that government shutdown?
Gaps in government funding have happened before. But in this case a majority in the House and Senate would be willing to pass a continuing resolution that President Obama would sign. A minority of one house of Congress (on account of being the majority of the majority party, with a Speaker who is effectively controlled by that faction) is able to hold any measure that could pass right now back from a vote. This minority will wield whatever power they can wield unilaterally to hurt America until (they hope) Obama capitulates. Obama would be insane to capitulate, that would just guarantee the US faces more of the same indefinitely. Seriously, it's a mess.
If Obama did something analogous (and I love the analogy that article employs), we'd rightly think he'd gone off the deep end, and he'd probably be impeached. Past Republicans, no matter how they've talked up shrinking the federal government, have realized that doing so in the most disorderly way possible was madness. (And when they had control of the executive and both houses of Congress they had no interest in doing so at all.) But these Tea Party fellows are a different beast! Maybe they really would go all the way to the debt-ceiling, cut federal programs to the bone all at once, force Obama to balance the budget with a sledgehammer. (If that happened in a lasting way, I'd expect prolonged economic depression at least. Maybe even if the situation is swiftly resolved.)
It's not like the shutdown is even likely to save money. Even if furloughed employees are never given back-pay, the chaos is expensive. Research projects (already paid for and underway) are being ruined. Outbreaks of disease are dealt with less effectively. And that's just looking at direct costs to the federal government, there's a broader economic impact, too.
How can I put this in an analogy: You might save money by moving to a smaller house, if you plan prudently. You are unlikely to save money just by taking your existing house and demolishing a few rooms. I mean, you might save money in the long run that way, but it won't be the sort of saving money that makes for a happy story about living with one's means. It's the sort of saving money that makes for a story about going insane, wrecking your house, and eventually ending up face down in the gutter.
All this to kill a law whose major provisions are supported by substantial majorities. (The only major bit of the law that doesn't have majority support is the individual mandate, and you can't prevent insurance companies from excluding the sick without requiring the healthy to buy insurance. Well, you could, turns out some Republicans are proposing just that, but that seems like it would lead to a spiraling of costs which would destroy the insurance industry. Normally, the Republicans are the ones who note this sort of freeloading vicious cycle, but we're in bizarro world now!) It's a law that does as close to nothing as any law can while taking a reasonable shot at solving the problem at hand, but to hear Republicans talk you'd think it's the apocalypse.
Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act implementation goes forward, pushing costs down on the individual insurance market. Despite technical glitches, and despite a lack of coverage for the poorest in states whose Republican governors refused to accept federal funding to expand their Medicaid programs, in an egregious example of throwing the poor under the bus to score political points. To make that worse, while the act does have a backup plan for states that don't implement their own insurance exchanges, it doesn't have a backup plan for states that refused the Medicaid expansion, since it wasn't expected they could do so. So the poorest in those states have a mandate with no corresponding subsidy. It's a mess. Will Congress fix that? Who knows. Probably not. See you in 2014?
Given that the ACA is basically the Republican counter-proposal from the '90s, implemented wholesale (plus some extra stuff about websites), this all still makes me wish Clinton had just woken up one day and gone to the Republican caucus and said "you know what, you guys, we'll just go with that" and had it all wrapped up before Christmas. I mean, maybe they meant it.
On the media side, Fox News seems to have instituted an organization-wide policy to refer only to the "government slimdown" (even annotating quotes that refer to a "shutdown" with "[sic]", like "no, they really said 'shutdown', can you believe it?"). I will be solving all the world's energy problems just as soon as I can find a way to stick a magnet to that spin. They're also so caught up in their bias that they report satire as truth so long as it fits the narrative, then follow up with vague Twitter apologies that completely miss the substance of what they got wrong. But I suppose that's to be expected on any day ending in "y". Anyways, it's an impressive effort, but it fortunately doesn't seem to be enough.
What a mess.