What can we learn from the government shutdown?

We all know the government shutdown is stupid. What else can we learn?

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As we all now know, the dipshittery in Washington, DC has reached feverish levels and the U.S. government is “closed.” (Or more specifically, many non-essential services are on furlough.)

While I could rant and whine like most of the internet is doing right now, I thought my time might be better spent taking a look at what we can learn from this latest ridiculousness. So here we go:

Our political press sucks

OK, maybe we already knew that, but give me a break! How bad does this have to get? The corporate media is simply regurgitating press releases and repeating the framing of the leadership. And worse, framing it as just another dysfunctional fight between two equally stupid political parties. This is not accurate!

For example, look at this idiocy from USA Today:

As fights go, Wall Street views the slugfest between Democrats and Republicans over the government shutdown as the undercard event. The main bout is the coming showdown over raising the debt ceiling and making sure the U.S. has enough cash to pay its bills and avoid the unthinkable: defaulting on its debt.

To frame this as a partisan infighting is completely misleading! ONE side shut down the government in an exploitative move to overturn the results of an election.

Republicans hate America

Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true. What else can we conclude from a party that is willing to injure its own country just to get its own ideological way? If Russia threatened to cause this much damage to our country unless we capitulated to its demands, we’d consider it an act of war. Why do we consider a threat from within to be any different?

Look, I don’t care if you’re a conservative person or not (we used to have sane conservatives in the Republican party once upon a time). Even a true conservative would have to look at the moves by this party as traitorous. They’re putting party over country and it’s sickening. Here’s an idea: win a couple elections and then you can do whatever you want.

It’s worth remembering that the Civil War wasn’t started because of “slavery” per se, it was because an earlier version of the tea party refused to abide by the results of the 1860 election.

Congress keeps getting paid during a “shutdown”

In one of the more disgusting moves, members of Congress keep getting their paychecks during a shutdown, even as the Capitol Police work for free to protect them. “I need my paycheck,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers in one of the more disgusting quotes to yet be made public.

One person stops this

As happy as I am to kick the Republican party in the nuts over this, in truth there are enough votes in the Congress RIGHT NOW to end the shutdown. But Speaker John Boehner is refusing to call a vote, demanding “compromise”. Again, it’s hard to figure this out from the corporate media, but it’s true.

Gerrymandering is the biggest political problem in America right now

Yes, our politics are totally screwed up right now. Repeatedly polling shows the American people are on a completely different planet than the Congress. Gerrymandering has left us with a Congress that chooses its own voters instead of the other way around. Republicans are running out of older, disgruntled white people to keep them in office so they simply have drawn lines capturing more and more bizarre boundary lines in ways to barely hold their majority. There were many more votes for Democrats in the last Congressional election than Republicans but the Rs held the majority. The system is broken. ALL congressional boundaries should be formed by bipartisan committees or by independent judges, not drawn arbitrarily by the beneficiaries.

Obama is paying the price for his earlier weak negotiating

President Obama may go down in history as one of the most ineffective negotiators with Congress. Early in his presidency, he took an overly deferential approach, while the Republicans continually moved the goalposts on him. Now in his second term, he’s realizing no one respects him and they assume he’ll cave if they just stick to it. Hopefully they’re wrong, but history hasn’t made me very confident in that.

The debt ceiling is a much bigger deal

It’s been obvious for some time that Republicans have been very anxious to destroy the economy so they can make the president look bad. It’s bizarre behavior that has never been practiced by the other party. But will they go to the extent of not paying our bills and destroying the full faith and credit of the United States of America in the process? If I was a betting man, I’d say Obama gives them some sort of face-saving way out of this and we bumble along until the next time. But if the level of crazy has gotten deep enough, this wackjobs could actually dismantle the world economy, apparently for no other reason than they want to make a point. I doubt they’ll pull the trigger, but I’m keeping my money uninvested for a while longer just in case.

It’s about Obamacare — sort of

Republicans tend to be much more strategic than Democrats. I definitely think the timing of the Obamacare launch and the shutdown are not coincidental. I’m sure they saw an opportunity to erase all the happy stories of desperate people signing up for insurance from the media. I do think they bit off more than they could chew and this could end up being their Waterloo. We’ll see. Obamacare was ALREADY funded so the idea they could stop it by using the U.S. economy as a hostage is weird, but then again, see my next point.

The GOP primaries are the driving force in American politics right now

What is making the Republican party so crazy? Well, obviously it’s gerrymandering as mentioned above, where hardly any Republican need fear a Democrat taking their seat. However, they do have one fear: Another, more right-wing Republican taking them out in a primary. Show one sign of weakness toward the black president and these guys are gone. It’s a phenomenon creating a self-selecting evolution toward more and more crazy. As long as these voters remain so easily manipulated or as long as parties can carve out seats to their own benefit, this continues.

