Ten Ethics Observations On The Government Shut-Down

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Stipulated: I am not in generally favor of government shutdowns, just as I do not favor strikes, boycotts, Massada-style mass suicides, wars, or any other destructive tactics, strategies and actions in response to impasses over important matters. Sometimes, however, they are necessary and responsible. Sometimes, they are not.

1. It is fascinating reading the comments on the shutdown from my friends on Facebook. It is startling how many of them simply parrot back partisan talking points they have heard on CNN and MSNBC, but especially striking are the angry rants of the government employees who appear to take the shutdown as a personal affront. How dare the evil Republicans disrupt their lives, their paychecks, their work schedule, their vacations! I wonder if my friends have the same reactions to labor strikes, wars and national disasters. Do they really believe that those elected officials struggling to decide on crucial matters of policy, firmly believing in a course that is right for the nation and reaching an impasse, should just shrug off the serious implications of the issue at hand and say, “But, hey, Joe Finsterwald will have a tough time if his agency has to shut down, and the Bradys’ DC vacation will be ruined, so the heck with it: go ahead with that law we think will be a disaster for the country. We’ll back off.” Do those Facebook complainers really think that would be responsible governance? You know, guys, this isn’t personal: it’s called politics and two party government. It’s part of the deal. Disagree with the policy arguments if you have the knowledge and perspective to do so, but taking the position that the entire business of running the country revolves around your convenience over the next few days or weeks is as juvenile as it is irresponsible. If you work for a private company, you risk disruptions because of business failures, competition and re-organizations. If you work for the government, you risk things like this. It’s not only about you.

2. What various polls show about what the American public believes or doesn’t believe is irrelevant, and anyone on either side of the dispute who cites them as support for the Affordable Care Act or gutting the Affordable Care Act is either naive or trying to deceive. Never mind that the polling questions themselves are manipulative, biased and moronic, like CNN’s ridiculous poll asking whether Congress and the President are acting like responsible adults or “spoiled children.” So much of the public is  stunningly ignorant about the issues involved in the shutdown that their collective opinion is worthless, and basing policy on it would be governing malpractice. From Forbes:

“An August Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed that 44% do not even realize that Obamacare is still the law. Kaiser’s June poll found that 33% say they have ‘heard nothing at all” about the controversial insurance exchanges that are a central element of the law, and 34% “only a little.” When it comes to the budget, numerous polls show that voters grossly underestimate the percentage of federal spending that goes to entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, while greatly overestimating the amount spent on foreign aid. Although the latter accounts for about 1 percent of the federal budget, surveys show that most Americans believe that it is five to ten times more than that, or even higher.”

If the public is criminally uninformed about the budget, the deficit, the national debt, and the law at the center of the dispute, why are elected officials of both parties claiming the public is on their side? They were elected to be the experts on these matters and to make the tough decisions: it’s lazy and dishonest to pretend to be guided by the ignorant, and irresponsible to actually be guided by them.

3. Whatever else has been settled in the endless debates over the ACA, whether it is good policy, can be pulled off, will accomplish what we were told it would and whether it will do more harm than good has not been even slightly determined. Not only that, the defenders of the law appear to have no better idea about this than the law’s foes. For such a huge, complex law that affects so many people, this is itself disturbing. Tuesday, in an editorial, the Washington Post said that all Americans should hope that the Affordable Care Act works. Hope? What kind of law is it that requires hope and faith? This echoes Nancy Pelosi’s immortal plea to pass the bill in order to see what’s in it, and fingers what has always been worrisome about the law from the beginning. It is huge, it is complicated, it is unprecedented, it will create a massive bureaucracy, it will affect millions of businesses and jobs…and we’re suppose to hope it works? You don’t have to be much of a conservative to have problems with that approach to anything. Yesterday Henry Waxman, a powerful House Democrat committed to defending Obamacare until the last dog dies, was impertinently asked by a reporter if he has read the 10,000+ pages of federal regulations that have already been written into the law—which itself the Congressman, like virtually all of his Democratic colleagues, never read. Waxman indicated that he had not, and didn’t think it was important for him to ever do so. Nobody knows if or how this law will work in its details, yet those who want to delay its implementation until the bugs, whatever they are, are worked out have been routinely derided as radicals, obstructionists and lunatics. Instead, we should hope that it works. This seems so obviously irresponsible that I have trouble believing that I have to write it.

4.  It takes two sides to make an impasse. Both sides of the dispute, I assume, are taking their positions in good faith with the conviction that they are important enough to reach this difficult point. Blaming either side exclusively is illogical and unfair, as well as dishonest. However, in an impasse, the side that refuses to bargain in good faith holds the greater responsibility for the length it. President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate could end the shutdown by accepting the House bill. They don’t have to do that, but there are consequences, just as there are consequences of the House demanding that its bill prevail.

5.  The Democratic rhetoric about the Republicans being “terrorists,” “hostage-takers” and engaging in unprecedented tactics is dirty politics and blatant dishonesty. So is the similar rhetoric coming from the news media. The House of Representatives has no obligation, constitutional or otherwise, to pass a funding bill that includes money for any government program, including the new health care law.  That’s how budgets get balanced and cut—by eliminating programs. The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse is so it can decide which government programs are worthy of funding, and which are not. The Democrats, and the President, have been arguing a version of Constitutional government that is simply untrue. Just because a law has been passed, Congress doesn’t have to fund it.

6. As always, some Obamaphiles are defaulting to accusations of racism. Funny that the previous shutdowns—17 in all— all occurred with white Presidents, but never mind: this will be the fallback argument as long as President Obama is in office and keeps flailing at a job he is unable to perform. The repeated race-baiting is an insult to the nation, the process, and ultimately the President himself. Blogger-Hysteric Andrew Sullivan nicely personifies this type, while also spewing a load of other angry and violent rhetoric about Republicans. He also has a strange view of the Presidency, which he seems to see in royalist terms. The frightening thing is that the President sometimes appears to share Sullivan’s misconceptions. Americans, and Congress are obligated to do whatever the President wants, good or bad. No, Andrew, you’re thinking of England in the old days. In fact they are not.

7. I keep reading that Obamacare should be allowed to go forward because it is “the signature achievement of the Obama Administration.” What kind of argument is that? Passing a bad law, if it is a bad law, isn’t an achievement, and the nation shouldn’t be obligated to treat a law differently because of  who happened to be behind it. This is some kind of bizarre, Big Muddy, Vietnam rationalization: if we don’t go through with it, we will have wasted all this time! I have read this argument in the Post, in the New York Times, in USA Today, and heard it issue from the mouths of pundits who I thought were smarter than that. Surely, this fight isn’t about the President’s ego….is it? Surely the Democrats aren’t fighting for the ACA because if that goes down—wow, this whole five years will look like a total bust! Are they?

8. Jonathan Adler, on the Volokh Conspiracy, begins by quoting James Fallows—“There is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt — as opposed to symbolic anti-Administration protest votes, which both parties have cast over the years. Nor for demanding the reversal of major legislation as a condition for routine government operations” — and then shows how this claim, repeated endlessly in the media, is just plain false, as did the Washington Post fact-checker, which I noted previously here. Adler writes,

“There have been 17 [shutdowns] since 1976, several of which were the result of disputes over substantive policy issues, ranging from limits on funding abortion to civil rights laws to reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. In Fallows defense, none of these involved demands for “reversal of major legislation,” but there were multiple efforts to attach measures that would overturn court decisions or change federal law.”

Maybe I’m missing something, but how is that in Fallows’ defense? What sense does it make to say that shutting down the government over smaller matters was acceptable, but doing so over major legislation is excessive? Shouldn’t the big weapons only come out over the biggest controversies, when the most is on the line? Strangely illogical and untrue talking points have taken root in the discourse over the shutdown, and because the mainstream media, as usual, is playing partisan advocate rather than doing its job, nobody is stopping to clear up the murk.

