Home > World Events > The Shutdown of 2011, in 2013

The Shutdown of 2011, in 2013

October 1st, 2013

Now that the US government has shut down, I thought I would look back at a post from 2010, in which I predicted such an outcome, expecting it to come in 2010. As it turned out that was premature, but much of the analysis still stands up pretty well, notably including the final sentence

The crisis of 2011? (repost)

It seems to be widely projected that the Republicans could regain control of the House of Representatives. What surprises me is that no-one has drawn the obvious inference as to what will follow, namely a shutdown of the US government.

It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen – the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995 (maybe not quite as much as they hated him by 2000, but they are getting there faster this time).

The big question is how a shutdown will be resolved. It seems to me that it will be a lot harder for Obama to induce the Republicans to back down than it was for Clinton. IIRC, no piece of legislation proposed by Obama has received more than a handful of votes in the House, and (unlike the case with Bob Dole in 1995) no aspiring Republican presidential candidate will have an interest in resolving the problem – the base would be furious. On the other hand, the price Obama would have to pay if he capitulated the Republicans would demand from Obama in a capitulation would be huge, certainly enough to end his presidency at one term. So, I anticipate a lengthy shutdown, and some desperate expedients to keep things running.

As far as I can tell, there is no mechanism for resolving this kind of deadlock – the House can’t be dissolved early as would happen in a parliamentary system. I think the Founders probably envisaged the House as having a “power of the purse” comparable to that of the British Commons. Whether they did or not, I’m sure this argument will be made, probably by people who have argued, until very recently, that the power of the Executive is essentially unlimited.

But, my understanding is limited and I’d be keen to hear what others think about this.
[1] I’ve tried to clarify my point about capitulation, which was poorly expressed the first time.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2013 at 15:26 | #1

    The US is completely dysfunctional. There is no way back for it now. It will destroy itself from within. When they get government funding running again (and they almost certainly will) this will make no difference. The place is disintegrating for any number of reasons. Gross inequality, sclerotic ideology, authoritarianism, fundamentalist anti-science attitudes and general resource collapse are the main issues.

  2. Donald Oats
    October 1st, 2013 at 15:47 | #2

    Obama should let the shutdown run its course, pinning the full responsibility for the economic and social consequences upon the Republicans; afterall, the Republicans are playing hardball, and if Democrats keep giving in, then they (and the USA) lose in the long run. If a shutdown goes on for long enough, I do not think that the Republicans are going to be on the good side of the American public at large. As a second term president, Obama could risk it; if he doesn’t, the Republicans will simply do it the next time the opportunity presents itself, and that can’t be good for America.

    The important thing for the Democrats is to stress repeatedly that the economic recovery has been put in jeopardy by the burn-it-to-the-ground antics of the Republicans—and only the Republicans, whenever they don’t get 100% of what they want. They refuse to bargain in good faith, time and again.

  3. Donald Oats
    October 1st, 2013 at 15:58 | #3

    …and even if Obama capitulated, the deal on the table is only to fund services until Dec 15—then the whole shebang starts again, AFAIK. The word here is “extortion.”

  4. Will
    October 1st, 2013 at 16:07 | #4

    Why is it always the right wing who bitch and piss and moan and threaten to destroy everything because they can’t eat the whole cake?

  5. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2013 at 16:12 | #5

    @Will

    Because that’s the way they are.

  6. Will
    October 1st, 2013 at 16:12 | #6

    …and while I think of it, it will only be a matter of time before the right wing here drifts more extremist and resorts to the same despicable scorched earth tactics as seen in the US. Mark my words.

  7. Michael
    October 1st, 2013 at 16:33 | #7

    @Will

    Good point. A decade after the Yanks got Dubya, we have Tony Abbott.

    How will the Liberals move to make Australia dysfunctional like the US? They tried pretty hard during Gillard’s period as PM, but that was just an appearance while they actually kept passing legislation in practice.

  8. Michael
    October 1st, 2013 at 16:39 | #8

    As for the Republicans copping political flack for shutting down the government (How is that not treason?), the Washington Post and others keep talking as if both sides are at fault (see a piece reprinted in today’s Brisbane Times – Fairfax):

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/world-business/united-states-government-shutdown-begins-as-congress-hits-dead-end-20131001-2upwq.html

    The idea of saying that one party is controlled by crazies would not be “objective” or “fair and balanced” according to that view.

