Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shutdown! Politics

Unless the Republicans and Democrats reach an agreement, the government will shut down on March 5th. . . click. Right now, more Americans (30% to 24%) blame the Democrats for the pending shutdown. This is a bit of a shocker for the Democrats, but it makes sense. And here’s why.

Let’s start with the obvious. The public is angry about the deficit. They identify the deficit as the biggest issue facing the country and they are demanding spending cuts. This desire is so strong that 58% of the public would rather have the government shutdown than continue with last year’s spending. In fact, only 27% want to keep last year’s spending levels (6% want to raise it), whereas 61% want cuts. Thus, the momentum is on the side of the cutters. And, as The Hill notes, this has translated into a shock for the Democrats, as the “Democrats do not enjoy the tactical advantage that some assumed they have.”

The reason for this is simple. Whereas the Republicans are working hard to come up with spending cuts, and admit they know they must work with the Democrats, the Democrats are acting like children. Indeed, while Paul Ryan was saying this:

“We will have to negotiate. Look, we're not looking for a government shutdown. But at the same time, we're also not looking at rubber-stamping these really high, elevated spending levels that Congress blew through the joint two years ago.”
The Democrats were offering NOTHING in the way of their own cuts. To the contrary, they spent the week attacking every single Republican cut. Some cuts they called “schizophrenic” by arguing that individual line item cuts went against Republican policies (like cuts in defense spending). Others they argued would destroy the American way of life blah blah blah. Finally, they accused the Republicans of “indiscriminate budget cutting.” Oh no!

The public isn’t buying this anymore because everyone knows you can’t double a budget in one year and not create a ton of waste that can't come right back out. And because the Democrats refuse to acknowledge this and are not offering cuts, several political analysts have observed that the Republicans are holding the political high ground.

But even beyond the Democrats' failure to engage in actual discussions of budget cuts, something more is going on here. I would suggest the Democrats have lost the public’s trust on this issue. Why? Because they’re being dishonest. For several weeks now, the Democrats have trotted out transparent and dishonest scare tactics regarding the shutdown. Check out this quote from Obama:
"People should be careful about, you know, being too loose in terms of talking about a government shutdown because this has — this is not an abstraction. You know, people don't get their Social Security checks. They don't get their veterans payments. Basic functions shut down. And that also would have an adverse effect on our economic recovery."
Of course, nothing in this statement is true. First, “checks” are not mailed anymore, payments are made electronically, and they will go out no matter what. Secondly, in the event of a shutdown, Obama will have wide discretion to determine what to keep open by declaring employees essential. Clinton kept 12,000 Department of Agriculture workers on the job in this manner. If essential personnel from DOD or Homeland Security or Justice or the State Department or anywhere else stay away from work, it will be because Obama decided they are not essential, not because of the shutdown. Some government agencies with special funding, like the US Mint and the Post Office, will even continue to operate like nothing happened.

But the Democrats and their MSM allies keep repeating these lies and adding things like the specter of garbage piling up in parking lots, parks being closed and zoo animals left to die -- which isn't true and they know it. But these are really bottom of the barrel arguments. At least, they would be, except for one more argument just raised:

Says spokeswhiner Carol Bonosaro for the Senior Executive Association, a collection of ultra rich government managers, this will force their poor, poor members to have to decide which of their employees are “essential” and which are “nonessential”! Oh no! Whines Bonosaro, this will lead to “morale issues.” Doesn’t that just break your heart? Better get the suicide hotline on speed dial in the event of layoffs!

The public ain’t buying it. Trying to avoid spending cuts by threatening us with benefit cuts that won’t happen and claims of morale issues among government employees is a loser. It’s like threatening to hold your breath until you die. Come to think of it, maybe they should try that next? Good ahead you lazy, abusive jerks, make my day.

*** Update *** There are reports they've reached a deal to fund the government for two more weeks in exchange for $4 billion in cuts during those two weeks. The speculation is that this deal will give Republicans the upper hand for the final deal as well because the $2 billion a week may become the framework for a long term deal.... that's in line with the Republicans' promise of $100 billion in cuts this year.

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