9. The refrain that “elections have consequences” and thus Republicans lawmakers…maybe even some Democrats along the way…are therefore obligated to ignore the expanding national debt, allowed to burgeon by a President who proclaims that it’s nothing to worry about, and to accept all the features of a massive law they believe is intrusive, flawed, irresponsible and wrong, is yet another intellectually dishonest argument that has been used to warp public debate. Congress was elected too, and its members have a duty to those who elected them, and to the nation, to do whatever the Constitution permits, in their best judgment, to ensure the country’s welfare and security. They are within ethical boundaries to try to defund Obamacare, just as Democrats could oppose and try to eliminate the Bush tax cuts or force the US to exit Iraq. The “Republicans had their shot, but the law was passed and now it’s forever” may be accurate, but it does not impose ethical obligations on the law’s steadfast opponents. This would be true of any law, but especially one passed the way this one was, with reckless promises and disinformation, apathy by both legislators and the public about the details of the law, and the use of one desperate maneuver after another, from “reconciliation” to the bribing of Senators to unprecedented pressure on the Supreme Court from the White House and members of Congress. Nor was the election of 2012 any more of a referendum on the ACA than the previous election was. It was less of one: nobody can honestly say that the President was re-elected because the voters wanted to endorse Obamacare, but there is little question that the Republican take-over of the House in 2010 was the direct result of voter anger about the law and the manner of its passage.

10. The Obama Administration’s insistence on physically blocking access to parks and monuments like the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial is in the same category of unethical and despicable conduct as its efforts to make sure that the sequester inconvenienced as many Americans as possible. The government is spending more money blocking access to such tourist attractions than it would cost to leave them open, which is why, in all the other shut-downs, no visiting school children were stopped from gazing up at the Great Emancipator.  Politically, this is a miscalculation; ethically, it is indefensible. The tactic is cynical and mean, intentionally targeting the enjoyment and recreation of citizens to ratchet up tensions and artificially create offenses to blame on Congress. But Congress, as far as I can see, is not trying to hurt citizens, despite my narcissistic Facebook friends. As is any war, the pain is incidental to what it believes is an important cause. Whether the Republicans are right or wrong, that is an honorable motive. Forcing WWII veterans to cross barricades to honor fallen comrades, in contrast, is revolting.

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Sources: Forbes, CNS, The Dish, Examiner

Graphic: ABC News

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

89 thoughts on “Ten Ethics Observations On The Government Shut-Down

  1. You (re)quote James Fallows: “There is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt…”.

    Anthony Trollope reported serious proposals to repudiate federal debt in the 1860s, in his contemporaneous North America.

    • When put into context: This Trollope fellow (an Englishman) was writing about certain states threatening to repudiate their debts to various English investors and to confiscate the lands owned by various Englishmen in regards to possible war being waged by England against America at the time.

      Given that I can find no references to there being war threatened at that time, I don’t think Mr. Trollope knew what he was talking about. But let’s humor him, if there had been war threatened at the time, why wouldn’t various states do what is necessary, such as threaten to ignore debt obligations, to stave off such violent and counter-commercial actions by an aggressor?

      • Actually, there was a little dust up right before his book was published that, had cooler heads not prevailed in London and Washington, might have led to conflict. Look up the “Trent Affair”. Given that the British were still looking for reasons to diplomatically recognize the South and they hadn’t been yet been dissuaded by the Emancipation Proclamation, there is every reason to believe relations were extremely cool between the U.S. and UK and some may have seen a possibility for war.

      • You didn’t do your homework, and not just by conflating “England” and “Britain”, did you? His book is available on the internet, so you can easily double check what I am about to tell you. Look up “The Financial Position”, chapter XII of volume II.

        Trollope was not “writing about certain states threatening to repudiate their debts to various English investors and to confiscate the lands owned by various Englishmen in regards to possible war being waged by England against America at the time”.

        He prefaced his remarks by reminding readers that certain states already had repudiated their debts to various European investors (I happen to know separately that they were mostly British and Dutch), and that this was a chronic issue that had made American bonds a very poor financial risk. In his biography of Keynes, Skidelsky estimates that the wealth transfer from Europe to the U.S.A. produced by this realised sovereign risk exceeded the entire value of Marshall Aid (I don’t know if that is after allowing for lost interest, too).

        After Trollope had set the scene that way, he pointed out a dangerous new development: serious politicians were seriously proposing to welch on the federal debt of the U.S.A. (why do you think I specified “federal”?). He emphasised that this was a serious enlargement of the sovereign risk.

        And, of course, although it actually had little to do with the matter, there was indeed a serious threat of (yet another) war over the Trent Affair, aggravated by the U.S. Navy’s sustained abuse of neutrality in the lead up (it wasn’t that they just happened upon a British ship that they stopped and searched almost inadvertently; over a period they lay in wait for it in violation of treaties regarding standing off neutral ports).

        So, please, don’t misrepresent matters under the guise of providing “context”. There are people around here who call that sort of thing lying, even if it was only carelessness with your assumptions.

      • In case I didn’t make it clear: the Trent Affair was not a case of the U.S.A. being wronged but of it being in the wrong, as it carried out unprovoked aggression against Britain; there was no threat of aggression by Britain, and U.S. threats of seizures were not attempts to head that off. But Prince Albert helped to smooth things over, and Lincoln rolled over and allowed British troops to transit Maine to reinforce Canada (the direct seaways being frozen in at the time).

        That last point is particularly amusing and somewhat ironic, since Lincoln is sometimes cited for a statement he made earlier in his career, that foreign troops could never enter the U.S.A. save with its permission (from memory, he mentioned watering their horses on the Mississippi, I think) – yet under pressure he himself provided that very permission, so showing that the obstacle was not a very real barrier in that time and place.

  2. Yeah, the Obama administration picked up the phone and said “Block off the WWII Memorial” maybe if you got out from behind your desk you would see that every memorial and park in the area is also blocked off.

      • The Obama Administration’s insistence on physically blocking access to parks and monuments like the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial is in the same category of unethical and despicable conduct as its efforts to make sure that the sequester inconvenienced as many Americans as possible. The government is spending more money blocking access to such tourist attractions than it would cost to leave them open, which is why, in all the other shut-downs, no visiting school children were stopped from gazing up at the Great Emancipator.

        I’ve found this argument to be obscene. When pregnant women and children are going hungry, medicine trials going dark, and almost a million people wondering how they are going to pay their bills now, we take up the cause of people who want to see a tourist attraction? That’s causing maximum inconvenience?

        The tourist attractions, even the outdoor ones, don’t run themselves. People are hired to secure the area, pick up trash and debris, provide tour guides and literature, etc. Remember that someone defaced several monuments not too many weeks ago, even with people on duty. They become even more vulnerable when it is known that there is no one around guarding those monuments. And it is a hard argument indeed to make that we should prioritize funding tourist attractions when some very basic functions of government are going unfunded and we are forcing others to work without pay. This falls under the very definition of nonessential. Eat your meal first, then talk about candy.

        • I see, providing employment is government’s basic function. This is cheap political theater, nothing more. But hey, if you can prove that the government is spending less to patrol bike paths normally unpatrolled to make sure no one uses them during the shutdown, I’ll believe you. Otherwise, take your unrighteous indignation and shove it up your ass.

        • The point is, in some cases the government seems to be spending more (on patrols and guards) to close things than it costs to keep them operating. In other words, It’s Government Shutdown Theater, as evidenced by the fact that many less popular attractions remain open — no need to put on a show if nobody will see it.

          So, “When pregnant women and children are going hungry, medicine trials going dark, and almost a million people wondering how they are going to pay their bills,” should the government be taking up the cause of putting on show closings?

        • Blatantly dishonest emotionalism.

          The “starving women and children”….oh my bad…”pregnant women” (because now the unborn have value for an argument in leftist eyes), would be ‘starving’ anyway with shutdown, if your dishonest logic held any weight. It doesn’t.

          That the executive branch at the bidding of it’s spoiled prince has also commanded the unnecessary closure of monuments and parks that otherwise would be open IS NOT tied to the shutdown. Going out of its way to make the shutdown extra painful is wrong as it is unnecessary. It is extra wrong in that it cost MORE to ban access to them than to allow access.

        • That argument doesn’t wash. It often costs more to shut these attractions down than it does to keep them open. Further, attractions that ARE NOT FUNDED by the Fed Beast AT ALL are being shut down. Some are even revenue GENERATORS. To me, this demonstrates nothing but sheer vindictiveness by the liar in chief.

          Also, how many hungry kids could have been fed with the Millions spent to underwrite ObaMAO’s last taxpayer funded vacation?

