Alice’s Adventures in Shutdownland

Let’s see if I have this right. The government is shut down (except for the parts nobody wants shut) because the Republicans won’t authorize the money for it. But they’ve just authorized back pay for government workers whose jobs are shut down. In other words, Congress voted to pay them for the work they can’t do because Congress won’t vote to pay them to do it.

images-1The Queen of Hearts, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was able to believe six impossible things before breakfast. images-2Maybe she could believe this.

I’ve been a Repub-lican for 50 years. One thing the party always stood for was fiscal responsibility. Was. The shutdown not only doesn’t save money, it will cost money (especially with workers paid to stay home); it’s hurting innocent people; and harming America’s standing in the world. Playing games with the debt ceiling is even worse, threatening default on our financial obligations, with potentially catastrophic global economic consequences.

images-4This is not responsible. In fact it is criminal. Calling it blackmail isn’t a metaphor. The Republican position is, “Meet our demands, and nobody gets hurt.” In any other context such behavior will land you in prison.

This is not how democracy works either. Regarding the Obamacare issue, the Republicans have been defeated through the democratic process. It’s not permissible to nevertheless try to get your way through blackmail. images-5That’s the kind of politics we see in countries that lack a proper democratic culture, like most in the Middle East. I thought we Americans had advanced beyond that. This is retrogression.

I don’t believe it’s actually supported by Republican congressional majorities. Most must know how irresponsible and suicidal it is (it could never have succeeded). But they seem cowed by a band of crazies. Speaker Boehner needs to be the adult in the room, to stand up to them and put a stop to the nonsense that’s hurting the party and the country.

images-3He should have the House vote on “clean” bills to both end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. If the crazies want to oust him, let them try; there are more important things in life, and even in politics, than remaining speaker. But I doubt they actually have the votes. And their losing, once and for all, unambiguously, would be a very good thing. It might even lance the boil and prevent a recurrence.

But I’ve said before that President Obama and the Democrats bear much responsibility for this mess (they want it, for partisan advantage); and they must be part of the solution. They have to help Boehner do the right thing, by giving him at least a fig leaf of cover. images-7Maybe some meaningless blue-ribbon commission to review Obamacare (whose recommendations will be ignored).

In other words, something like the meaningless fig leaf of a deal on chemical weapons that got Obama off the hook on Syria.

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5 Responses to “Alice’s Adventures in Shutdownland”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I was hoping you would write about this. Thanks — right on! And on the international front, let’s do lots of fig leaves.

  2. Pedro Dunn Says:

    As a son of New Deal Democrats (whose father’s commission was arranged via a letter of recommendation from then Senator Harry S. Truman), I was once true-blue. I dumped that in the 1990s when Bill Clinton sold out organized labor via NAFTA. We need a third or maybe even fourth party alternative, and let the “Republicrats” keep all the extremists in their camps. Maybe Judge Robinson needs to create a new political machine? I’ve heard he has some historical expertise in that regard.

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thanks. I do have some experience . . . BATTLING a political machine. I don’t think I want to create one. But as for another political alternative, I do believe that is really a serious path. See my past post: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/can-we-stop-americas-decline/

  4. Lee Says:

    In our federal process, a law gets passed to authorize some action, then a budget gets passed to pay for that action, and then the debt ceiling gets raised to fund that budget. Thus, these laws must clear three hurdles. That’s a bit too much process for my tastes. For step 2, I’d like to see a process where the lack of a budget agreement means a “clean continuing resolution” rather than a shutdown. As for step 3, debts backed by the full faith and credit of the United States should always be paid as the default course of action — unless to the contrary, Congress passes a bill and the President signs it (or a Presidential veto is overridden) — and they had better have good reasons!

  5. frank S. Robinson Says:

    Yes — it’s a Rube Goldberg process that was never actually designed ab initio, but developed ad hoc over the years. Should be changed– but can you find the votes in Congress for that?!

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