OK, maybe that’s enough political talk for one day. I have no desire to turn this into a politics blog, but given how hard it is to figure out what’s happening by watching our national media, I thought I’d put together a short backgrounder (from my own biased perspective, of course). Thoughtful comments and opposing perspectives are welcome. Nonsense name-calling and uninformed political stupidity will be deleted. Have fun! 

UPDATE: Time Magazine gets it:




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18 Thoughts on “What can we learn from the government shutdown?

  1. Pretty gutsy taking a political stand! I have to say I agree with your take on the shutdown and the crazy US politics.

    And gerrymandering is a crazy problem. I saw this interesting demonstration of the worst gerrymandered districts in the US: http://pjmedia.com/zombie/2010/11/11/the-top-ten-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts-in-the-united-states/

    Glad to see North Carolina (my home state) makes the list of top 10 worst not once, but twice! Not surprising. We are trying to out Illinois Illinois for dirty politics (and succeeding so far…).
    Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…Charge Everything on the Credit Card! Most Bizarre Financial Advice Ever?My Profile

    • Pretired Nick on October 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm said:

      I don’t know if it’s gutsy to say what I think or cowardly not to, but even if people disagree I hope they understand the dynamics a little bit better after reading this.
      The south, including Texas, is just infamous for sleazy gerrymandering. I don’t know if you can beat Illinois for dirty politics. Especially when you’re competing with Virginia for that honor.
      Fortunately our politics are relatively clean here in the west. It actually makes things a little boring. (:

  2. I love when people call it like they see it. Good on you, Nick. I won’t chime in with my own views on the matter but I suspect things will work out well before any of the truly dire potential consequences come to pass.

    • Pretired Nick on October 6, 2013 at 9:55 am said:

      Aw, come on! (:
      I hope you’re right that sanity comes into play. I’m not overly worried, but I’m eyeing these lunatics apprehensively.

  3. I think many of us living in DC that aren’t working directly for Congress are just ticked off in general. Dad is lucky in that his project is fully funded for the year, but co-workers of his aren’t so lucky, and they’re required to take vacation (PTO) during the shutdown. The Smithsonian museums provide a lot of free entertainment around here, and those are no longer available (and it makes me mad because places we usually go are so overcrowded from folks who aren’t going to the Smithsonians – ugh).

    Congress (all of em, not just the Republicans) are a bunch of children that need to learn to grow up and solve their problems in a “grown up” way, not a childish temper tantrum….
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted…I Have Post-Partum DepressionMy Profile

    • Pretired Nick on October 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm said:

      While I can’t disagree with any of your statements, we must be careful in this instance to not fall for the “both sides do it” tripe of the national media. Both sides DON’T practice terrorism to reach their goals. It’s tolerated within just one party right now. And they need to be called out and shamed.

  4. We keep paying congress to be inefficient and get richer. Nobody gets that in Texas. Sigh
    Savvy Financial Latina recently posted…Money Gets Spent So QuicklyMy Profile

  5. Since when did sanity have anything to do with politics ?

    Yet again – politicians are looking to their own interests rather than the interests of the people who they are “supposed” to represent.
    GetRichWithMe recently posted…Frugal SlimmingMy Profile

    • Pretired Nick on October 9, 2013 at 8:53 am said:

      True. Basically we’re looking at game theory in play here. But there is no repercussion to their nonsense due to the gerrymandering.

  6. Nick,

    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this article and how much I agree with everything in it!

    Our political press is absolute garbage; you know that nearly all of them know there is one side that is 99% to blame with this issue, but in an attempt to not be painted as the “mainstream liberal media”, they have to present every issue as if there are two equally valid sides (if the Tea Party says the sky is purple, would they report that too??). The public then shrugs it off as “typical Washington” and the one side is allowed to continue acting like wackos.

    There is objective truth in this world and it’s incumbent on the leaders in the press to tell us what’s really going on. I keep waiting for someone like Brian Williams to just lay it out, but that will never happen because people care about self-preservation more than the good of the country.

    You know what the funny thing about the debt ceiling is? It is a total fiction and should not exist. We could just as easily raise this fictitious credit limit to $999 trillion tomorrow and there would be no negative impact as it isn’t related to spending. The only negative impact of it is when idiot politicians make a game out of it and cause real-world drops in our credit rating (or a default, which would be catastrophic).

    I keep waiting for the day that the true moderate Republicans split with the Tea Party and let them drift off into their own crazy world. I like to envision a day where what’s left of the real Republicans siphon off some of the people who now vote Democrat (because they have no choice and can’t vote for Republicans) and we actually have two viable national parties. As it stands now, a vote for any Republican, no matter how reasonable they are, is a vote for Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party. If you vote that way, you are part of the problem!

