Posts Tagged ‘Government shutdown’

Abandoning the Pretense

October 7, 2013

Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times that the media shouldn’t even bother to pretend to be objective since the Republicans are trying to blackmail the country. I don’t normally read the New York Times, so I have to thank Hotair.com for bringing his column to everyone’s attention. Here are some excerpts.

SUPPOSE President Obama announced:

Unless Republicans agree to my proposal for gun control, I will use my authority as commander in chief to scuttle one aircraft carrier a week in the bottom of the ocean.

I invite Republican leaders to come to the White House and negotiate a deal to preserve our military strength. I hope Republicans will work with me to prevent the loss of our carrier fleet.

If the Republicans refuse to negotiate, I will be compelled to begin by scuttling the U.S.S. George Washington in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, with 80 aircraft on board.

In that situation, we would all agree that Obama had gone nuts. Whatever his beefs with Republicans, it would be an inexcusable betrayal to try to get his way by destroying our national assets. That would be an abuse of power and the worst kind of blackmail.

And in that kind of situation, I would hope that we as journalists wouldn’t describe the resulting furor as a “political impasse” or “partisan gridlock.” I hope that we wouldn’t settle for quoting politicians on each side as blaming the other. It would be appropriate to point out the obvious: Our president had tumbled over the edge and was endangering the nation.

Today, we have a similar situation, except that it’s a band of extremist House Republicans who are deliberately sabotaging America’s economy and damaging our national security — all in hopes of gaining leverage on unrelated issues.

The shutdown of government by House Republicans has already cost at least $1.2 billion, with the tab increasing by $300 million a day. Some estimates are much higher than that.

The 1995 and 1996 shutdowns cost the country $2.1 billion at today’s value, and the current one is also likely to end up costing billions — a cost imposed on every citizen by House Republicans, even as members of Congress pay themselves.

The government shutdown and risk of default also undermine America’s strength around the world. It’s not just that 72 percent of the intelligence community’s civilian work force has been furloughed. It’s not simply that “the jeopardy to the safety and security of this country will increase” daily, according to James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

Nor is it just that the White House telephone number is now answered with a recording that says to call back when government is functioning again. It’s not simply that several countries have issued travel advisories about visiting America. It’s not just that we’re mocked worldwide, with the French newspaper Le Monde writing: “Jefferson, wake up! They’ve gone crazy!”

Rather, it’s that America’s strength and influence derive in part from the success of our political and economic model. When House Republicans shut our government down and leave us teetering on the abyss of default, we are a diminished nation. We have less influence. We have less raw power, as surely as if we had fewer aircraft carriers.

It is the executive branch that is making the decisions on what is deemed nonessential and it is the President who will not budge an inch on the implementation of Obamacare, even though its introduction has been fraught with glitches. It is the President who has decided to close down parks and monuments in order to make the shutdown hurt as much as possible. If we want to put things in terms of Kristof’s simile than it really is the President who is sinking aircraft carriers.

But this is beside the point. Here is the main point of the column.

Some Americans think that this crisis reflects typical partisan squabbling. No. Democrats and Republicans have always disagreed, sometimes ferociously, about what economic policy is best, but, in the past, it was not normal for either to sabotage the economy as a negotiating tactic.

The stakes rise as we approach the debt limit and the risk of default — which the Treasury Department notes could have an impact like that of the 2008 financial crisis and “has the potential to be catastrophic.” Astonishingly, Republican hard-liners see that potential catastrophe as a source of bargaining power in a game of extortion: We don’t want anything to happen to this fine American economy as we approach the debt limit, so you’d better meet our demands.

In this situation, it strikes a false note for us as journalists to cover the crisis simply by quoting each side as blaming the other. That’s a false equivalency.

So, journalists should not try to see both sides and report the facts so the reader can decide for himself. They should take the side of the Democrats because they are clearly in the right and the Republicans are clearly in the wrong. To be honest, I wish the mainstream media would abandon the pretense that they are objective. More and more they have become the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party and I wish they would just admit it.

 

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Who’s to Blame

October 4, 2013
James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

It’s all his fault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael Barone has placed the blame for the current government shutdown and gridlock generally squarely where it belongs, on James Madison. He explains his reasoning in his column at Townhall.com.

The problem was caused by James Madison. And by the 39 other men who signed the Constitution in 1787.

The problem, of course, is the government shutdown. It was caused because the Framers of the Constitution wisely provided for separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The president would faithfully execute the laws and be commander in chief of the military, but both houses of Congress would have to approve of every penny the government could spend.

In the early republic, it was widely assumed that presidents could veto legislation only it was deemed unconstitutional. Disagreeing with policy was not enough.

That changed after Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and was promptly reelected. Jackson claimed to act on constitutional grounds, but it came to be understood that presidents could veto laws they disagreed with.

