The crisis of 2011 – in 2010?

by John Quiggin on November 20, 2010

Back in July, no one seemed to be talking about a shutdown of the US government following the Dems loss of control of the House. Now the only question is – when?

David Dayen at FDL says it could be as soon as December (I don’t understand the mechanics well enough to confirm or reject this claim). Among those looking forward to the shutdown, the most notable, for a variety of reasons is Alan Simpson. Obama must really be feeling the gratitude there.

There’s still a chance that the Dems can manage a pre-emptive capitulation/collaboration so massive that some on the other side will be willing to cash in their gains without taking the risk of a shutdown. I imagine that would entail, at a minimum, full extension of the Bush tax cuts, effective repeal of the health care bill, no more money for the unemployed, Social Security ‘reform’ and a bunch of spending cuts directed at the tribal demons of the Tea Party. Of those, health care is the only one where I can see the White House taking a stand. I’m less clear about the priorities of the Congressional Dems.

{ 55 comments }

1

James Kroeger 11.20.10 at 11:54 am

The possibility of the government shutting down is not so horrifying a possibility that the only rational thing to do is capitulate to any terrorist’s demands. The Republicans tried it against Bill Clinton back in the 1990′s and it didn’t work. As political threats go, it is actually pretty weak.

In order for a political party to successfully exploit a threat to deny the government of funding, it must be defending a moral position of the highest importance to all citizens. If it is done merely to secure a big tax break for the wealthiest 2% of the citizenry, then it could only end up being a disaster for the Republicans.

And yet, the Republicans are famous for over-reaching, aren’t they? Remember the impeachment of Clinton?

If Obama and the Democrats stand fast on principle, they cannot lose. All they need to do is put together a middle-class tax cut and pass it in both houses. If it fails, well…they tried. Then use the drama to excoriate the bad guys (Blue Dog Democrats) and punish them for choosing the wrong side.

It really is a win-win situation for the Democrats, if only they would seize the moment.

2

ejh 11.20.10 at 1:39 pm

If Obama and the Democrats stand fast on principle

And if I fly to the fucking Moon?

3

Jim Demintia 11.20.10 at 2:00 pm

A shut down may not be bad for the Democrats, but there is no question here of standing on principle. What principle? The omnibus spending bill they’d go to the mat for already contains significant concessions to the Republicans. The Democrats are really the PLO of American political negotiations–so foolishly misunderstanding their adversaries time and again that one cannot explain their behavior without asking “Qui bono?”

4

Jack Strocchi 11.20.10 at 2:12 pm

Pr Q said:

I imagine that would entail, at a minimum, full extension of the Bush tax cuts, effective repeal of the health care bill, no more money for the unemployed, Social Security ‘reform’ and a bunch of spending cuts directed at the tribal demons of the Tea Party. Of those, health care is the only one where I can see the White House taking a stand. I’m less clear about the priorities of the Congressional Dems.

I am still betting there will be no effective government shut-down. Although much brinksmanship – stamping of feet, shaking of fists and putting on of war-faces.

A government shut-down is a very high-risk strategy for the REPs. They would be better off pushing for a contractionary budget, sending the US economy into the doldrums and making a one-term presidency likely.

Undoubtedly the REPs will demand, and get, cuts in discretionary expenditure items and the extension of the Bush tax-cuts. So tough luck for the “unemployed”, working class recipients of “Social Security” and “tribal demons of the Tea Party”. And bon chance for plutocrats. All that was expected, the so-called “Deficit” Commission has already made the REP position clear.

The REPS will also try, and not get, a repeal of Obamacare. I have predicted that Obama will hang tough on that and will defend his signature legislation.

Obama has the high-ground here, being President and having a hospitable Senate. If things get tough then the White House can borrow from Social Security fund, as the Greeks are doing. And if things get tougher then how long are Red-State voters going to vote REP if their social security cheques dont get cut?

The REP House majority leader has already backed away from threats of a shut-down. And the REP Senate minority leader also hosed down the enthusiasm of congressional freshmen.

Obama has shown alot more political courage and policy vision than I (or Pr Q) give him credit. He has publicly said that”

“I’d rather be a really good one term president, than a mediocre two term president.”

I am betting he means it and that Pr Wet Blanket is wrong.

5

Matt McIrvin 11.20.10 at 2:34 pm

A major component of Republicans’ power base is Social Security/Medicare recipients. So they’re not going to do anything to the Social Security or Medicare payments that those people collect–or if they try, they’ll pay (as Bush did).

Benefits for people who are currently not recipients may be on the table.

6

Guido Nius 11.20.10 at 3:45 pm

Tar and feathers!