    Hopefully the Republicans will actually get criticized for this.

  9. BilB
    October 1st, 2013 at 17:13 | #9

    This whole issue is about 3 things. The minimum wage, $7.50 per hour. The cost of a doctors visit.

    http://able2know.org/topic/94868-1#bottom

    And te number of “real Americans” as viewed from the Republican point of view who can put their hand out for social welfare, including medical care.

    As I see it, Republicans are desperate for low income people to become comforatble with receiving regular health care.

  10. BilB
    October 1st, 2013 at 17:14 | #10

    “to NOT become comfortable”

  11. Jim Rose
    October 1st, 2013 at 17:22 | #11

    There were several shutdowns under carter and seven brief ones under reagan.

  12. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2013 at 18:13 | #12

    The USA is hilarious. They try to run the world and they can’t even run their own country.

  13. Jim Rose
    October 1st, 2013 at 18:50 | #13

    Ikonoclast :
    The USA is hilarious. They try to run the world and they can’t even run their own country.

    has the rudd-gillard-rudd roundabout and backstabbing being forgotten already?

  14. Ikonoclast
    October 1st, 2013 at 19:27 | #14

    @Jim Rose

    Not at all. However, it is arguable that;

    1. Australia does not try to run the world; and
    2. We have a consitutional method of dealing with a political impasse affecting supply.

  15. October 1st, 2013 at 20:06 | #15

    @Jim Rose: even as the Labor party made a great big mess with their various recent shenanigans and the media carried on like a chook with its head chopped off over the issue, we continued paying the bills, government services kept operating, and Australia as an entity continued to work.

  16. Jim Rose
  17. Nathan
    October 1st, 2013 at 20:27 | #17

    @Jim Rose
    In what way is these situations comparable?

  18. James
    October 1st, 2013 at 20:39 | #18

    In all the hullaballoo, it’s important to keep the main issue in mind. Firstly that in their current state the Republicans are a radical and anti-democratic party. They have admitted as much themselves. It stems from the toxic mix of fundamentalist religion and politics that infests their party and is a cancer on US democracy. Secondly this is their clearest most baldfaced challenge to the whole of the US democratic process. If Obama and the Democrats do not face them down over this, the consequences that will flow are simply hideous. This opinion piece expresses it concisely and with admirable clarity http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/10/the-real-fight-the-debt-ceiling.html

  19. October 1st, 2013 at 22:55 | #19

    According to Wikipedia, “shutdowns” are as follow:

    1976 – Pres Ford – “vetoed spending on Labor, Health, Education, Welfare (HEW)”
    1977 – Democrat House – abortion in cases of rape etc and tied to HEW
    1977 – temp deal expired and Carter extended
    1977 – A deal was eventually struck which allowed Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases resulting from rape, incest, or in which the mother’s health is at risk.
    1978 – Nuclear Warship, HEW, abortion
    1979 – 5.5% pay rise for Congress, abortion
    1981 – Reagan didn’t get $8.4 Billion budget cuts (almost cute by today’s $17 Trillion US debt!)
    1982 – Passed a day late
    1982 – Jobs, MX Missiles, Legal Aid, Reagan, increased money for Israel
    1983 – Education v Military, Missiles, Israel, Oil & Gas in Nat Parks, abortion
    1984 – civil rights v crime fighting, Reagan eventually won and also got funding for death squads in Nicaragua
    1986 – Welfare, sale of ‘conrail’
    1997 – Democrats, who now controlled both the House and the Senate, opposed funding for the Contras, and wanted the Federal Communications Commission to begin re-enforcing the “Fairness Doctrine”. They yielded on the “Fairness Doctrine” in exchange for non-lethal aid to the Contras. (Both large wins for Rupert Murdoch)
    1990 – G H W Bush, deficit reduction
    1995 – Clinton, balanced budget

  20. Brian
    October 2nd, 2013 at 03:23 | #20

    The US constitution says that the USA must pay its debts. Consequently, I believe there are probably grounds for the President to charge the Congresspeople voting against that with high crimes and misdemeanors and have them arrested. But that would be plowing a new area of law. This president isn’t much of a fighter. When he does fight, it’s with milquetoast language. The big thing that got accomplished was done by the House and Senate. And the fight now is mostly being fought by the House, not by him.