        • I’ve found this argument to be obscene. When pregnant women and children are going hungry, medicine trials going dark, and almost a million people wondering how they are going to pay their bills now, we take up the cause of people who want to see a tourist attraction?
          ***************
          That is all the MSM is talking about, so I’m going to assume that is all 70% of the country is talking about.

          This morning on CNN I heard the tragic tale of the wedding at the Grand Canyon that had to be postponed.
          I could barely drive myself to work after hearing such a vivid tale of human suffering.

          I mean…how dare those quarrelsome, inflexible, racist pig tea baggers (’cause we know that is what all Republicans are) INTERFERE with someone’s wedding?
          My guess is it was a mixed race union and this is more evidence of the extreme tactics the GOP will go to advance its racist agenda.
          Just like Nazi Germany, only with cooler electronics.

  3. I have written my congressman saying that I do not want the debt ceiling raised. This, I see, as the key issue here. We spend ALL of our federal tax dollars on three programs; Social Security, Medicare, and government pensions. Everything else is paid for on our ‘credit card’ (military included). This cannot continue. The debt ceiling was raised with promises from the Executive to reign in costs and the deficit. It hasn’t happened. With this in mind, how can we fund an vastly expensive program such as ACA ON CREDIT. There is no tax money for this, it will be on credit. Unless the new taxes increase revenues by over 50%, ACA will be paid for on credit, and no one knows how much that will be. That is completely irresponsible and I am ready for them to shut down a major part of the government for as long as they need to to address this issue. I feel the very existence of this country is at stake. I feel this matter is as pressing and as important as the secession of the Southern states leading to the Civil War, because the results will be just as disastrous if we ignore it. If we raise the debt ceiling, it will get used (remember Obama said last time that just because it was raised, didn’t mean it would be spent?) and we are on the razor’s edge of what we will be able to pay back. It is now or default.

    • If the debt ceiling is not raised, we will default. The debt ceiling ratifies paying our bills on the money we have already spent. If we refuse to raise it, our creditors, people and entities who have bought Treasury bills, will be left holding the bag. It will make borrowing a lot harder to do in the future, though for some people that’s a feature, not a bug. I’m just not sure it is worth ruining the world economy over myself. Not to mention making it nearly impossible for the average consumer to borrow money for cars, houses, etc. It will almost certainly set up a deflationary spiral that will be impossible for the US to recover from.

      • OK, so you want to borrow more money to service our debt? This is akin to taking out a loan to pay the minimum payment on your credit card debt. Specifically, a really BAD fiscal idea.

        • So you would prefer we default? And by default, I mean we renege on paying our bills. That’s all the debt ceiling is, saying that we will pay for the stuff and services that we have already received. I would prefer for the US not to become a deadbeat.

          • We still have tax revenues. Taxes are for paying our bills including debt service. We pay our bills with taxes. Borrowed money doesn’t have to be repaid with more borrowed money. The debt ceiling is the limit on the amount of money the government can borrow. When we reach it, we just can’t borrow more money. Your insistence that there is no other way but borrowing forever is what got us into this problem in the first place. This mindset is what leads individuals in this country to bankruptcy.

            This is the opportunity, no, the last chance for us to decide what we need to spend money on and how much we are willing to spend for it. Taxes need to be set accordingly. If the people don’t want to pay more in taxes, then we have to spend less on government. This really isn’t that difficult a concept.

      • False. We default when we stop making interest payments on the debt. That can be achieved without raising the debt ceiling. Not raising the debt ceiling will only lead to default if we continue to insist on spending on unconstitutional entitlements and programs that are completely outside of any responsible republic’s obligations.

        Not defaulting now = defaulting later = supposed ruining of world economy (unprovable chicken little prognostication). The excessive spending and debt deepening WILL lead to economic woes. That’s it. You and your Keynesian kind continue to perpetuate the lie by pretending debt doesn’t matter and kicking the can further down the road.

        Either we get fiscally responsible NOW or we make the inevitable natural correction later on as painful as possible.

        • So to avoid default your solution is to either raise taxes, massively, or to cut out every single piece of entitlement and program outside of those deemed (by whom?) constitutional? And we are supposed to do this by October 17th, when we are due to default on the debt? Anything is possible, I suppose, but this seems to me to be the height of magical thinking.

          • I am beginning to wonder how dense you really are. If you want to spend money, you have to raise the money. You can’t just borrow the money indefinitely. What is your credit card debt? Do you just live the lifestyle you feel you are entitled to income be damned and borrow as much money as you need to do it? That is the basic argument you are making. It doesn’t work for the government anymore that it works with personal finances. Only the amounts and the length of time before you have to face the consequences differ.

            Either cut spending to be in line with revenues or raise revenues to pay for what we believe we should spend. Pick one.

            • You seem to be conflating two different issues. There is the budget showdown, which rightfully can and should be about thoughtful long-term expenditures and revenues, and how we prioritize each of them to achieve stated goals.

              Then there is the upcoming debt ceiling on October 17th, which authorizes the government to pay for things it has already procured. Without which, the government will be deemed to be in default. Now what is your plan to avoid the looming default in the near future, two weeks away? We can’t raise and collect enough in taxes in that time frame, and cutting programs would be mostly irrelevant, since the money has already been spent. So how would you avoid breaching the debt ceiling?

              • Excuse me, when was this debt ceiling enacted? Was this a surprise? Why can’t we suddenly pay for this? The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of debt we can incur. It does not mean that the government is out of money permanently. They are still taking taxes out of my pay. When this limit was raised last time, we were assured this would not happen. It did. We cannot trust the administration with another increase. There is no other way but to stop it now. It has been proven that option of raising the debt limit again and trusting the government to reduce spending won’t work.

                What is better, to put off paying for a few debts for a few weeks, or defaulting on $20+ trillion. Those are the only choices I see. Which is more disastrous? Do you have another option?

      • Then the Dems in the Senate should have passed a budget some time in the last 5 years, and perhaps made some effort to reduce spending.

        With this next increase, Obama will have overseen more debt spending that the rest of them combined.

        Not to mention, we currently spend more than we take in on nothing but Social Security, The Medis, and service on the debt, and that is with record-low interest rates. The second they return to their historic averages between 5 and 6 percent, we will spend a trillion dollars on what amounts to the minimum monthly payments on the credit card.

        So think on that… Before we even spend one single penny on what the federal budget would cover, we are already spending more than we make. That’s like having a mortgage that is more than you make, and THEN having to also pay your utility bills and buy food.

        A default is inevitable anyways.

        Best it hurry up and happen now.

        And so you know, it would cause an INFLATIONARY spiral as the Treasure printed mountains of bills to do nothing but pay the debt. INFLATION, not deflation. try to get the terms right.

    • Your last couple of sentences say it all. OF COURSE they will spend all the way up to the new limit (if they get it) that is the FUNDAMENTAL REASON THEY ARE ASKING FOR IT! And so it will go with the next limit, and the next limit until there is nothing left but catastrophic default. Look at the intelligence and maturity level of the people we have in “charge” … is there any hope there?

      Personally, I believe the Fed Gov is already past the point of no return on the debt. Even if they balanced the budget tomorrow, they still have 17 TRILLION in debt on their (our) backs. It will NEVER be paid off. A slight increase in interest rates will bury them. If they were to come up with a budget plan that would enable a surplus *immediately* there might be a slim ray of hope, but nothing like that is on the table.

      Its like the Meat-Shield guy said a while back: This is going to end in catastrophic, painful default and subsequent mass chaos. There will not be free money for ANYBODY, or if there is, it won’t be worth anything. Only the well prepared will survive. Anyone who says different is either a moron or a liar.

  4. “When it comes to the budget, numerous polls show that voters grossly underestimate the percentage of federal spending that goes to entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare…”

    I realize this came from Forbes and not Jack, but I fairly bristle when someone describes my Social Security retirement benefit as an “entitlement”. I have worked and paid into Social Security for 55 years and have been paying into Medicare since it’s inception. I am also eligible for VA medical benefits, and do not use Medicare. None of these are entitlements, in the same vein as food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, etc., but rather benefits I have EARNED. Having ranted, I will now go back and read the rest of the post.