(On a more optimistic note: The Dutch prequel to The Tea Party is having a rockin’ good time!)

7

weserei 11.20.10 at 5:03 pm

@4:

Obama has shown alot more political courage and policy vision than I (or Pr Q) give him credit. He has publicly said that”

“I’d rather be a really good one term president, than a mediocre two term president.”
I am betting he means it and that Pr Wet Blanket is wrong.

I’d be interested in hearing why you think so.

8

Davis X. Machina 11.20.10 at 5:22 pm

In order for a political party to successfully exploit a threat to deny the government of funding, it must be defending a moral position of the highest importance to all citizens

In holding government operations hostage to a tax cut for the top 2% of earners the party in question is defending a moral postion of the highest importance to the people who tell all citizens what is of the highest importance to all citizens.

Which has the same effect.

9

Tom M 11.20.10 at 7:04 pm

David Dayen at FDL says it could be as soon as December

Damn, I have Feb. 28 in the office pool. Hope it’s not premature.

10

Jack Strocchi 11.20.10 at 7:55 pm

weserei @ #7 said:

I’d be interested in hearing why you think so..

In the run-up to 2008 election Obama committed to financial, healthcare and energy reform. He delivered on two out of three, not bad, both politically (REP-antagonising) and policy (far-ranging statism). Better than expected, though why he doesnt outflank the REPs to the Right on border protection is beyond me.

Obama is a fairly vain man and I don’t see him caving in on a policy that has his name on it. Every thing else in the budget is up for grabs though.

Although the REPs are “crazy brave” mood now they will have to face the cold light of day on government shut-down. Politically they don’t control the SEN, as they did in 1995. So their positive legislative powers are limited.

They are left with a purely negative campaign based on deficit scare-mongering, in order to politically leverage a repeal of Obamacare. No way Obama will cave on that. And shutting down government services and entitlements is not the way to keep their Red-state base happy.

But they do need to disable Obamacare before 2012, because by that time the general public will have gotten used to it and will probably like it, on its way to becoming a third rail, untouchable.

I don’t think the REPs hand is all that strong on this issue. Obama should go to the mat on this.

11

StevenAttewell 11.20.10 at 10:10 pm

If I was a very cynical person, I would suggest that it’s actually in the long-term interest of both parties for the budget deficit to be fixed without getting blamed for it; Republicans don’t want the spending they like (military, ag, etc.) getting cut or taxes to go up, Democrats don’t want Social Security or Medicare to be touched (especially since the dominant frame of “reforms” to those programs is highly regressive, even when superior progressive alternatives exist – http://realignmentproject.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/in-proportion-to-their-respective-abilities-making-the-payroll-tax-progressive/).

In such a scenario, the thing to do might be to roadblock everything until January forces a tax cut reset, then blame the other party and continue with politics as normal.

12

KCinDC 11.21.10 at 12:04 am

Jack Strocchi, how will people be used to “Obamacare” in 2012, when most of it doesn’t even kick in until 2014? That was always the most mind-boggling bit for me: how the White House and Democrats expected to be able to defend against Republican attacks on health care reform when no one was going to be experiencing the reality of it for ages.

13

Chris 11.21.10 at 1:21 am

And shutting down government services and entitlements is not the way to keep their Red-state base happy.

True in the limited sense that the actual consequences of doing so will *hurt* their base, tangibly. Will probably kill some of them, actually, although mostly in indirect ways that will be hard to trace. (There’s a reason safety regulations are called “safety” regulations, for example; gutting them is not without consequences to the people who actually work in dangerous workplaces. Which, naturally, includes neither legislators nor deregulation-friendly lobbyists.)

But at the same time, they’ll be glad the Republicans did it.

It’s not masochism, just a complete misunderstanding of cause and effect and how government policy affects their lives. If they knew how that worked, they wouldn’t *be* the Republican base (except for the very rich).

When coal miners are voting for candidates that promise more dangerous workplaces for coal miners (of course not in those words, but that’s what the removal of workplace safety regulations means in practice), either the practical effects of government policies aren’t at the top of the list of salient issues, or those voters don’t understand what those practical effects *are*, or both.

14

Jack Strocchi 11.21.10 at 4:41 am

Although Krugman is now giving some solid odds on a government shut-down, although he rates it less of a chance than Pr Q:

“I put 50 percent on a government shut down sometime in the next two years — 1995, but worse,” he told an audience at the Fiscal Choices conference hosted by several left-leaning groups.

More likely Krugman believes that gridlock will hobble any concerted US policy to stimulate the economy:

Krugman also predicted that political gridlock will make it near impossible for another bailout of the financial system if the economy backslides into an recession, or worse.