    The Democratic party knows that if health care reform fails, they will have accomplished nothing. The Republicans are venal creeps in the pocket of health insurance executives and others in the health care industry who are desperate to keep scamming the country. When health care reform ends up working, it will set the stage for what is really necessary – a national health care system like every other civilized nation. We have no choice really. We have to get an NHS, or the cost of health care will bankrupt us.

  21. John Quiggin
    October 2nd, 2013 at 05:27 | #21

    @Jim Rose One comment per thread per day, please

  22. Geoff Andrews
    October 2nd, 2013 at 11:06 | #22

    Normally, the phrase “politics of envy” evokes masses of lazy, dole bludging, socialists (too many tautologies?) at the manor gates of the hard working, tax paying rich (too many oxymorons?).
    Obamacare appears to be the reverse of this scenario – the aforesaid rich whining that someone is going to receive something (for which THEY can AFFORD to pay) for nothing.
    Talk about anti-social swine! Oh, that’s right; I forgot:”anti-social”=”anti-socialist”.

  23. Charles Peterson
    October 2nd, 2013 at 14:38 | #23

    It’s the Madisonian system that makes horrors like this possible. It is indeed a horror for 800,000 federal workers in the so-called non-essential category, and the businesses that rely on their government services as well as their personal business. Even for others, it’s pretty scary, since no one can say exactly how it’s going to end, or even inexactly, and we’re all connected in one way or another, and moreso in the midst of the current economic weakness which is only made worse.

    I believe a Parliamentary system would not allow this kind of thing, since the essential difficulty is warring legislature and executive. Already the US executive has been reformulated from the Madisonian Wimp into the War Imperium, but nothing has been done about the strangeness that the Executive may be on the one hand ordered to tax and spend, but then on the other not to do so, or not to raise debt accordingly. That hasn’t been changed since it only affect people, not leviathans, which gives essential insight into what really matters.

  24. Alan
    October 2nd, 2013 at 16:36 | #24

    Government shutdowns are not exclusive to Madisonian systems, nor are they universal to Madisonian systems. Australia came very close to a government shutdown in 1975. Most modern constitutions (Germany and Brazil are a parliamentary and a presidential example) avoid shutdowns by including a rule that if the new budget doesn’t pass by a certain date, the previous budget carries over.

    The US states are also Madisonian, but there have only ever been 4 shutdowns by state governments which is not a whole lot out of 50 states. Madison’s guilty of a lot of things, but not, I think, this one.

  25. Jim Rose
    October 2nd, 2013 at 16:37 | #25

    Ikonoclast :
    Not at all. However, it is arguable that;
    1. Australia does not try to run the world; and
    2. We have a consitutional method of dealing with a political impasse affecting supply.

    incorrect. supply bills are like any other. must be rejected twice, an election and then a joint sitting before they pass..

  26. sunshine
    October 2nd, 2013 at 17:29 | #26

    Didnt Pr Q get it right in 2010 ! Go Aussie !

    This president isn’t much of a fighter.

    – brian
    I’m guessing his advisers tell him to avoid looking like an angry black man at any cost .The chains of their history limit his range .There has obviously been a big gap between the soaring rhetoric and his record so far. I think Abbott will fail to live up to his own brand of soaring rhetoric (of the simpler 3 word kind) leaving the fledgling Australian style Tea Party element dissappointed .On the other hand maybe it would be better if he did it to us so people would mobilise against these bullies .People dont think about water until the well runs dry.

  27. Tim Macknay
    October 2nd, 2013 at 17:33 | #27

    @Jim Rose
    I think Ikonoclast was referring to the capacity for the Governor General to dismiss the government.

  28. Alan
    October 2nd, 2013 at 19:00 | #28

    @Tim Macknay

    I didn’t realise that Kerr had become the supreme emblem of the superiority of the Westminster system.

  29. Tim Macknay
    October 2nd, 2013 at 19:04 | #29

    @Alan
    Neither did I – but I do think that’s what Ikon meant. It arguably is “a constitutional method” for dealing with political paralysis, but whether or not it’s a good one is, to state the obvious, debatable.

