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Grand Old Party Poopers

With a solid Republican majority in the House of Representatives, a slight Republican majority in the Senate, and a slightly Republican president in the White House, the Grand Old Party should be having a grand old time about now. Alas, things haven’t yet worked out that way,, and after the slightly Republican president sided with the Democrats Wednesday on the latest debt ceiling debate it’s hard to see how they ever will.
These all-too-frequent debt ceiling increases are complicated affairs even in more normal circumstances, so of course this time around it’s all the harder to make sense of it. As always a debt ceiling increase is much needed to keep the government operating and avoiding a federal default that would have far more catastrophic economic consequences, everyone is eager to avoid that politically suicidal fate at any cost, yet everyone is trying to take advantage of the situation to get pet causes included. The usual result is some scary brinksmanship followed by yet another desultory compromise that pleases no one, and we’ll hold out hope for another similarly happy outcome this time.
Democrats typically use this all-too-frequent game of chicken to get further exorbitant spending for all sorts of crazy social engineering regulations, Republicans always try to win severe spending cuts and argue that even though they’re voting for another debt ceiling increase they don’t think we can keep this up forever, and we’ve always been more inclined to the Republicans on the issue. We’re as disappointed as any snarling caller to your local talk radio station that the Republicans always wind up voting for another debt ceiling increase, but we have to admit that at least the annual federal deficits have been halved since the Republicans took over the House and then the Senate back in the ill-remembered days of President Barack Obama, and we guess they’d have doubled if not for all those congressional Republicans who came to the rescue before Trump joined the party.
This time around the debate is complicated by all sorts of things that don’t even involve Trump. An historic natural disaster has lately occurred in America’s fourth-most populous city, another bad storm might be headed for the densely populated east coast of Florida, and a significant down payment has to be made on the budget-busting cost of all that lest a political disaster bear down on both Democrats and Republicans alike. That’s not to mention all the complications caused by Hurricane Donald, who had already threatened to veto anything that didn’t include full funding for his crazy and unpopular idea of a tall and translucent wall across the entire border with Mexico, long been “tweeting” schoolyard taunts against both the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and had won office by railing against the establishments of both parties and promising no entitlements and balanced budgets.
So far as we can tell the latest congressional negotiations had come down to a difference of opinion about how long the latest desultory compromise which pleased no one would last. The Democrats wanted a mere three-month extension, the Republicans preferred a year-and-a-half before they had to go through all this again, everyone was willing to cough up the necessary funds for all those natural disaster victims, and in normal circumstances a Republican majority Congress and Republican president would have at least granted a weary nation that slightly longer respite.
On Wednesday, though, Trump met with the Democrats’ Senate minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and House minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, gave them both videotaped hugs,  and agreed to back their side, which complicated things beyond comprehension. Both Schumer and Pelosi are longstanding villains in the Republican narrative of the way things are, Trump had previously “tweeted” that Schumer was a “clown” and taunted him as “Cryin’ Chuck,” long been at least as unkind to the long-hated-by-Republicans Pelosi, so it came as something of a surprise.
Less surprising if you’ve been following how a certain segment of the talk-radio-listening Republicans have come to hate House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky with a nearly as red-hot hatred, and how Trump tapped into that anti-establishment mood to win the Republican nomination and eventually the presidency. Trump more or less vowed to vanquish the Republican establishment, kept up the feud from his election up to now, and his most die-hard supporters probably like it.
We can’t see what satisfaction they’ll get out of it, though, except for seeing Ryan and McConnell and their establishment Republican types properly irked. The Democratic offer that Trump is backing doesn’t come closer to what every sort of Republican has long wanted from all these all-too-frequent debt ceiling increase debates, and any old Republican should be irked by the satisfaction than the even more loathsome Schumer and Pelosi surely feel. Trump’s staunchest defenders will dutily explain that it’s another master move by The Art of Deal, being played out on a 3-D chess board we cannot comprehend, but that’s harder than ever to believe. The Democratic side basically means that they’ll have all their leverage back in a mere three months, when there’s no telling what disarray the Republicans might be in, the Republican side at least gives them a year and a half to perhaps right ship, and conceding such leverage might work in New York real estate deals but we can’t recall the last time it worked in these complicated legislative negotiations.
It might be for a mere three months or a whole year and a half, but we expect the government will ultimately stay open and continue paying its bills over either span. That grand old time for the Grand Old Party and its long promised balanced budgets seems further away than ever, though, and in the meantime there’s a lot of other very complicated messes to be figured out, We’ll keep following the news, and hoping for the best.