“In that kind of environment, it’s kind of hard to see a TARP 2,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that we will have the political consensus to do this.”

The latter option looks more likely to me if the US economy starts to slide into recession again, quite possible if the REPs impose large cuts in discretionary spending and state governments start to go belly-up or retrench employees.

I suppose you would also have to consider the possibility that government shutdown is a feature, not bug, of REP political proposals. They are, afterall, interested in “shrinking the size of government”. No better way of doing that than shutting it down.

So shorter Strocchi/Quiggin: the REPs double-barreled opposition strategy will be to stagnate the economy and shutdown the polity.

This is from people who style themselves as patriots. [shakes head in disgust]

15

Peter Nunns 11.21.10 at 9:34 am

Here’s one thing that nobody’s mentioned regarding the government shutdown and comparisons to 1995: In 1995 the US wasn’t engaged in two wars!

I haven’t seen a single bit of punditry that discusses the ramifications of a shutdown for the country’s imperial adventures. Or are the wars funded through a separate appropriation process?

16

weserei 11.21.10 at 3:15 pm

@10: It seems to me there are some things being left off the list–sustained efforts to improve the employment situation, scaling back the Mideast adventures, restoring human rights to the prisoners at Guantanamo, more or less everything to do with gay rights, etc. ad nauseam. Is there a reason why the health care and banking bills should be more central to our opinion of him?

@15: [A]re the wars funded through a separate appropriation process?

There’s no constitutional reason why they couldn’t be funded through a separate spending bill. The President could threaten to veto unless a domestic spending bill came to his desk, but that would require the Democratic Party to risk the appearance of being anti-imperialist.

17

spyder 11.22.10 at 2:14 am

Obama is a fairly vain man and I don’t see him caving in on a policy that has his name on it.
I am not really sure how an idiomatic expression created by the GOP, turning the Affordable Health Care Act for America becoming the final Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, to Obamacare, is an example of vanity for Obama or a policy that has his name on it. Maybe we need to start calling the Patriot Act after its creator Addington, who was also responsible for Yoo, Bybee, and Gonzales torture tortures.

18

Jack Strocchi 11.22.10 at 2:23 am

The Tea Party are fanatics and fanaticism always has the initiative in the opening stages of a conflict. But fanaticism grows old fast. It always has a tendency to over-reach, double-or-nothing strategy. Mostly because it sees itself in a race against time.

My advice to Obama is to play rope-a-dope, let them burn themselves out in a flurry of wild swings. But when the final bell rings he should hang tough and go to the mat.

I would also try some wedge tactics against the TP’s white base. He can outflank the REPs in by doing a domestic Nixon-to-China on immigration. He lost the white vote badly in the mid-term, mainly due to the poor state of the job market. The Pew Centre reports of the new jobs went to non-Americans whilst native-born Americans went backwards:

In the year following the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, foreign-born workers gained 656,000 jobs while native-born workers lost 1.2 million, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

As a result, the unemployment rate for immigrant workers fell 0.6 percentage points during this period (from 9.3% to 8.7%) while for native-born workers it rose 0.5 percentage points (from 9.2% to 9.7%).

A tightening of border control and a jobs-for-Americans program would please border-control fans and encourage the white working class back into the DEM fold. That would be nice for a Change.

Clinton was saved from a government shut-down when the jobless recovery became job-full. The TP leaders are fueled by a discredited economic theory. They they can offer nothing of substance to their popular base, so they will burn themselves out..

Peter Guillam: So Karla’s fireproof. He can’t be bought, and he can’t be beaten.

George Smiley: NOT fireproof! Because’s he’s a fanatic! I may have acted like a soft dolt, the very archetype of a flabby Western liberal but I’d rather be my kind of fool than his. One day that lack of moderation will be Karla’s downfall.

19

Brett Bellmore 11.22.10 at 12:00 pm

“That was always the most mind-boggling bit for me: how the White House and Democrats expected to be able to defend against Republican attacks on health care reform when no one was going to be experiencing the reality of it for ages.”

Well, duh: They expected that to make it easier to defend in the 2012 elections, because, contra all the propaganda, they expect it to HURT when it kicks in. That’s why politicians put pretty much anything off until after an election, after all: Because they expect it to cost them votes once people “experience the reality of it”.

When they scheduled health care ‘reform’ to kick in TWO elections down the road, you knew they thought it was going to be awful…

20

Chris 11.22.10 at 12:53 pm

He can outflank the REPs in by doing a domestic Nixon-to-China on immigration.