That understanding, together with the constitutional structure, imposes something like a duty of consultation between the president and members of Congress. Otherwise — and you may have heard about this — the government will have to shut down.

Government shutdowns have occurred more frequently than the media is telling us.

Astonishingly, Obama said in a prepared statement that no president had negotiated ancillary issues with Congress when a shutdown was threatened. Four Pinocchios, said Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler.

The Post’s Wonkblog helpfully listed 17 government shutdowns since the late 1970s. Almost all involved legislative-executive disagreement over ancillary issues

Divided government is more the norm than the exception, and is likely to be a continuing feature of American politics.

Democratic voters — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — are heavily clustered in certain central cities. They give Democrats an advantage in the Electoral College.

Republican voters are more evenly spread around beyond these Democratic bastions. That gives Republicans an advantage in the House of Representatives.

So both sides have a legitimate mandate — but not an unlimited one.

Republicans are furious that their members can’t defund or delay Obamacare. They want to see politicians stand up yelling, “No!” Theater has a function in politics.

But in fact, they’ve had a partial victory this year, a win that didn’t seem likely last December. By accepting the sequester despite its defense cuts, Republicans have actually dialed down domestic discretionary spending.

Democrats’ position now is essentially the sequester. They’re swallowing something they hate. No wonder Obama seems sullen.

So both sides will have frustratingly partial victories and not get everything they want. That’s how James Madison’s system is supposed to work in a closely divided country.

Darn those founding fathers. It almost seems that they were afraid that a government that was too centralized and powerful would devolve into tyranny so they placed all sorts of limits on the government. That’s just silly. Everybody knows that could never happen. The government is here to help us all and the best way to allow it to so it would be to get rid of all those pesky constitutional restrictions and allow the Light Worker to do his job. Right?

 

 

The President is a Jerk

October 3, 2013

That’s the nicest thing I could call him for his present actions. What actions? President Obama is deliberately orchestrating the partial shutdown of the government in such a way as to inconvenience the greatest number of Americans possible. Read this article from the Daily Caller.

Although President Obama claims that he can’t avoid shutting down public sites and monuments, war memorials were in fact kept open during the 1995/1996 government shutdowns.  The administration’s decision to barricade the Lincoln Memorial marks the first time in its history the memorial has been totally off limits to visitors during a shutdown.

The administration has also balked at efforts by non-governmental groups to maintain access to public sites. (Related: RNC offers to pay to keep WWII memorial open)

But during the Clinton-era shutdown, World War II veterans kept the Pearl Harbor memorial open.

“Despite the federal government shutdown and an unrepaired sign that reads ‘Arizona Memorial closed,’ tourists are still getting expert commentary about the World War II memorial at Pearl Harbor,” wrote the Associated Press on January 1, 1996.

“It’s our way of helping to preserve the history of this place,” Bob Kinzler, president of the Aloha Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, told the AP.

Barricades went up in national parks across Washington, D.C. Wednesday, including the Lincoln Memorial. This, too, was unprecedented.

It is not clear how much taxpayer money the Obama administration is paying to ensure that government sites and services remain shuttered to taxpayers. Popular Washington spots such as the World War II memorial are now guarded by more security personnel than they are during normal operations, while federal employees have been dispatched to put up barricades on capital bike paths and other public grounds that are not usually patrolled at all.

Obama’s team has also been caught deliberately punishing World War II veterans trying to visit their own memorial, with one administration official telling a veteran’s supporter, “It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?” (Related: Obama admin. knew about WWII veterans’ request and rejected it)

The American people are currently paying for eight mounted cops to keep people out of the World War II memorial.

Daniel Burnett, a volunteer with Honor Flight, sent The Daily Caller FOAIed documents showing how much the Park Service is spending on the mounted police. To house, feed, and care for the horses it costs more than $41,000 year. Park police starting salary is $52,020, according to their website.

Another unprecedented aspect of the current shutdown is that the president has until Wednesday evening refused any discussions with the opposition leadership. In 1995 and 1996 President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich negotiated vigorously and struck several  compromises, such as 75-percent funding plan that lasted more than a month. (Related: US economy boomed during 1995/1996 shutdown)

I am positive that enough non-essential functions of government could be suspended in such a way that the average person might not even be aware of any shutdown at all. Instead, President Obama has decided to spend more money to make sure the public suffers from his tantrum.

Here is another one from PJMedia.

Most of the news about the “Shutdown Theater” — unnecessary closures ordered by the Obama administration to purposely maximize the pain of the government shutdown — has focused on the Washington, DC area, but the epidemic of artificial Potemkin Suffering has now struck the West Coast as well.

San Francisco’s Cliff House, a privately owned and very profitable restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was suddenly and unexpectedly ordered closed today, “because” the building sits on federal land. This, despite the fact that the Cliff House racks up $11.5 million in annual sales and is one of the most profitable independent restaurants in the nation.