— Bud Norman

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The Latest Contretemps and the Coming Deadlines

The fallout from President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly violence that ensued from a white supremacist rally in Virginia over the weekend continued on Wednesday. Several more Republican congress members announced their objections to Trump’s statements, and the Fox News network reported that it couldn’t find any who were willing to speak on camera in the president’s defense. The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a statement that was clearly an implicit rebuke of their Commander in Chief’s comments, and several administration officials were anxiously leaking that they had nothing to do with any of it. Also, the mayor of Phoenix asked Trump to cancel an upcoming rally in the city, and Trump had to shutter two advisory panels comprised of the nation’s top business executives and labor leaders rather than accept the mass protest resignations that were soon coming.
Sooner or later the news will move on to something else, including fresh twists on the old stories about “Russia” and White House in-fighting and the Republicans’ stalled agenda of unpopular legislation, but Trump will wade into all of them as a weakened president. The opprobrium of everyone from the leaders of the Democratic and Republican party to the nation’s top military brass to the chief executive officer of Campbell’s Soup will only shore up Trump’s “anti-establishment” credentials with his most stubborn base of support, but although they’re still numerous enough to fill an arena in Phoenix he’s going to need more help than that to start winning.
That stalled agenda of unpopular Republican legislations was already stalled and unpopular largely because of Trump’s low poll numbers, which are lower than any previous presidents’ had been at this point in a first term, and its hard to see how Trump’s past few days will win any new supporters. Trump’s past feuds with his party’s congressional leadership and his own cabinet members and the military’s top brass and the economy’s most successful executives were also largely responsible for the Republican agenda being both stalled and unpopular, which is what’s mostly driving those low poll numbers, and heightening the hostilities seems a questionable strategy.
An unpopular and defiantly anti-establshment president is going to have muster some some pretty ubermensch-ian will to power to prevail against the established order and the popular consensus that sustains it in the more consequential stories that are bound to soon come. The world is at least a troubled place as ever, with more than usual number of hot spots that have lately been forgotten, and it’s worth noting that many of our democratic allies Trump had already been feuding with also stated their objections to his statements on that white supremacist rally in Virginia. The Republicans’ stalled and unpopular agenda is coming up against some very hard deadlines next month, too, and some unifying presidential leadership is going to needed to avert all sorts of catastrophes.
By the end of September the Congress needs to pass some sort of convoluted continuing resolution or some such congressional gobbledygook to keep the government open for business, as well as yet another debt-ceiling increase to pay for it, lest the government suspend many services and perhaps even default on its debt. Both Trump and the more usual sorts of Republicans ran on a promise of a return to good old days of budgets bills that went through committee and got passed by both chambers of congress and were signed into law by the president, as well as promises of a quickly balanced budget, but at this point they’re highly unlikely to keep those promises right away, and even that convoluted continuing resolution and another round of borrowing is going to be hard to achieve.
The mild political consequences of a partial government shutdown and the far more dire economic ones of a default on the national debt give every Republican member of Congress some leverage in the upcoming negotiations on that convoluted continuing resolution, none of the Democratic members will have motive to offer the majority party any help, and Trump’s reputation as a master deal will be tested more severely than it was in any of his real estate or casino negotiations. When Trump’s casinos went bankrupt he came out many millions ahead while his creditors lost collective billions, and during the campaign he temporarily roiled the world’s markets by suggesting that American could win with the same methods, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the next dreary round of continuing resolution and debt-ceiling debates involves more than usual amount of brinksmanship.
We’ll hold out hope that most dire circumstances will somehow be forestalled, just as the more-than-usual-amount of brinkmanship with the North Koreans seems to have provided a brief respite from that round of news, and we’ll count on some sort of established order prevailing at least a little while longer. If the president could be please refrain from picking any more fights with the growing majority of Americans who aren’t among his most stubborn fans we’ll feel better yet.