I’m not sure I understand your analogy. Nixon’s radical approach to China was to be less hostile. It sounds like you’re suggesting Obama should be more hostile toward immigrants, but that would split his own base much faster than it would split the Rs (particularly since many Latinos *are* part of Obama’s base now, due in significant part to the Republican Party’s increasingly-open hostility toward anyone who even looks like an immigrant, but also people of any race who are just plain liberal would react very negatively to Obama adopting anti-immigrant fearmongering).

Letting them wear themselves out with wild swings doesn’t work so well if you start imitating the wild swings.

He lost the white vote badly in the mid-term, mainly due to the poor state of the job market.

…which was poor because his (and the House’s) efforts to improve it were blocked and chiseled down by Republicans and moderates, mostly in the Senate. Some of the electorate may be uninformed enough to pin the results solely on Obama, but literate people with Internet connections don’t have to remain that ignorant if they don’t choose to.

Whites are a huge and diverse (in all ways but one) group and anyone reaching for a single explanation to explain their voting behavior is either trying to support a foreordained conclusion, or a fool, or both.

21

Marc 11.22.10 at 1:12 pm

When this doesn’t happen, can I ask for a mea culpa on your part? There are a lot of folks writing about how Obama is about to cave on us TOMORROW. Yet when he doesn’t, those folks just seem to write the same thing about something else where Obama Has Disappointed Us Again And Will Betray Us. So, when this doesn’t happen, can you be a bit different and note in some objective way how well the doom-saying played out? Here is my take.

On the unemployment front, the GOP has to vote to extend them or they expire; I don’t think that they will agree to do this, since their rhetoric (supported by their mean and stupid base) is that the long-term unemployed are just lazy.

On the health care front, Obama will shut the government down before he agrees to anything substantive. That’s his legacy as far as he’s concerned, and anyone who thinks that he’ll sign a repeal under any circumstances doesn’t understand him or US politics at all.

On the tax front it’s more interesting. He’s made compromise noises, but this is an issue where he has a strong tactical position (in the sense that the tax cuts for the rich expire without positive action on his part.) It’s entire possible that the Republicans over-reach and, by accident, lose. My bet is a temporary extension of the lot, but I hope for a permanent one for those below 250K and a temporary one for the rich. I’d like to see them all go away and have more sensible stimulus-style ones replace them.

On the bankrupting the government front, that would hurt the rich, and the republicans are still in the pockets of the wealthy (although there has been some recent competition from the insane.) In the end I doubt that their paymasters will permit anything significant. But they may be too drunk with power to realize that – this is the area where I have the least confidence. These guys really are arrogant and belligerent loons.

22

John Quiggin 11.22.10 at 2:24 pm

“When this doesn’t happen, can I ask for a mea culpa on your part?”

When what doesn’t happen, exactly? You agree that the Dems will cave on tax cuts and that they’ll give up the fight on unemployment benefits. I say Obama might stand up on health reform, you say he will certainly do so. Your final para hints that the Reps might back down without even trying a shutdown – if this happens, I’ll admit my error.

23

Marc 11.22.10 at 4:19 pm

They can’t win the fight on unemployment benefits – they will try and lose because they don’t have the votes. So caving has nothing to do with how they’ll play out, no?

24

Salient 11.22.10 at 4:24 pm

My advice to Obama is to …let them burn themselves out in a flurry of wild swings.

Since we’re playing in metaphor:^1^ the least proper response to a scorched-earth campaign is to let the perpetrators burn themselves out, because the fuel they’ll burn through is other people’s food and shelter.

^1^I’m particularly fond of the mixing of ‘burn’ with ‘flurry.’ A blizzard of flashfires awaits us…

25

politicalfootball 11.22.10 at 9:09 pm

and the republicans are still in the pockets of the wealthy

One of the disquieting aspects of the current crisis is the indifference of the wealthy to their own well-being. A lot of the nuts are very wealthy, and I think they’re willing to let the country burn – and let their own fortunes falter somewhat – if they can starve some of their enemies.

26

politicalfootball 11.22.10 at 9:26 pm

Jack @18: Say what you will about Obama and his weakness, stupidity and perfidy, but he’s not going to court the racist vote because he can’t. He can choose the wealthy over the poor, and the warmongers over the rest of us, but he can’t pick white racists over Hispanics, because the white racists aren’t going to vote for him under any circumstances.

