The government shutdown was caused by the GOP, all by itself. Don't think so? Look up video of John Boehner repeatedly admitting to George Stephanopoulos that he and Harry Reid had a deal 2 months ago in which the Dems agreed to an additional $70 billion in spending cuts on top of the sequester cuts and Boehner agreed to a clean authorizing resolution and raising the debt ceiling. Boehner took the deal back to his caucus and the Tea Party types insisted on adding defunding of the ACA as another condition. End of deal.
What that history vividly demonstrates is that Obama has no one to negotiate with. Boehner can't deliver on his promises as long as he refuses to stand up to the 30-40 Tea Party types in the House. So far, there's no indication he's able to do that. And as long as the ultra-right billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch brothers keep the money flowing to the Tea Party, those 30-40 House members have no reason to moderate their demands.
The Tea Party House members have actively discussed the "Samson option" in which, like Samson in the Biblical story, they wreck the country even though they destroy themselves in the process. (Google "Samson option" if you don't believe me.) With minds like that on the other side of the negotiating table, what's to negotiate?
The major reason for the slow sign-up pace at the federal website was that the feds have had to set up exchanges in states (mostly with Republican governors) that refused to create state exchanges. This shoved all the people in those states by default onto the federal website, which crashed from too much traffic.
In states that planned ahead, the picture is very different. California, which set up its own exchange, "Covered California" signed up 30,000 people in 5 days and expects to sign up 600,000 by March.
The Republicans have done everything in their power at every level of government to impede, frustrate and delay implementation of the ACA. And, regrettably, in many areas they have succeeded. The incredible irony in all this is that the ACA is nothing but a federal version of Romneycare. I wonder if Romney had been elected whether he would have repudiated his own greatest achievement. Somehow I doubt it.
If anybody had any doubt about the sentiment of investors regarding a potential US default, this morning's market move should erase it. Investors as a group just aren't buying the "we can pay our bills by prioritizing" nonsense. As Treasury Secretary Lew said this morning, he has no legal authority to pick and choose which bills to pay and, even if he did, the automated payment systems at Treasury would have to be reprogrammed to allow him to select which bills to pay. Since Treasury pays literally millions of bills a week, even a temporary shutdown of the payment system would create chaos.
The Republicans have approached the debt ceiling negotiation like a guy with dynamite strapped to his chest: "Do what I want or I'll blow us both up!" Yeah, right...
It's the Gallup poll. It's not Public Policy Polling or Rasmussen, with their respective Democratic and Republican biases. The drastic decline in GOP favorability is simply a fact. I'm suggesting that any party that ignores facts like this is heading for disasater.
Case in point: I was watching Fox News on election night and I vividly recall Karl Rove's refusal to believe that Obama had won. He had spent so much time ignoring information that didn't agree with his biases that he literally could not believe that Obama had won. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights when Fox's own vote counters called the election for Obama. You would like to think that a majority of Americans share your view of the situation in Washington, but data like these prove that just isn't true. The public doesn't hold both parties equally responsible, much as you might wish otherwise. The public blames the GOP about 2-1. If the GOP leadership has on the same ideological blinkers that you do, they will be just as surprised as Karl Rove when the public votes them out of power in the House next November.
The Gallup Poll today:
There may be plenty of blame to go around for the nine-day government shutdown, but the Republican brand is taking the harder hit in public opinion.
Just 28 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, down 10 percentage points from last month, according to a Gallup poll. The polling firm called it a "record low," noting that "this is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992."
While the Democratic Party isn’t popular either, it fared better, with 43 percent of Americans approving of the party -- down a comparatively small 4 points from September.
No political party, no matter how ideologically driven, that hopes to become a majority party, can succeed with polling numbers like that. I don't know if the Gallup Poll existed in 1932, but I'm willing to be that Herbert Hoover's favorability rating was higher than 28%. Gerrymandered districts won the House for the GOP in 2012 but if those poll numbers stay this low, the Dems will be back in control in 2014.
You are right about Jeb Bush: he's the best and his name carries baggage. Too much baggage, imho, for him to get the nomination. The extreme right of the party may hate Christie the most but anybody named "Bush" runs him a close second.
I think that if there is a MaggieThatcher out there somewhere, she hasn't surfaced yet. Thatcher was a grocer's daughter, a woman from the middle of the middle class who didn't owe anything to the Tory "old boy" network and pretty much blew it up singlehanded. She remade the Conservative Party in her own image, transforming it from a playground for the aristocracy into a party that spoke for the aspirations of millions of middle-class Britons like herself. And her success also led directly to the remaking of the Labor Party from an alliance of academics and trades unionists into a competing middle-class party. In ithe process, both the Col Blimps on the right and the Commie symps on the left lost their influence on the course of British politics. Thatcher never lost her focus on an economic freedom agenda. She wasn't distracted by lesser ideological concerns and that singular focus is a large part of her success. When I look at American pols (in either party) there's nobody out there who reminds me of her.