    • Yes, but not everyone receiving social security paid into it. I know a man who has received full disability through SS since he was 24 because he doesn’t like to work with people (this was actually classified as a disability). I know another person who received their father’s SS disability payments from 17 to 25 years of age and now receives full disability himself due to blindness despite the fact that he has a driver’s license. I know numerous people receiving SS because they are drug addicts and can’t work. You may have paid into it, but for many it IS an entitlement.

      I have paid into it for 25 years, and it looks like I will never receive anything if this train isn’t stopped here and now.

    • Not only do people get SocSec that didn’t pay in, but you will VERY likely get back more than YOU put in.

      And they are called entitlements because a) one largely needs to do little but be a citizen to qualify, and b) they exist outside the Federal Budget, and the legislation they exist in mandates increases in payouts without any input from anyone in Congress. If left untouched, SocSec payments get bigger every year, even if Congress never even shows up in Washington…

      • The last time I checked, Social Security outlays were 20% over income. This is not sustainable.. It is also a Ponzi scheme. I won’t see a dime of what I’ve put in because it has been given to others already. I am at the bottom of the pyramid scheme at it looks like it will end soon…

  5. Considering the enormous debt that we have, the House had to do something responsible to reduce it. I can’t find anything in the Constitution that states that citizens or anybody is entitled to free (or ‘affordable’) health care. Mean spiritedness seems to be the hallmark of this Executive Branch and the Senate as far as closing down national parks and monuments.

    • IT’s been tried before to negotiate expenditures after the fact. Didn’t work out too well for Democrats in 1983, and it won’t work for the Tea Party in 2013. The 2014 elections will be a purge.

  6. Was it ethical for the FedBeast to shut down this park? http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2013/10/02/shutdown-national-park-service-closes-self-sustaining-colonial-farm-it-hasnt-supported-since-1980/

    Excerpt: ““For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm.”

    Filthy, stinking, bullying LIARS.

    • Seriously? 2 days and someone snapped?

      We probably need a totalitarian state to nanny us through life if 2 days lacking non-essential services bolstered by leftist media hysteria is all it took…

      However, I don’t think even that is past the realm of ethics. Maybe if the shots are being fired by Democrat lawmakers or Republican lawmakers, then maybe so.

  7. Blogger-Hysteric Andrew Sullivan nicely personifies this type, while also spewing a load of other angry and violent rhetoric about Republicans. He also has a strange view of the Presidency, which he seems to see in royalist terms.
    ***************
    Couldn’t read it.
    Like swimming through glue in hip waders.

  8. With respect to the people whose wedding was inconvenienced, I wonder how many people are really being affected by this ‘shutdown’. I asked some colleagues today if they have noticed anything and the answer is ‘nothing’. We tried to think of something we might need or have to deal with in the near future and the answer was still ‘nothing’. There is a federal building in the state that is shut down, but I have never been to it (I have been here over a decade). I know this is affecting people somewhere, but what this shutdown is reinforcing where I am is that we don’t really receive the federal services we are paying (or borrowing) for. This money seems mostly for the benefit of (better paid) people elsewhere.

  9. There IS a law in effect that no one mentions. For 36 years, Congress has been required by law to pass a budget by Oct 1 each year. In those 36 years, they have only done so 3 times, and now 18 of those failures have resulted in a government shutdown. There do not appear to be any direct personal consequences for breaking that law. If anyone else only did their job less than 10% of the time, they’d be fired. There’s your argument for term limits.

  10. Media reports countless dying people can’t get help from the unfunded NIH.

    The House of Representatives has forwarded to the Senate a bill funding the NIH.

    The Senate majorit,y at the bidding of their leash puller in the White House, refuses to pass that bill and place it on the desk of the spoiled prince.

    Anyone care to guess how the “unbiased” media is reporting this? Anyone? Ampersand?

  11. Unethical – saying one thing in private, another in public.

    One side has been caught doing this, while acknowledging that the other side is not. And they’re crowing about their actions being more effective.

    Oopsie.

    • That certain elements of the media are having a field day with this is beyond any rational mind.

      Please explain how that is an “oopsie”. The two were discussing the specifics of wording and messaging. This discourse hardly reveals some nefarious hidden objective contrary to what the House of Representatives is doing out in the open.

      • The entire Democratic strategy for some time now had seemingly depended on open microphones and surreptitiously taped comments intended for specific audiences. Thanks to a media that loves gotchas, fair or not, this has been surprisingly effective, but I think it’s a worrisome sign of desperation.

  12. I know of one local park with dry dock service that is closed with people’s boats there. People are unable to get their boats and with winter quickly approaching, those boats will be ruined and cost thousand of dollars to fix.

    Not to mention, people pay to use those dry docks.

  13. Fallows wrote “There is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt — as opposed to symbolic anti-Administration protest votes, which both parties have cast over the years.”

    Fallows is right, and the academic paper Alder links to refute Fallows shows that Fallows is right. That paper makes it clear that those past votes against the debt ceiling being raised were “symbolic”:

    A substantial number of legislators in both houses may speak and vote against the debt limit with the knowledge that it will ultimately pass.

    But no one thinks it’s certain that Republicans will allow the debt ceiling to be raised. That’s why the US recently had it’s credit rating lowered, and that’s why the current situation is unprecidented.

    The paper Alder links documents that in the past, the pattern has been that the majority party accepts that it has a responsibility to protect America’s credit rating (and the world economy) by gritting its teeth and raising the debt ceiling, while the minority party has traditionally taken the opportunity to grandstand and preen for the cameras, safe in the knowledge that the minority party would be outvoted, and the debt ceiling would be raised.

    Another method used to symbolically oppose the debt ceiling (while still making sure it would pass) was allowing moderate party members to vote as they please, so that a coalition of minority and majority party members pass the debt ceiling while other member cast symbolic votes against it. That’s what the House GOP did under Reagan. At no point did anyone seriously believe that the debt ceiling would not pass.

    In the House right now, however, it is the majority party that is threatening to push the US into default, and it appears that the GOP leadership intends to not allow centrist Republicans to vote with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling. As a result, the US actually appears to be heading into default.

    This is indeed a new and unprecidented situation – at least, during the decades documented by the paper Alder linked to.

    And it’s irresponsible to credibly threaten to tank the world economy, and the nation’s economy and credit rating, in order to achieve a legislative victory that could in principle be achieved by more responsible means (i.e., winning elections).

    • What a desperate rationalization. If everyone knew that the threats were a bluff, then why were previous issues negotiated as a result of them? Does nobody comprehend the basic principles of negotiation in the media (or in the White House)? Sure, AFTER the impasse, those involved say “Oh, there was never a chance we would actually have a default.” The Republicans don’t want a default now either. I suppose Fallows, and your, argument seem credible in the context of a President whose idea of a threat is to say “a red line will be crossed” while having no intention of following through, and making sure everyone knows it, but in real negotiations, in serious mattersthat’s nuts. There is always a chance, in brinksmanship, that one goes over the brink. If you don’t know that, it is irresponsible to be a brinksman.

      • Well, the president knows in this case he can throw all the blame on the other side and make it stick, whereas if he’d crossed the red line with Syria and that had gone bad, it would have all been on him. It’s easy to stand firm and hope the other side blinks when you know you don’t have to accept the accountability. If I were John Boehner I’d book a flight home, remark on seeing the Ohio valley in full fall foliage, and tell Obama to call my office when he was ready to talk movement on Obamacare, and not a minute before. If the economy tanks, then it tanks and he can share in the blame. BTW, doesn’t it seem interesting that the other side keeps pushing the idea that Obamacare is the law of the land as an argument now, but a few months ago when gun control was at the forefront suddenly the 2nd Amendment, which is part of the supreme law of the land, was bad law and needed to be changed or ignored?

      • If everyone knew that the threats were a bluff, then why were previous issues negotiated as a result of them?

        Most often, they weren’t. According to the paper Alder linked to, threatening default “has not proved an effective means in practice for adopting nongermane legislation.” For instance, in 1982, there were over a thousand (!!) proposed non-budget attachments to the debt ceiling bill, but not a single one passed. Is that what you consider an effective negotiating tactic?

        The fact is – as that paper documented in great detail – historically the norm is for members of Congress to oppose raising the debt ceiling when they were safely in the minority, or when their party’s moderates were free to cross the aisle. In both cases, despite the grandstanding, it was logically inevitable that the debt ceiling would be raised before the US’s credit rating was trashed, and everyone in Congress knew it.