27

Brett Bellmore 11.23.10 at 12:07 am

“Say what you will about Obama and his weakness, stupidity and perfidy, but he’s not going to court the racist vote because he can’t. “

That’s silly. He’s not going to court the racist vote because he doesn’t HAVE TO court the faction of the racist vote he’s actually got any chance of getting, barring another black candidate running against him in the 2012 primaries. After all, “the racist vote” doesn’t consist entirely of whites

28

Jim Nichols 11.23.10 at 12:52 am

“Some of the electorate may be uninformed enough to pin the results solely on Obama, but literate people with Internet connections don’t have to remain that ignorant if they don’t choose to.”

As someone who just got his ass kicked in a State Senate race down in Georgia because the center right Democratic Party are a bunch of socialists[sic]

I can tell you there are a whole lot of angry, ignorant, literate, internet connected upper middle class people who are choosing bliss…

For some reason the lyrics to NoFx’s USA-holes comes to mind…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4X1aHFIWpA

[On a very very small positive note I beat the tar out of the Democratic Senate Caucus' candidiate by 62% of the vote in the primary so the base of the Dems party wants anti corporate left of center candidates...]

29

Cryptic Ned 11.23.10 at 1:14 am

That’s silly. He’s not going to court the racist vote because he doesn’t HAVE TO court the faction of the racist vote he’s actually got any chance of getting, barring another black candidate running against him in the 2012 primaries. After all, “the racist vote” doesn’t consist entirely of whites…

Oh ho ho! Brilliant! Brilliant point! How ironic! Fabulous!

30

Brett Bellmore 11.23.10 at 1:32 am

What’ s the theory here? That every exclamation point refutes 20% of the opponent’s position, without any need for an argument?

31

engels 11.23.10 at 2:14 am

What’s 20% of 0?

32

politicalfootball 11.23.10 at 2:18 am

Brett, there’s a really silly narrative that you’re probably not aware of that goes something like this: Racism by blacks and Hispanics is a huge factor in the corridors of power in this country. Obama’s political success (the narrative goes) is the result of his appealing to those racists – the people who would never consider supporting a white candidate with their time, money and votes. These are the famous “reverse racists” you hear so much about.

I assume, for the purpose of this comment, that your evocation of this absurd argument was unintentional, but really, C. Ned said everything he needed to say. (And, by the way, if you look over C. Ned’s response again, you’ll see that the exclamation points were intended ironically.)

33

rwschnetler 11.23.10 at 2:38 am

@32:

Are you saying that only whites can be racists?

34

politicalfootball 11.23.10 at 2:45 am

No. Are you?

35

rwschnetler 11.23.10 at 4:58 am

@34:

So what is your point in the first paragraph in post 32? And in 32, how did you assume :

for the purpose of this comment, that your evocation of this absurd argument…?

What I read in @27 is that Obama is not going to get any white racist votes and all racists of colour votes except when …another black candidate [is] running against him in the 2012 primaries. Which to me is pretty logical.

36

Glen Tomkins 11.23.10 at 5:04 am

I wouldn’t expect a shutdown.

I can’t see them forcing any sort of crisis over raising the debt ceiling, which will probably need to be done some time in the Spring. I don’t see how that benefits them, so I don’t see any but their extreme crazy wing supporting the idea of not raising the ceiling. I don’t see how the refusal of these extremists developes into a crisis, as I assume almost every Dem will vote to raise the ceiling, so that it would take practically the entire R caucus voting against the rise to block it.

I honestly don’t know what to make of Simpson’s bloodbath statement, referring to the debt ceiling. He’s either a crazy old off-message coot, or the whole damn lot of them are crazy if they really mean for the Rs to act in concert to vote down a ceiling rise

Now, the matter of the annual budget bills that approve the discretionary spending, that come due at the end of the FY, is an entirely different matter. There it looks like we will see the Rs, acting in concert, deliberately produce a crisis. But it won’t be a shutdown.

Even before the election, Boehner was speaking openly of effectively repealing the ACA by having the House refuse to pass any discretionary funds for it in the budget bills. It would seem that this is something that all wings of their party, both its right wing and its extreme right wing, are behind.

Now, it’s true that to get this result, a de-funded ACA, past the Senate and the WH, will require a game of legislative chicken. But I would be very surprised if they let it be structured as their side having to threaten to shut down the govt. I would expect them, early in the process, some time in the first few months of 2011, to offer a plan to avoid shut-downs, to take them off the table as a weapon, by splitting spending into core and non-core, or controversial. The idea will be to pass the line items, either as final bills, or even just as CRs, that fund govt functions that both Rs and Ds agree are core and necessary, so as to get them out of the way, to shelter them form being interrupted in the battle over the controversial stuff. Of course, if the Ds agree to this, and allow the core items past, then the R House will never let one penny of spending for the “controversial” items pass.