For most of the past 40 years, Americans have been happy when one party controls the White House and the other controls at least one house of Congress. Divided government implies compromise and also allows each party to take a share of the credit for any accomplishment (and a share of the blame for any failure). But the current stalemate is driving down public esteem for the federal government to unprecedented lows, worse for the GOP than the Dems according to most polls, but really really bad for everybody. (At this point, the most that Obama can say to Boehner about the public's attitude is "They hate you more than they hate me." Not exactly a winning campaign slogan.) Which leads me to wonder: Will the public decide that all of one is better than some of both? At least, if you have one party in control of the Presidency and the Congress, whatever happens is entirely to the credit (or the blame) of that party and the public can reward or punish it at the next election. That change in voting patterns would produce an America functionally more like the parliamentary system in Great Britain where the leader of the party that controls the House of Commons becomes the Prime Minister. And each party would have to be prepared not merely to oppose the other party on ideological grounds, as the GOP is now doing to the Dems, but to govern when given the chance. Such a change would represent both a serious challenge to, and an opportunity for, the GOP. The Dems have their narrative already: welfare state capitalism. But the GOP has no single contrasting story; the mix of libertarian pacifists, neo-Con warriors, religious extremists, anti-immigration zealots, corporate welfare recipients, and right-to-lifers that is today's GOP is less a political party than a loose collection of warring tribes. The GOP needs a Maggie Thatcher who combines personal magnetism with a free-enterprise agenda. I don't see one on the horizon.
Really? A fiscal obligation to the country? Too bad Reagan and the Bushes didn't get the memo. Or maybe you forgot the tremendous deficits they ran up. Or the $200 billion surplus the country enjoyed under Bill Clinton and would have kept enjoyng but for the Bush tax cuts. We have to close the gap between revenues and expenses but we neither can nor should do so solely by cutting spending. Letting the poor starve so that the rich can eat caviar is not likely to be the optimum set of social arrangements.
No, they are not equally to blame. That is the lazy moral equivalence narrative that US journalism substitutes for analysis. Obama is defending an existing law against a threat to interfere with its implementation by forcing the country into default. In a democracy, there are two ways to change a law you don't like. One is to elect a majority of Congress and a President who agree with you. The GOP made the repeal of the ACA the central issue in thte last Presidential election and lost the Presidency and the Senate. The other way you change the law you don't like is to appeal it successfully to the Supreme Court. The GOP tried that and failed there too. So having failed to get what they want using ordinary legal means, they turned to threats.
This is not a game; Obama is not "playing it". He's acting like any President should in a similar situation, for example (as I noted before) the way Ronald Reagan acted when faced with extortion by the air controllers.
You won't get any argument from me about Obama's condescending attitude and his lack of negotiating skills. Both observations are true. But so what? Extortion is extortion, whether the victim is salt of the earth or a major pain in the rear. ANY president faced with this kind of threat would react in the same way. Remember when Ronald Reagan fired all the air controllers after they threatened to use a slow down to get their demands met? Do you have any doubt at all that Reagan would have told a Democratic version of John Boehner to go pound sand? I don't. Lyndon Johnson? He would have said an x-rated version of, "Don't bang your backside on the door on the way out." What's a stake here is the authority of the Presidency, not the personality of the sitting President. By standing up to the extortion, Obama is protecting his office as well as his legislative achievement.
As several news organizations have alredy documented, the plan to use the government shutdown and/or debt ceiling as a tool to extort concessions from the President was hatched months ago. It was put together by representatives of several ultra-rich, ultra-reactionaries and agreed to by Boehner et al because they are terrified that if they don't agree to any demand from the ultra-right they will face a well-financed primary opponent. If the GOP were still a functioning political party, Boehner could (and would) have rejected those tactics. But since the party has splintered into warring factions, everybody has veto power and nobody's in charge. This is a terrible thing for the country and also a real problem for the President. You can't enter into serious negotiations with people who have no ability to deliver on their promises.