        In contrast, currently the Republican party is not a minority in the House, and they are not allowing their moderates to join with Democrats.

        Do you deny these facts?

        If you don’t deny these facts, then how can you claim that what’s going on now is not different?

        By the way, suppose that a Democratic president had tried but failed to get a majority in Congress to agree to a proposed gun control bill (which is the strongest gun control bill that would be constitutional).

        So when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, the President says that if Congress doesn’t pass his gun control bill, he will veto the debt ceiling and destroy the US’s credit rating. (Suppose also that this Democratic president is extremely resolute and the threat is credible.)

        Would you consider that a responsible way to negotiate?

        • I deny that spin on them. Moderates are always free to cross the aisle, now and then. What’s stopping them, other than their own cowardice? Your argument is 100% hindsight bias. If, as I fully expect, the debt ceiling is in fact increased, everyone can and will say that they never were going to let the US default. Do you deny that? That anyone would say, “You know, I wanted a default.”

          And even then, these are apples and oranges. Those other threats were not in the context of a legitimate threat posed by an out of control debt–compare the debt then and now. What was a symbolic threat then needs to be a real one now: the current government is apparently willing to spend the Us into oblivion. I don’t advocate it, but I can see the argument that it is better to face the music now than later, after the US is weaker, broker, less influential and with less leverage. That argument wasn’t even available 20 years ago, but thanks to the burgeoning debt, it is now. In other words, the debt then and the debt now are materially different issues, so the comparison you cite is misleading. And it is.

          • No one can vote on anything in the House unless Boehner agrees to it. And Boehner says he’s not going to agree to allow a vote on raising the debt ceiling unless it also eliminates or delays Obamacare.

            The exception would be if 20 Republicans banded together with 100% of the Democrats to openly rebel against Boehner.

            In the past – say, during Reagan – it didn’t take any courage for a moderate Republican to cross the aisle and vote for a debt ceiling increase. Lots of them did it, it happened routinely, and no one was primaried for it. But any Republican who tries that now would face a tea party challenger in the next primary election. So you’d basically need to find 20 Republicans willing to give up their careers before moderates could force a vote on raising the debt ceiling. That might still happen, but it’s unlikely.

            Your next – what was your term? – “desparate rationalization” is saying that it’s okay for the GOP to hold a gun to the economy’s head and threaten to pull the trigger, because Debt. But that’s a completely illogical position, because nothing the GOP is currently holding out for would reduce the debt.

            As the CBO has scored time and time again, Obamacare reduces the annual deficit, and eliminating or delaying Obamacare makes the deficit (and therefore the debt) larger.

            Also, remember that failing to raise the debt ceiling in time will cost many, many billions of dollars. So both options the GOP favors – repealing or delaying Obamacare, and defaulting on the debt – will have the direct effect of increasing the debt.

            Furthermore, the debt is currently projected by the CBO to remain basically stable for years. So defaulting on the debt would actually make the situation much, much worse, by changing the trajectory of the debt from “stable” to “rising.”

            It is therefore illogical to claim that the GOP’s position is justified because we need to reduce the debt. The greatest danger to the debt, right now, is the GOP’s brinkmanship.

            (And by the way, “in time” doesn’t mean raising it before the US defaults. It means raising it before our credit scores are degraded by the brinkmanship. If our credit scores are degraded, that will add billions to the debt, even if we don’t default.)

            * * *

            I notice you didn’t answer this question, so I’ll repeat it.

            Suppose that a Democratic president had tried but failed to get a majority in Congress to agree to a proposed gun control bill (which is the strongest gun control bill that would be constitutional).

            So when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, the President says that if Congress doesn’t pass his gun control bill, he will veto the debt ceiling and destroy the US’s credit rating. (Suppose also that this Democratic president is extremely resolute and the threat is credible.)

            Would you consider that a responsible way to negotiate?

            • First of all, using the “holding a gun to the economy and threatening to pull the trigger” analogy is worn out and dishonest. A more apt analogy would be: our economy is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, the fuse of which has been slowly burning ever since we adopted reckless debt spending as a practice. Every time we raise the debt ceiling we lengthen the fuse by a little bit more (but unfortunately it burns faster and faster each time). Every time we add another reckless and wasteful government program, like Obamacare, we add another keg of gunpowder.

              The keg is going to explode. There is no question that will occur (unless we accept that the ABSOLUTE necessity exists that we must STOP the reckless, and frankly unconstitutional, entitlement spending, programs and subsidies that are antithetical to American liberty and the free market). The question is: when? The leftists would say “it doesn’t have to happen EVER!”, all the while stuffing a few more kegs of gunpowder beneath us. The leftists would say “you small government types want it to blow up now!”, all the while ignoring the option: STOP SPENDING in this unrealistic goal that the government can pay for everyone’s problems that are PART OF LIFE.

              Second, your question to Jack does not parallel the impasse we have reached here. In your hypothetical scenario, the intransigent Democrat President (which actually isn’t hypothetical) would veto any spending bill that doesn’t also include a rider for massive gun control. Vetoes can be overridden by the Congress.

              That’s not the impasse we have now. The impasse we have now is the Senate refuses to advance any of the spending bills passed by the House of Representatives to the democrat’s leash puller in the White House. This impasse is not a “Republicans only” problem, like the leftists continue to lie to the people about.

              • Second, your question to Jack does not parallel the impasse we have reached here. In your hypothetical scenario, the intransigent Democrat President (which actually isn’t hypothetical) would veto any spending bill that doesn’t also include a rider for massive gun control. Vetoes can be overridden by the Congress.

                That’s not the impasse we have now. The impasse we have now is the Senate refuses to advance any of the spending bills passed by the House of Representatives to the democrat’s leash puller in the White House. This impasse is not a “Republicans only” problem, like the leftists continue to lie to the people about.

                Okay, so let’s say in my hypothetical the Democratic President has enough supportive Democrats in Congress so that a veto is not an option. So we have the President saying that he will not allow any debt ceiling increase to become law unless it’s connected to a strong gun control bill that has already failed to get through Congress; and there are not enough votes to overcome his veto. Either Republicans vote for strong gun control, or the President will do something that leading economists on both the right and left believe could be catastrophic to the world and US economy.

                In that case, do you think the President is pursuing his legislative goal in a fair and reasonable manner?

                • Still a failed analogy, not parallel to the impasse we are at now. Your hypothetical is based on the president being some sort of super legislator. For him to continue to insist on additional legislation in your hypothetical would inevitably be unconstitutional, as legislation originates in the Congress. Being unconstitutional behavior, a case would be made for impeachment.

                  The scenario we have now arises because the constitutional origin of bills related to revenue (The House of Representatives) has advanced several spending bills to the Senate so they can be advanced then to the President. At the Senate is where you find the intransigence at direction of the spoiled prince in the White House. Who then is group blocking negotiations? Who then is the group “holding the economy ‘hostage'” (a dumb analogy, but I’ll use it since the dishonest left does).

                  • Okay, let’s change the example.

                    The president is a Republican, the Senate majority is Republican (but not enough to overcome a filibuster), the House majority is Democrats..

                    When it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, the Democrats attach an amendment creating the strongest gun control measures that could get by the Supreme Court, and say that they will allow the US to go into default unless their gun control legislation, which has already failed to get by the full congress,

                    A ‘clean’ debt ceiling bill could pass the House and Senate easily, but the Democratic House leadership won’t allow that to be voted on. A combined gun control/debt ceiling bill might pass in the Senate (although that’s not as certain), but Republican leadership won’t let it be voted on, and even if they did the President says he would veto.

                    Do you say that, in this situation, the House Democrats are acting in a fair and responsible fashion?

                    • If Party A controls one House and Party B controls the other House and a piece of legislation is on the table that one of the Party’s believes is the doom of the nation, then I would expect the Party’s to fight tooth and nail to end that legislation. The nation can be doomed now or doomed later…or not be doomed by removing the legislation.

                      If, in your hypothetical, the Democrats truly believed that adding a whole package of 2nd Amendment abridgment laws would keep the nation from utter ruin, then yes, I’d expect them to fight tooth and nail.

                      But what continues to fail in your analogy, is the level of severity of the impact of the legislation that is causing the impasse, also what is failing in your analogy is that your analogy ignores the fact that there is an incompetent vitriolic revolutionary sitting in the White House that has neither the will, the skill, or the desire to rise above partisanship and be a leader.