I would expect the Rs to be modest in at least the first bite they try at this, and to limit their gains to just getting rid of spending for the ACA and a few other specific, relatively small, items — both programs and specific appointees. Not only would any deep and serious cuts both split their coalition and anger voters ahead of the 2012 races, they don’t need profoundly large cuts to trigger a constitutional crisis over very profound issues.

Obama would be almost compelled by a successful denial of discretionary funds to, say, the ACA, while it retains a sizable flow of non-discretionary funds, and while the obligation to enforce it continues (it will just be de-funded, not repealed), to seek other means of spending that non-discretionary money and meeting those govt obligations. But any attempt on his part to use other govt functionaries to fill in for the people not hired because the ACA was denied discretionary funds, will just as surely be challenged in court by the Rs.

This is a very fundamental question of what that phrase “power of the purse” means. And a messy constitutional fight over such an issue is exactly what the Rs need to cover their inability (of their extremists) or unwillingness (of their “moderates”) to get actual significant budget cuts. The tea party types promised revolution and Armageddon. They at least have to deliver a season of constitutional hardball, or they are exposed as overwrought at best, frauds at worst. But if they can deliver a crisis, and then have their Federalist Society-packed courts hand them a victory over their first bite at unilateral House repeal of selected govt functions and personnel, they will be emboldened to press their advantage, and the second, third and later bites will not be so mild and shallow.

37

John Quiggin 11.23.10 at 7:07 am

“They can’t win the fight on unemployment benefits – they will try and lose because they don’t have the votes. So caving has nothing to do with how they’ll play out, no?”

Presumably, they could tie unemployment benefits to tax cuts, or war appropriations, and dare the Reps to vote against it. That’s what would happen if it were the other way around, and will happen once the new House comes in.

38

Brett Bellmore 11.23.10 at 11:01 am

“The idea will be to pass the line items, either as final bills, or even just as CRs, that fund govt functions that both Rs and Ds agree are core and necessary, so as to get them out of the way, to shelter them form being interrupted in the battle over the controversial stuff. “

The amusing thing is, this is pretty much how Congress is supposed to operate, if you’ve got a naive civics text book view of these things: Vote on items separately, so that the popular things pass, and the unpopular things don’t, instead of putting everything together into 2000 page appropriations bills in order to confront the members with the choice of either voting for stuff they oppose, or shutting down the government.

IOW, the Republicans’ nefarious plan is just good government. Says something when you see good government as a sneaky weapon, doesn’t it?

39

Glen Tomkins 11.23.10 at 4:24 pm

“this is pretty much how Congress is supposed to operate, if you’ve got a naive civics text book view of these things: Vote on items separately, so that the popular things pass, and the unpopular things don’t, instead of putting everything together into 2000 page appropriations bills in order to confront the members with the choice of either voting for stuff they oppose, or shutting down the government.”

This is not at all what the budget process is designed to do, present every single govt function separately for an up-or-down vote. That gets done when the laws that require the govt to accomplish some function are passed. This happened already with the ACA. It was put up seperately from every other govt function, and it won the majorities of House, Senate and presidential assent that it needed to become the law of the land. The legitimate method of getting rid of the ACA would be to assemble the same majorities to repeal the thing, considered seperately, as were needed to pass it.

Well, the Rs do not propose to go about this the legitimate way, because they do not have the majorities they would need to do this the civics textbook way. They want to effectively repeal the ACA with a majority of only the House.

The means of doing that, which I outline above, involve an illegitimate de-linking of funding for just this one set of functions, what the ACA would require the administration to do, from the general funding for the entire functional area of govt health care spending. The purpose of the budget process is not to present individual govt functions for up or down approval. That already happened. Every function the funding bills fund has already had and passed its individual consideration by our legislature. The spending for a dozen or so broad functional areas are lumped into a dozen or so corresponding funding bills so that the legislature can reconcile the functions its laws require the govt to perform with the cost of doing these things. The bundling of all sorts of line items covering these dozen or so broad functional areas is the whole point of the exercise. The idea is to lay out the costs of doing what current law requires the govt to do, so that there be accountability for those costs, and what each line item contributes to the overall costs.

It is perfectly legitimate, and the purpose of the whole budgetary exercise, to draw the conclusion from the fact that the budget line items for a given function have grown larger than you think the function is worth, to then take the next step, and propose ending or modifying those functions. But the legitimate way to do that is get a new law passed ending or modifying the function your side thinks is not worth its cost. It is most definitely not the legitimate way to instead, realizing that you don’t have the majorities that the legitimate way requires, try to get your way by threatening a train wreck if our side won’t let you have your way. The budget process was not at all designed to be the forum for changing what the govt is required to do. Its purpose is simply to lay out the costs of those govt functions, so that varying ideas about the needed changes in the law can be considered in the light of their costs.