  30. Alan
    October 2nd, 2013 at 19:34 | #30

    @Tim Macknay

    1975 is a bad case of how good our political system is. Among other things, there was nothing to stop the senate president suspending the sitting unilaterally, which both presiding officers can do. That would have left us in the exciting situation of no budget, no government, and no prosecute of a government that could pass a budget, and no possibility of an election because parliament had not not funded the electoral officer to run one.

    It would have made a US government shutdown look like a picnic.

  31. Jim Birch
    October 3rd, 2013 at 11:14 | #31

    OTOH the Madisonian model does have the advantage of relatively sane and competent people running government departments where the Westminster system uses politicians. I would think that restricting politicians to creating rather than implementing legislation would be a worth the periodic warfare between the legislative and executive arms of government.

  32. Donald Oats
    October 3rd, 2013 at 11:39 | #32

    Lateline on the ABC last night had a commentator explaining that he thought the shutdown would continue for perhaps a week or so, but the Tea Party types and hard right Repubs would negotiate at the last minute, having proven their point—thus averting the fiscal cliff of Oct 17 debt repayment deadline. He also seemed to think that if it proves successful, the Tea Party types will continue this style of “negotiating” in future.

    If he is even remotely accurate about the second issue, i.e. that this style of gun-to-head-of-government negotiation could become entrenched, then Obama really has to consider refusing to any agreement that further erodes Obama-care policy, even if that sends the US over the fiscal cliff.

    The difficulty for the Democrats is that if the hard right and Tea Party types get their way now, they win supporters at the next election for showing the mettle to fight for what they believe in (small government, basically). The only way I can see Democrats improving their support base is if they stare down the Tea-totallers and are willing to fall off the cliff. Should that actually come to pass, the mood concerning the Tea Party strategy would probably swing to a considerable backlash against them, but only if the Democrats are subtle enough to ensure the Tea Party types and the hard right are seen as the architects of the dive over the fiscal cliff. If people think the Democrats had a reasonable choice about it, then they’ll be just as tarnished as their opponents.

    Personally, I don’t think they should use supply bills as weapons to attack other (already passed) bills that they don’t like, given they are in opposition. It just has no element of “fair play” about it. Just not cricket. Given that the Tea Party types and hard right have chosen this path, however, I really believe the Democrats had better be prepared to go the whole way if forced to, without capitulating to the bullies. Sad though.

  33. Jim Rose
    October 3rd, 2013 at 20:45 | #33

    Is what the house doing to block obamacare any different from the greens plan in the lameduck senate to block the repeal of the carbon tax?l

  34. rog
    October 3rd, 2013 at 21:09 | #34

    Is a pineapple the same as an orange?

    Repeal of the entire ACA will increase the defecit.

  35. rog
    October 3rd, 2013 at 21:15 | #35

    @Donald Oats This type of standoff reflects a structural weakness in a presidential style of governing. At times not only is the elected leader of the country unable to lead at other times the leader can act against the majority view.

  36. Alan
    October 3rd, 2013 at 21:33 | #36

    @rog

    You may not necessarily intend this, but the logical consequence of your argument is to abolish the senate. If the leader always gets a legislative majority there is actually no room for the parliament, by way of the senate, to reject the leader’s proposals. I would not see that as a good thing at all.

  37. rog
    October 4th, 2013 at 03:12 | #37

    @Alan In Australia the elected leader needs to get a majority in both houses (concurrent majority) to pass legislation. Should a prime minister have a political majority in both houses the PM has enormous power, ie until the next election.

    In the US the President is unable to directly create legislation and can only veto legislation passed by Congress – there exists a structural separation of power. The President (and the executive) is required to enact federal law.

    Both systems have their characteristics. Our bicameral form of govt can, under particular circumstances, give greater power to a leader than the US style of republic.

  38. Alan
    October 4th, 2013 at 05:22 | #38

    @rog

    You’re drawing a distinction without a difference. It would be equally true to say the prime minister of Australia cannot directly create legislation, because that is the function of the house and senate. In the same way the prime minister of Australia (and the executive) are required to ‘enact’ (I think you actually mean execute) federal law.