                    • What do you mean by “doom of the nation”?

                      I mean, sure, if there’s legislation on the table that requires the government to nuke every city and town in the USA immediately, I agree, threatening to bring about an enormous recession in order to prevent the “nuke everything” bill from becoming law would make sense.

                      But Obamacare is not “nuke everything tomorrow at noon.” It is a bill that comes in gradually, and has very little direct effect on the majority of Americans, who are either on Medicare or are getting health insurance through their job. Can you explain to me a plausible scenario in which Obamacare, by running for five years, turns the entire country into a Mad-Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland?

                      If Obamacare turns out to be the unmitigated disaster that Republicans predict, then the Democrats will suffer greatly in elections (not unlike the way the Iraq disaster has hurt Republicans in elections) and Obamacare will be easy to revoke. If it turns out to be a net benefit that genuinely helps people, then it will be very hard to revoke. All of that is democracy working as it should.

                      If the Democrats held the nation hostage to try and pass gun control, that would be awful and fundamentally anti-democratic behavior. As bad as guns deaths are, there is no credible scenario under which the nation will be destroyed in the next year unless gun control is passed. There is no excuse there for trying to do an end-run around ordinary democratic processes. Ditto for Republicans who are convinced that Obamacare is evil.

                    • Since you can’t get yourself out from under the yoke of the dishonest and worn out “hostage” rhetoric, I understand you cannot discuss this topic in good faith. I’ll say it again: all of your scenarios fail to equate to the severity that is believed to be the negative impacts of Obamacare. That you demand further explanation of those negative impacts explains more your lack of reading, as they have been thoroughly demonstrated in about a dozen posts on the issue in this forum.

                      Laughable is the idea that massive sweeping takeovers are repeal-able. History has shown that once power is ceded to the central government, it is not undone; it is only modified with myriad and complicated changes…never returning autonomy and independence to the people. Your suggestion is fanciful.

                      Doom of America comes in many forms. If the very characteristics that have made our nation the greatest nation are completely ended and reversed, that is a form of doom. No one has said “mad max” life will reign. We will deal with economic downturn, we will deal with higher cost of living, we will deal with longer lines and crappier health care, we will deal with much less freedom and liberty. Doom, yes.

                      But we’ll visit this no further until you can free yourself from the divisive rhetoric your leash-master in the White House compels you to use.

            • No one can vote on anything in the House unless Boehner agrees to it.

              The same can be said for the Senate and Reid. I wonder if you will sit and ponder why we haven’t had a federal budget since Bush was in office, especially those two years with Obama in the White House where the Dems could have passed any budget they wished at any time.

              And Boehner says he’s not going to agree to allow a vote on raising the debt ceiling unless it also eliminates or delays Obamacare.

              Good. After all, voting to raise the debt ceiling is a sign of a failure of the Presidency, right?

              Right?

              In the past – say, during Reagan – it didn’t take any courage for a moderate Republican to cross the aisle and vote for a debt ceiling increase. Lots of them did it, it happened routinely, and no one was primaried for it. But any Republican who tries that now would face a tea party challenger in the next primary election. So you’d basically need to find 20 Republicans willing to give up their careers before moderates could force a vote on raising the debt ceiling. That might still happen, but it’s unlikely.

              Aside from the fact that it was more often Democrats crossing the aisle, sure.

              Your next – what was your term? – “desparate rationalization” is saying that it’s okay for the GOP to hold a gun to the economy’s head and threaten to pull the trigger, because Debt. But that’s a completely illogical position, because nothing the GOP is currently holding out for would reduce the debt.

              Except, you know, reducing spending. But fuck details, right?

              As the CBO has scored time and time again, Obamacare reduces the annual deficit, and eliminating or delaying Obamacare makes the deficit (and therefore the debt) larger.

              That is a complete lie.

              Just because you don’t happen to like the fact that the CBO now scores the ACA as a net increase in debt doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

              Oh, and I would point out that in 2010 when they DID score it as a net savings it was due to large taxes and fees that kicked in long before the coverage. You see, the CBO can only score things out to the ten year mark. Now that we’re three years past that, the scoring now shows more costs. This even ignores the fact that the assumptions the CBO used are – and this is putting it kindly – fucking stupid. Every possible best-case scenario was used, meaning that any deviation from those best-case scenarios will cause further spending increases.

              Also, remember that failing to raise the debt ceiling in time will cost many, many billions of dollars. So both options the GOP favors – repealing or delaying Obamacare, and defaulting on the debt – will have the direct effect of increasing the debt.

              All that will happen if the debt limit doesn’t get increased is that we can’t pay for the mountain of shiny things you voted yourself. Our credit rating will further decline (how the fuck we have any credit when we own more than the entire economic output of the entire fucking country is beyond me), and yes that means it would cost more to borrow money, but the cost of paying what we owe is going to more than triple the second interest rates go back to normal.

              Furthermore, the debt is currently projected by the CBO to remain basically stable for years. So defaulting on the debt would actually make the situation much, much worse, by changing the trajectory of the debt from “stable” to “rising.”

              Stable? Oh good. That means we’ll only grow the debt by about a trillion dollars a year. I don’t know what in the world we’re so concerned about.

              It is therefore illogical to claim that the GOP’s position is justified because we need to reduce the debt. The greatest danger to the debt, right now, is the GOP’s brinkmanship.

              No, technically the greatest danger to the debt is any improvement in the economy, because that would end up all but forcing the Fed to raise interest rates, adding about $700 billion to what we have to pay every year in service on the debt.

              And I’ll say it again, without spending a penny on the actual federal budget, we spend more than we take in on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and service on the debt.

              (And by the way, “in time” doesn’t mean raising it before the US defaults. It means raising it before our credit scores are degraded by the brinkmanship. If our credit scores are degraded, that will add billions to the debt, even if we don’t default.)

              A shame it will happen anyways, because there is still no move what-so-ever to reduce spending, which is why they downgraded our credit rating in the first place.

                  • My fault—I was away for a day, over 500 pieces of spam accumulated, I put off checking it, and you were trapped. When you said “moderation,” I only looked there. God, I hate spam. Lately it’s nothing but handbags….

                • Jack, I believe, from my past experience having my comments put into the spam folder, that your wordpress is set to automatically put any comment with more than one link in it into the spam folder. If I’m correct, that’s why AM’s comment was mistaken for spam. You can change that setting, if you want.

                  * * *

                  I’m not going to respond to most of AM’s comment; he (she?) has made it clear in the past that he’s unwilling to engage in respectful debate, and I’m not obliged to spend time on people who treat me poorly.

                  However, I do want to point out that where AM accuses me of lying, AM is unambiguously wrong.

                  I said, correctly, that repealing Obamacare is projected by the CBO to increase the deficit and thus the debt. AM responds:

                  That is a complete lie.

                  AM’s second link is to a conservative blogger who doesn’t address the question of the CBO’s score for the net impact of Obamacare.

                  AM’s first link is to a much better source – the CBO itself. But what the CBO says is the exact opposite of what AM claims. To quote from AM’s CBO link (I’ve added emphasis):

                  What Is the Impact of Repealing the ACA on the Federal Budget?

                  Assuming that H.R. 6079 is enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2013, CBO and JCT estimate that on balance, , the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting that legislation would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period. Specifically, we estimate that H.R. 6079 would reduce direct spending by $890 billion and reduce revenues by $1 trillion between 2013 and 2022, thus adding $109 billion to federal budget deficits over that period.

                  Note that the CBO is talking about the impact of REPEALING Obamacare. According to the CBO document AM himself linked, repealing Obamacare would increase federal budget deficits by $109 billion over a decade.

                  That was last year, but more recently the CBO stated that “we anticipate a similar result” if they run an estimate with this year’s numbers.

                  This is not a subtle or obscure issue Someone who doesn’t even know which direction the CBO’s score on Obamacare went, simply does not have an informed opinion.

                  AB, you accused me of lying about a matter than, according to your own link, I was telling the truth about. You owe me an apology. I will not hold my breath.

                  • Barry—my spam blocker only rarely lets genuinely spam though, or traps legitimate comments wrongly. It’s been right on over a half-million, and I check the damn things every day several times, with rare exceptions. I’m scared to death to mess with it, but I do apologize to AMS, who alerted me that he was missing a comment.