But of course, the Rs are notorious for their forum-shopping. When they held the presidency, all we heard from these folks were grand claims about the “unitary executive” that would have made Bishop Bossuet blush to claim for Louis XIV. Now that all they have is the House, we are in for a season of “power of the purse”, and we will have it shouted at us that, of course, the Founders intended for the House to run the govt by way of the power of the purse, so yes, it is not merely allowed and legitimate, but their clear Constitutional duty, for the House Rs to seize control of the govt from the Kenyan Usurper by any means necessary.

Even those of us who would appreciate a return to a rightful legislative dominance of our govt, who would appreciate an end ot the imperial presidency, know better than to expect any sort of move in that direction as even an unintended good consequence of what the Rs are planning right now. When they get the presidency back, that side will be right back to “unitary executive”, and they will show no respect whatever for “power of the purse” into some future where the Ds control the House. No institutional good will come from the consitutional crisis that their side is about to start.

40

politicalfootball 11.23.10 at 7:42 pm

Hey rwschnetler, I try not to waylay live threads with stuff like this, but this thread seems to have petered out, so let’s have a go at this.

You’ve got two questions:

So what is your point in the first paragraph in post 32?

I thought that paragraph was self-explanatory, and I’ve got nothing to add. Perhaps if you have a more specific question …

And in 32, how did you assume :

I stipulated that point, as I said, for the purpose of that comment. (That purpose being an admittedly snarky, ironic willingness to assume ignorance on Brett’s part, rather than malice.)

If you would prefer to assume that Brett’s comment was intentionally evocative of that absurd argument, that’s okay with me and doesn’t meaningfully change my point.

41

Brett Bellmore 11.24.10 at 12:45 am

What malice? Clearly, in a race between a black and a white, you can pretty much rely on white racists voting for the white, and black racists voting for the black. (I’m over simplifying here, of course, but not as much as YOU want to…) This means in such a race that both the white AND the black candidate will be faced with two groups of racist voters. Those they don’t need to appeal to, and those they needn’t bother appealing to. This will be the case whether or not the candidates themselves are racist.

Apparently you want to deny the existence of those black racists, or to state it another way, claim that only whites are racists. And you’re accusing ME of malice?

42

Salient 11.24.10 at 1:01 am

Apparently you want to deny the existence of those black racists, or to state it another way, claim that only whites are racists.

I think it’s more the assumption that blacks will vote overwhelmingly Democratic no matter what, and white potentially Democratic-minded bigots might actually vote for the non-Republican if the non-Republican was white.

An interesting test of your claim of racist parity would occur if the Republicans fielded a black candidate and the Democrats fielded a white candidate in 2016. I personally suspect the overwhelming majority of black voters would vote for a white standard-Democrat over a black standard-Republican, Brett, and while you clearly stridently disagree with this, it’s the consensus assumption.

And you know that. And you knew that already. So you’re trolling. I mean, heck, when you find yourself restating your interlocutor’s point in ways you know they’ll disagree with, then you’re consciously, intentionally trolling.

Don’t act fake surprised when you troll successfully, dude. It’s bad form.

43

Substance McGravitas 11.24.10 at 1:10 am

No, I think Brett has a point. When such a clearly not-stupid-or-crazy campaign team like McCain/Palin raises the standard for the not-at-all-racist party AND SOMEHOW LOSES it’s your responsibility to clog up internet threads screeching about a proportion of, what, 15% of the population?

44

Brett Bellmore 11.24.10 at 1:28 am

“and while you clearly stridently disagree with this, it’s the consensus assumption.”

It’s my assumption, too. Two white candidates, or two black candidates, merely neutralizes the racism factor, (To a first approximation, anyway.) leaving other factors to control the outcome.

But in your hypothetical black Republican vs white Democrat matchup, yeah, I think the black vote would be significantly more Republican than in the opposite matchup. Maybe not majority Republican, but more Republican.

45

rwschnetler 11.24.10 at 10:40 am

Hey politicalfootball, let us have a recap:

You started this in post 27 where you state: because the white racists aren’t going to vote for him under any circumstances, and Brett expanded on that and said as far as Obama is concerned, courting any racists vote will be irrelevant.

Then you wrote a little story in 32 and not only make as if it is his argument, but also self evaluate this to be an absurd argument.

And in post 40 you still continue with the absurd evaluation of your own little story.

As you have said, this does not have much to do with the original post, so I will leave it there.