  39. Alan
    October 4th, 2013 at 05:29 | #39

    A serious explanation of repeating shutdowns in the US (one that goes beyond a mildly surprising burst of good old-fashioned Aussie constitutional triumphalism) needs to address why shutdowns do not happen in democracies like Brazil. The Australian, Brazilian and US federal legislatures all have the same structure, a house proportionate state representation and a senate with equal state representation. So what’s happening in the US that is not happening in Australia and Brazil?

  40. Alan
    October 4th, 2013 at 06:48 | #40

    Just for the record, it is Uruguay, not Brazil, that has an interim budget rule in its constitution. You should not have too many windows open at once when commenting.

  41. Fran Barlow
    October 4th, 2013 at 07:14 | #41

    @Alan

    Mind you, the senate (and the states) inter alia should be abolished …

  42. Ikonoclast
    October 4th, 2013 at 07:17 | #42

    @Jim Rose

    Yes, it would appear to be quite different. The Green’s plan would not involve blocking supply, a shutdown of government and a lockout of government workers.

  43. Ikonoclast
    October 4th, 2013 at 07:40 | #43

    @Fran Barlow

    I don’t agree. Speaking of Australia, I think the senate and states should NOT be abolished. The value of Pluralism is served by the existence of the states and the senate.

    “Pluralism (political theory): belief that there should be diverse and competing centres of power in society, so that there is a marketplace for ideas.” – Wikipedia. (Note, I don’t like the appearance of the weasel word “marketplace” in that definition.)

    It’s surprising that you, Fran, should be promoting a less pluralistic system and wanting to see power become more concentrated. The argument from efficiency does not hold. Pluralism and the individual and collective rights thus protected must remain higher values than mere economic and administrative efficiency.

    Having said the above, our voting system is lousy. We should have proportional representation in the lower house. Senate reform would be more difficult. The current system is anachronistic (protecting “state rights” by very disproportional representation) but I am not sure what to propose to reform it. Saying “state rights” is an anachronistic or illogical proposition is not the same as saying the states (including state governments) should be abolished.

    The state with the worst governments over time (arguably) has been my state (Qld). You know, the state with only one house. Qld is not a good argument for unicameral government.

  44. crocodile
    October 4th, 2013 at 08:10 | #44

    @Fran Barlow
    The federal government is the one that should be downsized. The state governments need to be larger at the expense of the feds. Competitive federalism.

    Agree with Iko re Qld. But they’re nuts up there anyway.

  45. Geoff Andrews
    October 4th, 2013 at 08:21 | #45

    @Ikonoclast
    As usual, Ikonoclast, well put. Any system that gives a 51% victor absolute power (Newman, Howard with control of both houses) tempts the dictator out of a leader or invites corruption in a party. I thought the last hung parliament was a good demonstration of our parliamentary system.

  46. Felix Alexander
    October 4th, 2013 at 08:21 | #46

    @Fran Barlow

    Rather abolish the federal government and let people sort things out with their neighbors. If Queensland’s going to be weird (and celebrate the grand final a week and a day late), what business is that of mine, any more than Kiwi excentricities?

    @Alan A possible answer is that in Australia budget bills can only address one matter, so it’s impossible to combine them together with other matters like is happening on the other side of the ocean. Consequently all you could do is refuse to pass anything at all, not pass some stuff with other meat left in. We also have long experience with this sort of thing, whereas America only started passing budgets in the 1970s, according to Wikipedia (before that the debt ceiling was congress’s main way of controlling government spending). I also think it’s that a country of America’s size (in combination of population, geographic extent and distance between poles) is just too big to govern effectively, hence my comment to Fran.

  47. rog
    October 4th, 2013 at 08:25 | #47

    @Alan When LNP gained control of both houses John Howard pushed his own agenda ie Workchoices. Thankfully it was this hubris that contributed to his downfall at the ballot box.

  48. Alan
    October 4th, 2013 at 09:56 | #48

    I would not abolish the states or the senate, although the state borders, revenues and functions could certainly do with some attention.

    We hear, quite often that if you were starting from scratch you would not have states. Both Howard and Gillard said that, I don’t know about Rudd.

    South Africa did start from scratch in 1994. The ANC had historically advocated a unicameral, omnicompetent parliament. The main reason the ANC abandoned that position was the argument that their proposal so closely resembled the old apartheid regime where there was a senate and provinces but both were completely toothless.