I am in favor of a smaller government; but i'm not in favor of a crippled government. The extortion that the GOP is now practicing does nothing to move us to a smaller government. All it does is make it impossible for the government to function. Specifically with regard to the ACA, as I've posted repeatedly, I would have preferred a different reform, one that wasn't so beneficial to the hospital corporations and insurance companies and that did something meaningful to rein in costs. But we didn't get that reform, we got the ACA. And throwing sand in the gears, as the GOP is doing at both the state and national levels, simply makes a complicated system that much more inefficient without doing anything constructive.
Obama cannot give in to the extortion for two reasons. First, giving in will guarantee a repeat of the extortion at every opportunity for the rest of his presidency. But second and much more ominous, giving in will legitimize extortion against future Presidents--including futhre Republican Presidents, if there are any.
Hard as this may be for you to believe, I have no other identities here. I used to post as "goprefugee" but gave that up when somebody else began using a near equivalent ("goprefuqee") in an effort to confuse people. I do exchange private emails with several people here under our real names, but neither Unc nor Billy is one of them.
While SST and his various pals and/or alter egos continue to write as if a default is no big deal, I have to think they know better. A default by the United States is an enormously big deal with possible adverse consequences ranging from a dramatic fall in the value of the dollar and equally dramatic rise in US borrowing costs to a world-wide depression. Knowing this--and they must know it--why do they pretend that the default is a non-event? It is, I think, because they WANT the United States to default. They want Obama to fail as spectacularly as possible and they are willing to blow up the world economy if that's what it takes. They believe the public will blame the President--as they already do--for further economic distress. And so they are eager for people to suffer, eager for businesses to fail, eager for the United States to lose its role as leader of the developed world, in short, eager for and every catastrophe that could befall us--so long as Obama gets the blame. This is not politics, this is hate, hate so strong, so vile, and so vicious that they are willing to force misery on countless millions to destroy that one man they hate so much.
Maybe we are talking past each other. FY 2013 ended on September 30th so as of this moment there is not an approved budget for FY 2014. I assume that is what you mean when you say there is no existing budget. Obama has sent a proposed FY 2014 budget to Congress but it has not acted on it and of course it will be modified before a final version is adopted.
What the Constitution says is that all revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives. But any final budget requires the concurrence of the Senate and the approval of the President, like any other law, or else it has to be adopted over his veto by 2/3 majorities in each house. As you may recall, various Presidents over the years have asked for (but never received) the line-item veto which would allow the President to strike from a budget that he signs specific items he doesn't want to keep in there. A number of states give their governors that power, but to date the federal government has denied it to the President.
Congress by itself can't "cut expenditures". It can pass a bill that becomes law with the President' signature that automatically cuts expenditures by a fixed percentage (that's the sequester) but on its own it can't do anything other than refuse to raise the debt ceiling. And if it does that, we are in thei position outlined in my original post; either the US defaults in payment of some of its debts or the President violates the debt ceiling law.
1. I am not sure what you mean by "reset the spending authorized" but if you mean "cut the budget of an agency" that can generally be done only in the budget for the following year not retroactively for the current year. Laws are always forward looking and the Constitution explicitly bars ex post facto laws.
2. Again, I'm not sure what you mean. A law is a law is a law, until it is changed by another law. A sitting Congress can repeal a law made a former Congress but until that happens everybody, including all the current Congress members, is bound by the former law.
3. Again, I am not sure what you mean. Before money may be spent, a budget has to be approved and appropriations bills have to be passed. But the President's proposed budget doesn't have to be approved. Congress can come with with a budget of its own and in fact the budget passed by Congress almost always differs significantly from the budget proposed by the President, no matter who the President is and whether or not his party controls the Congress.
Either the debt ceiling means something or it doesn't. If it means something, then unless the Congress raises it, the President can't pay the nation's bills without violating the law.
1. The President is required to pay the bills for spending previously authorized by Congress.
2. The President is forbidden to borrow money in excess of the debt ceiling.
3. Since the govefrrnment's current expenses exceed its current revenues, the USA has to borrow money to pay its bills. Therefore, assuming Congress does not raise the debt ceiling,
3. The only way to comply with "1" is to violate "2".
"Prioritizing" spending does nothing to change this analysis. That is just stiffing some creditors in order to pay others. In particular, it's stiffing vendors in order to pay bondholders. But picking which creditors to stiff doesn't change the fact that failing to pay them IS defaulting. The markets will see it that way, as will anyone who sells good or services to the government. What's more, such a default will raise the government's cost of borrowing dramatically by creating uncertainty about the "full faith and credit" of the government.
This is not rocket science. If you don't pay your bills, your credit rating goes down and your cost of borrowing goes up. That is just as true of the federal government as it is of Joe Sixpack. Joe might pay make his mortgage payment and his car payment and fail to pay his credit cards; no matter that he's current on the first two, his credit rating is heading for the toilet. Ditto the USA if it stiffs vendors to pay bondholders.