                    To be clear, I do not endorse calling you a liar, ever, really: in my experience, while you may interpret reality eccentrically, I have never known you to lie, even once.

                    But the contention that the ACA won’t add to the debt, based as it is on assumptions that have already begun to be recognized as fanciful (and intentionally misleading, which isn’t your doing, as one of the misled) is, depending on how civil and kind I am feeling, crazy, ridiculous, unsustainable, naive, and/or obviously wrong. There is nothing magic about the CBO—it cannot see the unpredictable but unavoidable chaotic messes and unintended consequences buried in all those regulations and intentional uncertainty. Big Bureaucracies are inefficient, and it is wrong to forcast ignoring that. Big Government Programs virtually always cost much more money than originally projected. The people that wrote the law are demonstrably not bright and politically conflicted, and the roll-out last week, all by itself, proves how absurd it is to take seriously CBO projections that ignore incompetence as a persistent factor.

                    • 1. Thanks for saying that I’m not a liar. 🙂

                      2. There are two different questions here, which I feel your comment conflates. First, what did the CBO project? On that question, I was correct, and AM was incorrect. There’s no ambiguity about it, and it’s not a matter of opinion. I was objectively right. Period.

                      3. The second question is, were the CBO’s projections correct? Obviously, no one can be proven objectively correct or incorrect about this question for another ten years or so, when we can compare the CBO’s ten year projections against what actually happened..

                      4. But your arguments for why we should assume that Obamacare will cost much more than projected – so much more that it will do the opposite of what the CBO says – are wrong.

                      For instance, you claim that “Big Government Programs virtually always cost much more money than originally projected.” But that’s simply, factually wrong, Jack. There are many examples of government programs that cost less than projected, such as TARP and Medicare Part D (a huge, complex law that involves a big government bureaucracy).

                      Since the CBO initially projected that Obamacare would reduce the deficit, there have been two huge changes to Obamacare, both of which logically must make it cheaper (CLASS Act being eliminated, and the SCOTUS allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion). Health care costs, which obviously effect Obamacare costs, are increasing less than they were just a few years ago. The (afaik) largest single expense in Obamacare is the Medicaid expansion, which uses an extremely well-established system rather than creating something new, making the costs more predictable.

                      Furthermore, to justify the claim that Obamacare will increase the debt, it’s not enough to say the CBO will be wrong; it would have to be wrong by over $109 billion.

                      So no, we don’t know for sure, and can’t for a decade. But there are a lot of reasons to think that the CBO is right on this one, and your certainty that they MUST be wrong doesn’t seem well-founded.

                      So the claim that using a government shutdown, or a debt ceiling threat, to try and get rid of Obamacare is a debt-reduction measure, seems VERY dubious and ideological.

                      Tell me, Jack, five or ten years from now, what would have to take place for you to admit that you were wrong about Obamacare? There are initial kinks in the exchanges (as everyone always knew there would be), but what happens if five years from now the result is that many more Americans can afford health care, and Obamacare has not added to the deficit?

                      (If, five years from now, there has not been a significant reduction in the number of uninsured Americans, I would accept that as proof that Obamacare is a failure).

                      It really seems, from this side of the partisan divide, as if Republicans are desperate for Obamacare to fail, and desperate for people like me to not be able to have affordable health care. But I assume that’s not how you feel, Jack. But shouldn’t you be rooting for it to succeed? Since there’s no even remotely plausible plan for repealing it, isn’t it time for Republicans to try and work on making it better?

                    • 1. I’ve got to learn never to say “always,’ or “always.” Nonetheless, the record of large government programs staying within original projections is terrible. I’m sure there are exceptions. There always are. I’ll stick to “virtually always,’ even granting your “many exceptions.” The debt didn’t get into the trillions by GOOD projections.
                      2.”Health care costs, which obviously effect Obamacare costs, are increasing less than they were just a few years ago.” 1) But they are still increasing. I’m sure you don’t like this kind of argument when applied to, say, climate change. 2) There is no agreement that the costs are coming down because of the ACA.
                      3. I’ll assess success based on whether 1) the number of uninsured has been reduced as much as originally intended 2) whether health care costs are coming down 3) whether the majority who WERE insured feel that their situation is significantly worse 4) how much the program adds to the deficit and debt 5) whether the loss of jobs and personal freedom, as well as the costs, can be justified by the program’s benefits, it any.
                      4. The government had three years to set up an online program with plenty of data to know the volume, and the system failed. A commercial product rollout like that would lead to bankruptcy. Bad sign.
                      5. I’m not in favor of the debt limit tactic, on balance. It just isn’t unconstitutional or unethical.

                    • 1. I’ve got to learn never to say “always,’ or “always.” Nonetheless, the record of large government programs staying within original projections is terrible. I’m sure there are exceptions. There always are. I’ll stick to “virtually always,’ even granting your “many exceptions.” The debt didn’t get into the trillions by GOOD projections.

                      The debt got to be this size primarily because of five factors. 1) The Bush-era tax cuts. 2 War in Iraq & Afghanistan. 3) The economic downturn, and 4) measures taken because of the downturn. (See this chart). Without those four factors, the debt would now be lower than it was in 1990. The largest factor by far is the tax cuts, the second largest factor is the downturn.

                      Contrary to what you write, none of those four outcomes were caused by government programs costing far more than initially projected, unless you count tax cuts as a government program.

                      2.”Health care costs, which obviously effect Obamacare costs, are increasing less than they were just a few years ago.” 1) But they are still increasing. I’m sure you don’t like this kind of argument when applied to, say, climate change. 2) There is no agreement that the costs are coming down because of the ACA.

                      1) No one responsible for Obamacare, afaik, has ever promised to completely eliminate medical inflation.

                      Rather, the question is if Obamacare can “bend the cost curve down” – a phrase that gets over a million hits on google, so I didn’t just make it up. (And people talk about climate change in that way all the time – any policy that results in significantly slowing the growth of atmospheric carbon would be valuable.)

                      2) Irrelevant to my point. Whatever the cause, medical costs coming down makes Obamacare cheaper, which means that the outcome you’re predicting – that it will increase the deficit – is less likely.

                      3. I’ll assess success based on whether 1) the number of uninsured has been reduced as much as originally intended 2) whether health care costs are coming down 3) whether the majority who WERE insured feel that their situation is significantly worse 4) how much the program adds to the deficit and debt 5) whether the loss of jobs and personal freedom, as well as the costs, can be justified by the program’s benefits, it any..

                      This are unreasonable standards.

                      3-1) So if Obamacare is originally projected to reduce the number of uninsured by 30 million, but because of a Supreme Court decision letting GOP governors opt out of insuring poor people in their state it ends up only insuring 26 million, you would call the program a total failure?

                      3-2) Obamacare’s framers said they’d bend the cost curve down – not that they’d bring about medical deflation. It’s unreasonable to call it a failure if it bends the cost curve down, doing what it said, but inflation doesn’t magically cease to exist.

                      3-3) Eh. This seems subjective to me. After all, even if Obamacare didn’t exist, there would still be many people whose medical insurance situation was getting worse, just as there was before Obamacare. Obamacare has to be compared to the status quo trends before Obamacare, not to some imaginary perfect system that has never existed.

                      3-4 and 3-5) Fine, as long as costs aren’t calculated without also calculating revenues and savings (i.e., net costs).

                      4. The government had three years to set up an online program with plenty of data to know the volume, and the system failed. A commercial product rollout like that would lead to bankruptcy. Bad sign.

                      Wait and see. If the exchanges work well enough so that everyone who wants to and is qualified can sign up – and I expect they will, by a month or so from now – then a year from now, no one except hardcore Obama-haters will even remember the glitches. OTOH, if the exchanges are actually FUBAR, then it would be fair to call Obamacare a failure. (And I expect that if that happens, Republicans will win more elections as a result, and Obamacare will be either repealed or scaled back.)

                    • Quick answer because I’m trying to win the Red Sox game…hopefully more later:
                      The reason for the debt increasing is that the Obama administration has wildly spent more than its revenues, and that is 100% its responsibility, no one else’s. The Bush era tax cuts could have been allowed to expire while the Democrats had both houses and Obama. He owns them 100% as well. Then it was his duty to budget accordingly.