    So South Africa started from scratch and adopted a second chamber and a system of multilevel governance. It’s been crucial that opposition parties have formed provincial governments in Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It is probably a good thing that Howard and Gillard did not advise them on their constitution.

  49. Fran Barlow
    October 4th, 2013 at 10:54 | #49

    @Ikonoclast

    The value of Pluralism is served by the existence of the states and the senate.

    I’m very much in favour of pluralism, but I don’t see that the current arrangements serve pluralism in any functionally useful or progressive way. Really (at best), all they achieve is administrative complexity and inertia. Given that mining and resources are run at state level, this just makes it easier for big resource companies to knock off weak sovereigns and trample over the public interest in equity and good environmental policy.

    I’d have regional government in preference to state and local government. As you’ll recall, I’ve often proposed a hybrid sortition-deliberative voting model for candidate selection and elections plus direct democracy for the “macro” questions.

    That’s pretty radical and unlikely any time soon, but I’d also see a single member PR-based system for the lower house as a step forward in democratic inclusion.

    @crocodile

    The federal government is the one that should be downsized. The state governments need to be larger at the expense of the feds. Competitive federalism.

    Oh no … almost all systemic corruption and inefficiency is at state and local government level — and that’s in addition to the sheer bloody minded parochialism of state regimes. State governments are just not powerful enough to do most of the things that need doing in the face of established elite interests. On the other hand, they can make an awful mess of policy in areas like roads, schools, hospitals and health, drug policy, law and order etc …

    They need to go, but of course, they will resist.

    I’d “downsize” one of the things the Feds do. Defence is an obvious example of overreach. Really, beyond what may be called “civil defence” perhaps a coastguard for dealing with poachers and picking up the occasional person or IMA craft in distress, what do we really need? Not much, IMO. Hopefully, Australia is not declaring war on anyone, and if any seriously powerful adversary targets this country, any defence equipment we could obtain, maintain and deploy would be utterly moot.

  50. Socrates
    October 4th, 2013 at 11:10 | #50

    Having worked in State and Federal governments I would generally agree with Fran about the illusory benefits of transferring power and money to lower levels of government. They oten are corrupt, because they are less scrutinised, and more parochial.

    The solution to good governance is not to have an ideological preference for any level of govenment. Good governance occurs when you get accountability, transparency, consistency and fairness in allocation across boundaries. Whichever level of govenment that can achieve that should get to spend the money.

    In my experience, it is unlikely to be with States, and very unlikely to be local government. How many people even know who their local Councillor is? Unless you are a real estate salesperson or developer, you do not need to.

  51. October 4th, 2013 at 13:50 | #51

    Just have air traffic controllers announce that next Tuesday they will stop working. The standoff will be over in no time.

  52. Fran Barlow
    October 4th, 2013 at 15:25 | #52

    @Socrates

    How many people even know who their local Councillor is?

    Indeed. I’ve just moved here (Holroyd, Sydney) and the council brochure doesn’t even have a map with the wards in it. I suppose I could ring them up or check the website, and then deduce my councillor …

  53. Jim Rose
    October 5th, 2013 at 10:53 | #53

    defunding is commonplace in the USA. everything from wars to specific policies including prohibiting the use of DOD funds to transfer gitmo detainees into the USA. a lot of democrats vote to defund Obama from implimenting his mandate on that.

    it is routine for all of a department’s appropriations to be conditional on cabinet members and the chair of the Fed certifying that no funds were spent on purpose X in department Y.

    the courts drew the line at defunding the salaries of two named employees in the 1940s.

  54. Alan
    October 6th, 2013 at 06:29 | #54

    There have only been 4 state shutdowns since 1776. There have been 18 federal shutdowns, all since 1974. People are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own definition of ‘common’.

    Voting to defund or fund particular activities is a legitimate exercise of the power of the purse. These chiliastic shutdowns have no fiscal purpose and are purely about trying to undo electoral and legislative results the Republicans don’t like.

  55. John Quiggin
    October 6th, 2013 at 07:28 | #55

    @Alan

    As regards having ones own definitions, all but the 1990s examples of “shutdowns” are retrospective reclassification of minor disputes. There was no notion at the time that the government was shutting down.

  56. Jim Rose
    October 6th, 2013 at 09:44 | #56

    G@John Quiggin several of the carter shutdowns were over abortion funding. Hardly minor?