46

rwschnetler 11.24.10 at 11:41 am

Correction: You started this in post 26 not 27.

47

Jim Demintia 11.24.10 at 2:47 pm

Racists of color. This is a meaningless term in the the United States. While African Americans, for example, can certainly be prejudiced, the bar for racism is a little higher, necessarily involving systematic discrimination. This canard about reverse racism is really tiresome, implying as it does that racism consists merely of prejudiced individuals, rather than a whole set of social structures that favor one racial group over another.

48

JM 11.24.10 at 2:48 pm

There are a lot of folks writing about how Obama is about to cave on us TOMORROW. Yet when he doesn’t, those folks just seem to write the same thing about something else where Obama Has Disappointed Us Again And Will Betray Us. So, when this doesn’t happen, can you be a bit different and note in some objective way how well the doom-saying played out?

You did note the author’s name at the top of the page?

49

JM 11.24.10 at 2:52 pm

Says something when you see good government as a sneaky weapon, doesn’t it?

Actually, you say nothing when you use glittering generalities to prop up the argument you don’t have.

50

politicalfootball 11.24.10 at 5:03 pm

Racists of color. This is a meaningless term in the the United States.

JM, your comment is directly responsive to the underlying argument made by the anti-anti-racists, but I think it fails in some sense because it doesn’t address the superficial argument that they make. My intent in 32 was to ignore the superficial argument and expose the underlying argument.

The superficial argument is merely definitional, and as such, it’s not unreasonable: Racism, in this view, is properly defined as race-based hostility; something that all humans are prone to, regardless of race. (To suggest otherwise is racist!)

The underlying argument is the one I outlined in 32: Racism – using their definition – is essentially identical among races not merely because the definition is the same, but because the causes, consequences and moral meaning of racism are identical among races.

The anti-anti-racists are desperate to argue over definitions. Look at rwschnetler in 33. I’m very specific in addressing the underlying issue in 32, but he’s desperate to divert the conversation to definitions.

Anti-anti-racists are tongue-tied when confronted with their underlying argument. They either have to defend that argument (which is impossible because it’s ludicrous) or they’d have to deny it (which they can’t do because it is, in fact, their underlying argument).

Look at rwschnetler here:

Then you wrote a little story in 32 and not only make as if it is his argument, but also self evaluate this to be an absurd argument.

Is he offended because I’m falsely attributing a ludicrous argument to Brett? Or is he offended because I deem that perfectly sensible argument ludicrous? He can’t say. He’s stuck.

51

JM 11.24.10 at 7:28 pm

@ pf 50:

That wasn’t me.

52

politicalfootball 11.24.10 at 7:43 pm

oops

53

rwschnetler 11.25.10 at 12:20 am

Hey polticalfootball, I am not offended at all.

I am trying to understand why you get comments like Cryptic Ned’s post in 29. And what you were unable to say Jim Demintia said very succintly in post 47. It is all to do with what is understood by racism. It can be interesting to discuss his definition in a separate thread but it is certainly way off topic in regards to the original post.

And stop trying to make up your own arguments as if it is mine or somebody else’s, and try to understand the difference between a question and statement, as in post 33. Where you get the idea that I am [an] anti-anti-racists are desperate to argue over definitions is just plain ludicrous.

I did not make any case for whatever type of racists you would like to define, I wanted to find out the reaction to Brett statement in post 27.

54

Brett Bellmore 11.25.10 at 1:08 am

“The underlying argument is the one I outlined in 32: Racism – using their definition – is essentially identical among races not merely because the definition is the same, but because the causes, consequences and moral meaning of racism are identical among races.”

Well, let’s see.

Causes: The general causes of racism are just the tendency to think of those like you as being better than those unlike you, and a certain mental laziness that rejects the work inherent in treating people as individuals rather than interchangeable members of a class. So, check, I’d say the causes are the same.

Consequences: The consequences of racism vary from individual to individual, from essentially nil, to mass murder. The key point to understand is that they vary from individual to individual, not from race to race. Yeah, it’s convenient to pretend otherwise. See the second cause of racism, cited above.

Moral meaning: Again, the moral meaning is the same: You’re treating individuals as interchangeable examples of a class, rather than the people they ACTUALLY are. Ignoring their own individual guilt and innocence, their own individual merits and demerits. That’s a moral wrong.

So, on the basis of the superficial definition, or the deeper meaning, I think I’m right.

55

politicalfootball 11.25.10 at 2:07 am

While obviously I disagree with you, Brett, it’s gratifying to have my actual words read, and to have a response given that’s genuinely responsive. Thanks.

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