                    • Everyone will be happy to know that the enrollment process is clearing up nicely. I am applying for coverage myself, as the COBRA payments I am now making are exorbitant and I think I can get a better deal through the ACA. All this in spite of the fact that states and the Republicans in Congress are actively working to withhold funds and stifle educational efforts.

                      Here in Missouri, they passed a law prohibiting state employees from helping people learn about or enroll to get health care through the Marketplace. In Florida, navigators (people who are trained to help people enroll) are prohibited from being in most county health departments. Congress withheld money to help set up the enrolment process. So in light of the obstacles in the way, I think the launch went pretty well. People I have talked to seem to think it’s worth being a little patient. After all, you have until December 15th to enroll for coverage by January 1, and until March 31 to enroll for coverage later. Even if you disagree with the law, it’s worth checking out what it can do for you if you have ever been denied coverage or thought you couldn’t afford it.

                    • Ezra Klein, hardly a conservative booster (he’s a progressive cheer-leader) writes in the Post the sign up process has been inexcusable and a disaster. It’s getting better, yes. But you just laid out about sic rationalizations there.

                    • I’ve got a nasty cold, so I probably won’t be adding any substantial comments for at least a day or two, and if I do they may not be very coherent. :-p

                      But I wanted to ask you to clarify this (after the game is over):

                      The Bush era tax cuts could have been allowed to expire while the Democrats had both houses and Obama. He owns them 100% as well.

                      So are you saying that the Republicans who voted for the tax cuts (including its most recent renewal) and Bush himself bear ZERO responsibility for the tax cuts?

                      I agree that Obama and the Democrats who voted for extending part of the tax cuts bear some responsibility. I don’t agree that Bush and Republicans bear 0% responsibility. It seems to me that everyone who wrote it, pushed it, voted for it, etc, bears some responsibility for it.

                      I’m also curious – if the Republicans end up negotiating a solution which doesn’t eliminate Obamacare, as they’d obviously like to do, in your view does that make them responsible for Obamacare?

            • I wrote:

              And Boehner says he’s not going to agree to allow a vote on raising the debt ceiling unless it also eliminates or delays Obamacare.

              At the time I wrote that, I believed it was true. And nothing Boehner has said on the record contradicts that.

              However, in an article I just came across a few minutes ago, the New York Times reports that in private, Boehner has assured nervous Republicans that he will allow them to vote with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

              Speaker John A. Boehner has privately told Republican lawmakers anxious about fallout from the government shutdown that he would not allow a potentially more crippling federal default as the atmosphere on Capitol Hill turned increasingly tense on Thursday.

              Mr. Boehner’s comments, recounted by multiple lawmakers, that he would use a combination of Republican and Democratic votes to increase the federal debt limit if necessary appeared aimed at reassuring his colleagues — and nervous financial markets — that he did not intend to let the economic crisis spiral further out of control.

              They came even though he has so far refused to allow a vote on a Senate budget measure to end the shutdown that many believe could pass with bipartisan backing. They also reflect Mr. Boehner’s view that a default would have widespread and long-term economic consequences while the shutdown, though disruptive, had more limited impact.

              I find that reassuring, and if the story is true, it certainly adds credibility to some of Jack’s arguments here.

              • I misinterpreted your original comment, and I apologize. By “not allow them to vote,” I thought you meant “prevented them from voting their consciences,” not actually preventing a vote one way or the other. Thus my point was that if there’s a vote, Boehner can punish GOP Reps who don’t toe the line, but he can’t prospectively force anyone to vote his way—even the evil Tom DeLay couldn’t do that, and he used extortion. But the Speaker can refuse to have a vote at all, and in that sense, you are correct.

                A Speaker has dual obligations, one to his Party, and another to the body itself. My sense has been that Boehner, unlike his predecessor and to the chagrin of his party’s Far Right, takes the latter very seriously, as he should.

                • Thanks for clarifying that. Probably I didn’t write what I meant clearly enough.

                  I’m not sure what I think of Boehner, but I will say this: He might just have the hardest job in Washington.

              • Ezra Klein also says that the cause of the signup problems is exactly the reason not to shut it down or defund it: lots of people need health insurance. He never used the word “disaster.” If you can find that quote, please give us a link.

                I am not excusing the administration for the flaws in the signup process when I say that taking funding away from implementing the law, or steps taken to keep people from learning about it or accessing it are deliberate attempts to ensure its failure, not rationalizations. They obviously have an affect on its implementation. States who ran their own Marketplaces are having a much better experience. Ironically, those states who refused to set up their own Marketplaces because of their fear of “government run health care” are stuck with the Marketplaces run by the government.

                Again, the problems are being worked out; I completed my application this weekend. If you need insurance and have been refused in the past, or you think you can’t afford it, go to healthcare.gov and check it out. It doesn’t ask what party you are affiliated with.

  14. Pingback: A Credible Threat To Default Is Unprecedented | Alas, a Blog

  15. Back in 2012, when something like 5 million people just up and quit looking for jobs figuring it was hopeless, what was the appropriate response? Reclassify them and remove them from the statistic for calculating unemployment. As far as I understand that number has increased, and to keep things looking relatively peachy for this administration, those also have been redefined out of the unemployed statistic.

    But wait…when 800,000 people (a drop in the bucket compared to previously mentioned numbers) are furloughed…NOT EVEN UNEMPLOYED…it is a dreadful travesty according to the President.

    • As far as I understand that number has increased, and to keep things looking relatively peachy for this administration, those also have been redefined out of the unemployed statistic.

      In the 1930s, due to the Depression, various state and city governments in the US began trying to measure unemployment. Then as now, how to count non-workers who weren’t actively looking for work was a thorny problem. Should someone who has been sitting on their sofa for five years, but agrees in the abstract that they’d like a job, be counted the same way as someone who is actively knocking on doors and filling out applications? Most cities and states ended up counting someone as unemployed only if they’d actively been looking for work in recent weeks.

      In 1940, the Works Project Administration became the first Federal US government entity to try and systematically collect unemployment statistics. They followed the lead of the states and cities, and divided folks into employed, unemployed, and out of the labor force, a statistical approach that the government has used ever since. This was called the Monthly Report on Unemployment. Then, in 1942, the Census Bureau took it over, and renamed it The Monthly Report on the Labor Force. In 1948 it was renamed the Current Population Survey, and in 1959 the CPS became a joint Census/BLS project, which it remains to this day.

      Then, in 1961, Barack Obama was born.

      There’s a lot to criticize in how we measure unemployment. But It is genuinely ridiculous to suggest that the way we measure unemployment was “redefined” to “keep things looking peachy” for Barack Obama.

      • Quibbling over semantics. In the practice of reporting, the same effects of a definition change occurred. Bush is continually blamed for millions dropping out of the workforce as associated with unemployment. Those same numbers are ignored or called insignificant when Obama is cited for ‘lowering’ the unemployment rate.

        This practice began around 2010.

        Prior, in 2008, Barack Obama was elected.

        There is alot to criticize in how we measure unemployment. It is genuinely ridiculous to spin the numbers and the reporting of them to keep things looking peachy for Barack Obama.

  16. Several issues with the ACA no one is discussing. That is the forced loss of income for doctors. They will be forced to take more and more patients for less and less money. This will cause several issues. Physicians assistants(PA) will start taking on more patients without doctor oversight. This will cause fatal errors. A doctor has 10 years I learn their knowledge. A PA gets maybe 4. Not to mention nurse practitioners. This will lower medical care to the point where people could die simply because a practitioner forgot two medications can’t be taken together or they do not know the signs of a disease or virus.

    And do not forget what this will do to pharmaceutical companies. Drug costs will be forced lower by governmental issuance. That’s part of why Medicare is cheaper. They tell the retail companies what they can charge for medication. It may actually be lower than what the retail company paid for that drug. If that trait continues, pharmacies will go out of business unable to handle the loss of profit. And the companies who make drugs still spend billions of dollars to make drugs and years to study them. Making back that money is necessary after the years spent doing it.

    Do you want to trust your care into a practitioner who has only studied for a few years and has no oversight? How about if they are overworked?

    By the way, this is going on right now. This is why their is a new law for pharmacies to have the overseeing doctors name on any prescription from a PA or NP. Do you honestly want to make this worse?

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