How does the government save money by shuttering a profitable business? And a private one at that?

There are no federal employees at the Cliff House restaurant; a receptionist still manning the phones there today confirmed that all employees are paid by the restaurant’s owners, not by the government. As the Cliff House’s own Web site notes today, the restaurant is a “concessionaire” operating a business on Federal land — in this case, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which encompasses much of the Pacific shoreline along San Francisco and Marin counties — which means it is a private business which pays a fee to operate on government property:

Proof that this forced closure is only for political “optics” in an attempt by Obama to arouse public anger at the Republican controlled House of Representatives: While the waitresses and chefs were sent home today without paychecks, the restaurant’s managers continue to get paid as normal:

During the hiatus, servers and cooks will not get paid, according to a receptionist at the restaurant, though managers and receptionists — who will still be working — will continue to get paid.

If the restaurant was being closed because there was no money to pay employees due to the shutdown, then obviously everybody would get sent home. But no — as we have seen at various facilities around the country, only the employees who directly serve the public are being furloughed, because their absence causes inconvenience — while the behind-the-scenes managers and executives (and politicians) continue to draw their salaries as normal.

The absurdity is becoming more and more apparent every day as we learn that none of the closures are actually necessary at all, and didn’t happen during previous shutdowns.

The fact that the federal government twisted the arm of a private business to intentionally and unnecessarily inconvenience its customers (and lose money while doing so) proves that the Obama administration will stop at nothing to maximize the drama of its political brinksmanship.

I wish I could say this behavior was unexpected.

 

 

Rooting for a Shutdown

September 28, 2013

It is possible that we will be facing a government shutdown in the near future. Of course, the government won’t really be shut down. The essential functions of the federal government will continue to be funded. It will be interesting to see just what the government is doing that we won’t miss. It may even be that life will go on as normal, even with a partial government shut down.

In any case, Joshua Green at the Boston Globe is actually rooting for a government shutdown. He thinks that if may restore sanity to Washington. I doubt that anything could accomplish that aim. There are a couple of statements in his column that I have to take issue with.

Anyone paying attention to Washington this week has probably experienced a familiar sinking feeling: Congress is embroiled in another one of its periodic hostage-taking crises over a looming budget deadline that threatens to close the government, cost taxpayers billions, and possibly plunge the economy back into recession.

Hostage taking? Who is being held hostage? It seems to me that the government would run a lot more smoothly if politicians would stop referring to their colleagues who happen to oppose them as terrorists or hostage takers. When you start insulting people, it becomes very difficult to work together. Whatever happened to civility? Oh, I know. Civility only really meant, “sit down and shut up”.

What’s most maddening about these debates is that the 2012 election was supposed to have settled them. It appeared to do so in favor of the Democrats: Obama was reelected by 5 million votes and his party gained seats in the House and Senate. But most Republicans either ignore these results or believe that they no longer reflect national sentiment. “That was a year ago,” says Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, who wants to “defund” the Affordable Care Act. “I mean, c’mon!”

If the situation were reversed and we had a Republican president and the Democrats in Congress were opposing him, liberals would applaud the Democrats for standing up to the President’s evil agenda, while conservatives would be demanding the Democrats support the president because he won the election. The fact is that the Republicans are under no obligation to support the president’s agenda when if he had been re-elected in a landslide. At this moment, they are the opposition party. It is actually their job to oppose the president. In fact, the men who wrote the Constitution wanted something like gridlock. They didn’t want a majority to simply be able to roll over the minority nor did they want the government to be able to act recklessly.

Congress might start working again. The severity (and danger) of budget crises has steadily intensified as Congress has stopped working the way it is supposed to. It no longer operates as civic textbooks describe, where committees in both chambers study issues, pass bills, and then reconcile them in a formal negotiating conference. Instead, party leaders began resorting to last-minute, back-room deals. But Republicans, bitter about the deals they were getting, forced their leaders to stop. That led to the current system of negotiation-by-public-threat. A shutdown would be a bracing reminder to one party or the other (my money’s on the Republicans) of why the Gingrich approach failed so badly. When that lesson sinks in, the old, saner way of doing things will probably look much better.

The old, saner way of doing things is why we are in the mess we are in. The Democrats seem to think that they can just print more money and too many Republicans just don’t want to rock the boat. When a few Republican politicians actually begin to insist that the Republicans really try to keep their promises to balance the budget and decrease the size of government, they are labeled extremists and crazies and their leaders try to undercut them. It has come to the point that only drastic action, such as threatening to shut down the government is the only way to make the changes that we need. If everyone in both parties actually began to understand that we cannot keep going on the course we have been, then maybe all this drama will not be necessary and they can get to work.

 


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