  57. Ikonoclast
    October 6th, 2013 at 10:06 | #57

    As well as the government shutdown, the US faces another debt ceiling deadline in less than 2 weeks IIRC. Of course, all this pain is self-inflicted due to the ideological blindness of the hard right.

    In addition, to this self-inflicted pain, the pain of limits to growth, climate change, species exctinctions etc. looms.

    I would suggest watching secondary oil exporters’ economies. At the point where domestic consumption of oil eats up all their oil and they cease to be oil exporters, this is the point (approximately) where they collapse into chaos. Libya, Syria, Egypt etc. This will spread. It is spreading now. Pakistan and Yemen, to name two, are teetering on the brink.

  58. Ikonoclast
    October 6th, 2013 at 13:12 | #58

    I had to laugh. I was reading some Collapsist website which said the West is going to collapse. (True, but the pretty much the rest of the world is going to collapse too.)

    Then, they advised the the five best countries to move to avoid the collapse. I kid you not, they recommended Chile, Uraguay, Thailand, Malaysia and Mexico. Those countries would be very high on my list of places not to be when the global collapse gets under way.

    BTW, I am not a Collapsist or Survivalist in the commonly accepted sense. My basic thinking is;

    (a) Australia or NZ might be as good as anywhere and possibly better than many other places.
    (b) The Collapse process will be so unpredictable you can’t predict the best place to be anyway.
    (c) When things get really bad you won’t even want to be alive.

  59. Alan
    October 6th, 2013 at 19:38 | #59

    @Jim Rose

    How do the motivations of political actors increase or decrease the effect their actions have on the political system?

  60. October 6th, 2013 at 19:48 | #60

    Pr Q on JULY 16, 2010 said:

    It seems obvious to me that a shutdown will happen – the Republicans of today are both more extreme and more disciplined than last time they were in a position to shut down the government, and they did it then. And they hate Obama at least as much now as they hated Clinton in 1995 (maybe not quite as much as they hated him by 2000, but they are getting there faster this time).

    His prediction was falsified for the particular REP episode in question. On 26 OCT 2010 I correctly predicted that the REPS “would blink”:

    One bright note: I am pretty sure that the Tea Party-REPs will blink on their threat of government shutdown in 2011. Too many of the REP’s base constituents (military, farmers, seniors) depend on government money or programs for them to risk going ballistic. They are bluffing and any half-way competent President could call their bluff and force them to fold.

    The question is: what has changed? What events have occurred in the past two years that have emboldened the REPs to risk electoral suicide in the near future? And why has Obama grown a spine and refused to back-down?

    Two things: in policy the REPs are more worried that Obamacare will succeed, rather than fail. In politics, the REP base is effectively signalling an inclination towards quasi-secession, that is shutting down the federal government is now considered a feature, rather than bug, of REP political strategy.

    In policy, Obamacare has moved from legislative deliberation through to executive implementation. It is no longer being debated and possibly repealed in the Halls of Congress. And this means that the REPs are scared of its possible success, not failure.

    Once Obamacare takes root in the US welfare state it will become no more possible to repeal than Medicare. In some part of their psyche the REP congressmen know this and are willing to take a hit for their Tea Party base to show their fidelity to the small government cause. There is an element of the Alamo in this last stand against Obamacare.

    In politics the Tea Party-REPs run on secessionist emotional fuel, as indicated by their moniker which harkens back to the US’s original act of secession from the UK empire. Obviously the Southern base of the REPs is steeped in secessionist lore. And the REPs Southern base has become steadily more alienated from Washington ever since the passage of Civil Rights in 1964.

    Secession is not as far-fetched to some REPs as it seems to us. A google search of “Tea Party” + “secession” returns 446,00 hits.

    In many ways the REP base is already seceding from mainstream USA, both economically and ethnically. The REPs elite donor base has already made paying tax and benefiting from public health and education an optional choice. The REPs popular voter base has practised “white flight” to avoid the problems of urban blight. The continued gerrymandering of US districts, combined with the base dominance of primary contests, has entrenched extremism in both parties, although much more so in the REPs.