Very astute post. The parites are headed for a collision on these issues. And the Republicans are right about the long-term outlook for the federal budget. The CBO projections show a worsening gap between spending and revenues into the foreseeable future. While we don't have to eliminate that gap to have a workable government, we can't afford to have it grow to the point that public debt as a percentage of GDP reaches an unsustainable level. Unfortunately for that argument, which I generally support, the Reinhart-Rogoff analysis that backs it up has been shown to be seriously flawed. In particular, R&R seem to have gotten causality backward. They argue that high levels of public debt lead to economic distress while a re-analysis of their data suggests the opposite is more often the case. Nonetheless, I don't think there is any serious economist who istn't worried about the long-term trend in the deficits. It is going to take compromise on both sides to solve that problem; at one point, it looked like Boehner and Obama had reached a "grand bargain" that moved us a long way in the right direction but it fell apart, mostly because those two guys don't like or trust each other. It might require new leadership in both parties before things get better.
A recent piece in the New Republic got to the heart of the shutdown problem. It's not that Washington is too partisan; it's that Washington isn't partisan enough. Now before you conclude that I'm off my rocker, recall that the word "partisan" means "a member of a party". And what you have on the GOP side of the aisle in Congress is not a party but a collection of mobs. Republicans were once famous for the degree of party discipline they exerted over their members and frequently compared themselves favorably to the relatively disorganized Democrats. That was then, this is now. John Boehner is nominally Speaker of the House and leader of the GOP caucus but he really controls nothing. He can't negotiate with Obama because he can't deliver the votes for any deal that includes concessions unacceptable to one mob or another. Obama knows that and so he has no incentive even to begin negotiations.
Several posters have pointed out that Reagan and Tip O'Neill were able to compromise. Partly that was because they genuinely liked each other but more important each of them could deliver on his promises to the other and, in particular, O'Neill could deliver the Democratic votes needed to approve any compromise. Neither Boehner in the House nor McConnell in the Senate can deliver GOP votes in favor of a compromise so no compromise is possible.
It's hard to see how this is going to end given the fractured and uncontrollable nature of the GOP mobs. In the past, Obama has shown himself willing to compromise both on little and big items and I'm guessing that his essentially compromising nature hasn't changed. But until the GOP can produce evidence that it will abide by any deal cut between Obama and the leadership, this shutdown will continue.
As anyone who has read my posts knows, I am not a fan of the ACA. But I am a fan of democratic government. And when one party decides that because it lost playing by the rules it is going to tear up the rulebook, it ticks me off. It cannot be repeated too often: the Congress passed the ACA, the President signed it, the Supreme Court OK'd it. It is the law. And defying the law, whether done on the streets or in the halls of Congress, is not acceptable. There are times when refusing to go along with the law is morally right; but if you take that stand then, like Martin Luther King, you had better be prepared to go to jail. I don't see Eric Cantor volunteering to wear an orange jumpsuit. The GOP leadership may well be right about the negative long-term implications of the ACA, although I think it's too early to tell. But even if it is right, openly defying the law and using extortion to get your way is not acceptable. Not in a democracy anyway.
To return to a point I made earlier, Boehner doesn't control his own members. If he brings a clean government funding bill to the floor, a majority of Republicans will vote "no". How can the President negotiate with a guy whose own members don't support him? The votes are there to end the shutdown but Boehner can't afford to bring a clean bill to the floor because it will expose, once and for all, that he is not in control of the House GOP.
Let's separate the question of modifying (or even repealing) the ACA from the question of funding the government's existing commitments. Right now, the GOP doesn't have the votes to amend or repeal the ACA. If they are right about it, that is, if it turns out to be as costly, ineffective and unpopular as they claim, they will have the votes in a future Congress. In the meantime, they have no excuse for failing to bring a clean bill to continue funding government operations to the floor. The House now has a majority of members (including about 30 Republicans) who have announced they will vote for it. is simply legislative extortion to refuse to allow that vote.
Given that Boehner has already promised a similar fight over the debt ceiling, the President has absolutely no reason to compromise on the continuing resolution. And there is this awkward fact: Boehner can't control his
own caucus. When you are negotiating with somebody without authority, no real progress is possible. Boehner and the President could strike a deal but Boehner can't guarantee that he will keep his end of the bargain.
Jon Stewart had the best analogy. The New York Giants lost their game last Sunday by 24 points. They didn't respond by threatening to shut down the NFL if they didn't get 25 extra points added to their score.