    Could you imagine if let’s say France had this disproportionate control over the world economy and one crazy faction in their government was threatening to ruin the world and our own economy? We’d label them terrorists immediately and consider it the most important national security threat facing our country…
    Brad @ RichmondSavers.com recently posted…A Lifetime of Financial Advice in your WalletMy Profile

    • Pretired Nick on October 9, 2013 at 1:04 pm said:

      Brad, I always knew you were cool from the first time we met! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You laid it out perfectly. One interesting point that you touched on was that the Republicans need to let the Tea Party spin off onto their own. You’re exactly right, but game theory prevents that from happening. The only way this could occur is that Republicans support right-leaning Democrats in a general election, thereby eliminating this faction. However this will never happen because Republicans are in love with their brand more than their country. So basically what we’re seeing is the gradual elimination of the Republicans from any form of relevancy in our politics. I imagine this smaller and smaller cabal of angry white guys end up angrily defending the smallest possible piece of turf and the rest of the country will just ignore them and move on. My hope is that a new party arises from the left and the Democrats become the corporatist party (they’re basically already where Republicans used to be). Then today’s wacko Republicans can be safely ignored the way they should be. My fear is that the crazy group somehow seizes power and we could be looking at a modern version of American fascism.

      • “Republicans are in love with their brand more than their country” Yes!

        Over a decade ago I was a Republican, and felt pretty good about it. Times have changed and wow has the GOP changed! In love with their brand more than their country pretty much sums it up. They want to prove a point regardless of cost.

        Now I’m stuck in a no man’s land politically where I can’t quite support Democrats, and can’t quite stomach a vote for the Republicans. I wish there was some centrist moderate party that was based on compromise and forward progress. That would be far preferable to the quagmire we have today. These centrists wouldn’t please everyone, but it is unlikely we would see shutdowns and the rhetoric or recent days.

        Philosophically, I lean libertarian with a strong belief in efficiency of free markets, and the invisible hand generally doing a good job of making everyone well off over time. I also accept that there are market failures and monopolies/oligopolies, and rent seekers that don’t care about externalities that can be horribly damaging to others (these rent seekers are rational economic actors, after all). In the short term, some people need help.

        I too fear some form of an “American Taliban” coming from the right (much more than any socialist group from the left). It makes me laugh to see the Tea Party espousing “small government” and individual liberties, yet they go 18th century style when it comes to social issues involving individual liberties.

        The best way to cope with the political reality is to turn off the news, protect my own wealth, and help out where I can on a small scale.
        Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…The Cost of Being a HoarderMy Profile

        • Pretired Nick on October 10, 2013 at 8:58 am said:

          Well said!
          It sounds like you’re basically where mainstream America is, which is to say you’re basically a modern Democrat. (Relatively small government, libertarian on personal freedom and very pro-business.) But people have trouble saying they’re a Democrat because their brand is terrible.
          But more importantly, wherever an individual falls on the “role of government” spectrum, hopefully anyone not caught up on partisan nonsense can agree that the problem in 2000s America is massive levels of corruption. Easily 100% of the Republican members of Congress are completely corrupt and probably 80% of the Democrats. I wish there was a way to convince right-leaning, pro-business people that it’s in THEIR interest as well to get the corporate money out of politics.

          • For some reason I can’t quite stomach being a Democrat. Not quite yet. 😉 But the republicans are being extremely effective at persuading me otherwise. Give it a few more years.
            Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…Root of Good One Month UpdateMy Profile

            • Pretired Nick on October 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm said:

              Like I said, “branding”. There’s been some interesting polling done around that where they poll registered Republicans and if you go by policy item, they are basically Democrats, yet if you ask what they think of Democrats or Obama, it’s pure hatred. There is some crazy manipulation of minds going on out there.

              • I would believe it. I develop a spreadsheet every presidential election that lists all the issues that are important to me, and my subjective weight to each issue. Then I rank each candidate on my criteria. In 2012, Gary Johnson (the Libertarian candidate) and Obama were neck and neck. Romney was a more distant third. I went with the Libertarian candidate. I was surprised that Obama was so highly ranked for me personally. I don’t have any problems with him, and think he’ll go down in history as a great president. Maybe up there with JFK, depending on who writes the history book.

                I can imagine a Romney presidency – war on 2 additional fronts – Iran and Syria. No thanks, country’s broke. Can’t afford more war.

                I’m still waiting for that elusive Republican candidate that doesn’t make me ashamed to be a registered Republican.
                Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…Root of Good One Month UpdateMy Profile

                • Pretired Nick on October 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm said:

                  It’s pretty mind-blowing when you realize Obama is pretty far to the right of Reagan! It’d be great for the country to have a Republican candidate that isn’t corrupt or a nutbag. Unfortunately it won’t happen because of the aforementioned Republican primary where you have to be a certain level of crazy to even be taken seriously. And there’s always someone just a little bit crazier ready to call you weak. I only see a downward spiral for that party at this point. Going to be really interesting when they finally capitulate on this shutdown and the debt ceiling.

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