    Conversely, the Obama-DEMs having tasted an impressive electoral victory in 2012 have seen the demographic writing on the wall. They have the upper hand and are using it for a change, probably knowing that the REPs extreme behaviour is alienating moderate voters. They also know that a shutdown will alienate traditional REP voters, service personnel, farmers and the elderly.

    I dont have any clear model for predicting the REPs next phase of political operations. My best guess is more of the same until the party loses both houses of congress which might happen sooner rather than later. Then they have two choices: either buckle under and pucker up to their new welfare state overlords. Or follow through on their implicit threat of secession, at county or state level.

    Given the REPs penchant for taking the nuclear option I would not be prepared to bet against the quasi-secessionist option, although I have no idea how this idea might pan out in practical terms.

    US tea party is effectively a form of Secession, based on economic & ethnic interests. It does not q

  61. Alan
    October 7th, 2013 at 05:37 | #61

    There is one mroe element to the Republican panic, which extends beyond the tea party faction. Until the middle 90s California was a solid Republican state, a bigger version of Texas. The Republicans managed to flip it to the Democrats by a series of hamfisted proposals directed against the Hispanic community and it is now among the deepest of the deep blue states.

    Texas remains in the Republican column, for now, but there are signs that Texas may be about to follow the California track. If Texas flipped the Republicans would have zero prospect of winning a presidential election without flipping a large Democrat state back to their column.

    They have lost the Senate and did not regain it, as expected, at the last election. Their House majority is a product of malapportionment. Their presidential prospects are not rosy. Parties in a state of panic do stupid things.

  62. October 7th, 2013 at 19:53 | #62

    Shorter Strocchi: The REPs are self-destructing because their:

    – core policy plank – private sector health insurance – is economically failing and their
    – core political constituency – older, whiter, married households – are demographically ailing

    Generally speaking a personality in the grip of a mental disease (eg drug addict) needs to hit rock bottom before they recover or self-destruct. Likewise a polity in the grip of mental disease (eg Nippon in the thirties) needed firebombing its capital, two other cities annihilated by atom bombs and a Red Army attack on the home land army before it came to its senses.

    So I predict the REPs will have to suffer an almighty electoral whipping before they reform and recover their political fortunes. In the meantime they are likely to become like a mentally disturbed person backed into a corner: unpredictable and possibly violent.

    My twelve step recovery plan for the REPs starts with them maintaining their populist ethnic conservatism but drastically moderating their elitist economic regressivism and move in the direction of populist economic progressivism. That would bring the missing working class white voters out of their electoral black holes in the Mid-West and hopefully restore reason and common sense to the Grand Old Party.

  63. October 8th, 2013 at 00:02 | #63

    You really are fixated on race, aren’t you? Why? Do you really believe that race is a determinant of a person’s value?

    If so, you really need to move beyond your current circle and do so with open eyes and mind.

    Take that as a bowl of troll-tucker! Enjoy.

  64. October 8th, 2013 at 02:38 | #64

    Megan said:

    You really are fixated on race, aren’t you?

    Jack Strocchi said:

    older, whiter, married households

    Well one out of three ain’t bad by your standards, kiddo.

    PS It wasnt me who coined the saying: “Demography is destiny”.

  65. October 9th, 2013 at 19:19 | #65

    Shorter, Shorter Strocchi:

    The political meltdown of the REPs stems from its failure to fulfill the function of a Right-wing political movement, namely to establish the higher-status citizens of its state. Higher-status US citizens are losing their ascendancy, both at home and abroad:

    – Caucasian/Christian populace losing national ethnic ascendancy to Obama coalition;
    – Capitalist elite losing global economic ascendancy to PRC

    The REPs have put themselves in a bit of a bind through inherent contradictions in their partisan base. They could shift to the progressive economic Left to draw more working class whites into its fold, those identified by Sean Trende in “The case of the missing white voters”. This would be a good fit with the general ethnic conservatism of the pool of potential populist REP voters. A sort of Right-wing version of David Milibands “Blue Labor” strategy, successfully utilized by Nixon & Reagan.

    But the REP party’s elite is heavily globalized and therefore supports economic regressive policies, such as Open Borders. I don’t see that lot making any concessions to people who have to actually work for a living.

  66. Jim Rose
    October 9th, 2013 at 20:39 | #66

    @jack strocchi on hatred ofclinton and obama, bush and reagan were hated by their opponents too

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