— Bud Norman

Trump at Long Last Considers a New Haircut

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has long been notorious for paying his creditors less than promised and threatening  lawsuits more costly than the remainder if they objected, and while bragging about his untold and undocumented wealth has on four occasions resorted to bankruptcy filings to pay out mere pennies on the dollars owed for his failed casinos and strip joints. We’re told by his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that such ruthlessly unscrupulous business practices are precisely what’s needed to deal with those duplicitous Democrats and “establishment” Republicans and wily Chinamen and assorted other foreigners to make America great again, but even as we contemplate the horrible alternative of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton becoming president we do not find the argument at all persuasive.
With our government already $19 trillion in debt and the shortfalls on all its grandiose entitlement promises rapidly approaching all-the-money-in-the-world levels, Trump has already proposed several you-can-believe-him-they’re-great solutions. He told The Washington Post that he could entirely eliminate the national debt within eight years with no tax increases just by renegotiating all of the country’s trade deals in a really great way, believe him, and then a couple days later he told Fortune Magazine that he’d never said he could eliminate all the debt within 10 years and only expected to reduce the debt a “percentage,” because of all the other great things he plans to do about infrastructure and such, and when asked what percentage he replied “It depends on how aggressive you want to be,” and that “I’d rather not be so aggressive.” More worrisomely yet, he also told the CNBC cable news network that he’d handle the debt of the casino and strip joint that America has lately become by the same means that have worked out so well for himself in the past, by asking the country’s creditors to accept less than what was promised.
Asked by his stunned interlocutor if he was really talking about renegotiating sovereign bonds already issued by the government of the United States of America, Trump replied in typically un-parsable English that “I don’t want to renegotiate the bonds, but I think you can do discounting, I think, you know, depending on where the interest rates are, I think you can buy back — you can — I’m not talking about with a renegotiation, but you can buy back at discounts.”
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s typically un-parsable English allowed him much wiggle room as he inevitably walked back his comments, as the notoriously straight-talking truth-teller so often does, so the very next day he was on CNN assuring another national television audience that “People said I want to go and buy and default debt, and I mean these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, OK?” None of which is at all reassuring.
Call us crazy, but our best reading of Trump’s earlier comment suggests that at least in one particular moment in time Trump was actually talking on national television about paying the country’s creditors less than was promised but somehow achieving this feat without a renegotiation. This is what’s known in economics as “crazy talk.” Any debt that is paid at less than what had been contractually promised has most certainly been renegotiated, whether acknowledged or not, the entirety of the financial and political world would surely regard it as a default by the world’s biggest-or-second-biggest-economy-depending-on-the-accounting-methods, and although this method has previously worked out to the benefit of Donald J. Trump there is simply no explaining how it might work out to the benefit of America or the rest of the world. Given the chance to print his own money, just as President Barack Obama has done during the past seven-and-a-half years or so while doubling the national debt, we aren’t at all certain that the failed casino-and-strip-joint owner would avail himself of the opportunity. It didn’t work out well for the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe or any of the other casino and strip joint countries that tried to inflate their way out of debt, but we’re assured by his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that the oft-bankrupt Trump is such an exceptionally shrewd businessman that this time will surely be different.

Which is not to say, alas, that the most likely alternative is any better. The presumptive Democratic nominee has also pledged to keep her hands off those entitlement programs that are driving the country toward inevitable bankruptcy, which would involve a fight that neither of these self-described fighters have the stomach for, and unlike her most likely rival she’s not only ambiguously open to negotiations on taxing the public to keep the economy limping along even if those tax increases hinder economic growth and wind up reducing public revenues but is enthusiastically for them, so we take care not to endorse either of them. We’re still  looking around for some third  or fourth option that might be more appealing, and although haven’t settled on any yet,  and although we admittedly don’t hold out much hope that there is one, be assured we’ll keep trying.

— Bud Norman

A Good Time For a Sex Scandal

Now would be the perfect time to make a full confession of our lurid sex scandal, if only we could muster the energy to have one. There are so many stories of earth-shaking significance afoot at the moment that even the most Clintonian sorts of escapades would attract little notice, and by the time anyone got around to paying heed we could dismiss the whole mess as old news and utterly irrelevant to our candidacy for philosopher king or whatever office we might be seeking. Summertime is when the living is easy, according to the usually reliable lyrics of Gershwin music, but this summer we’re finding it hard to keep up with the headlines.
There is still fierce fighting in Ukraine and Syria and Iraq and probably a few other places that have escaped our attention, but of course all the news is about the relatively limited conflict between the humane and democratic state of Israel and the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang Hamas. For some reason or another Muslims can kill one another by the hundreds of thousands and the toll will be mentioned in the fifth and final paragraph of a story buried as deep as you can bury a story in today’s thin newspapers, but when a few million Jews from a humane and democratic state excruciating limit Muslim casualties in response to the thousands of rockets fired at its civilian population by a genocidal and totalitarian terror gang it warrants more prominent scrutiny. Despite the tsk-tsking of polite opinion we’re firmly on the side of the humane and democratic state, and hope they persist in the fighting long enough put a permanent stop to those rockets and the rest of the deadly threats to its people, but our country’s State Department seems to be siding with the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang. Israel being forced to defend itself against genocidal and totalitarian enemies is nothing new, but the United States’ new policies regarding the conflict are a worrisome twist on an otherwise familiar plot.
Polling indicates that a reassuring majority of Americans share our preference for the humane and democratic state over the genocidal and totalitarian terror gang, and the administration seems just as indifferent to the public opinion regarding the recent invasion of the United States by the unaccompanied minors of gang-ridden Central America. A percentage of Americans that a red-state Democrat would regard as overwhelming are wanting to send the urchins back home to the embracing of their dubiously loving families as soon as possible, but the administration is sending signals that it intends to welcome them into the arms of a deficit-spending welfare state and offer millions the very amnesty deal that provoked the invasion. The Congressional response is far too convoluted to recap here, involving as it does such arcane parliamentary maneuvers as “waiving the tree” and the bizarre mix of fecklessness and incompetence that too often characterizes the House Speakership of Rep. John Boehner, but suffice to say that it’s all been scuttled for now by a torrent of public outrage and the sensible stand of Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions is our very favorite Senator, and we think he’d be a front-running presidential candidate if he didn’t sound so very much like an Alabaman.
The immigration story is going loom large through the mid-term elections, and the administration’s preference for genocidal and totalitarian terror gangs over humane and democratic states might prove an issue in some districts, so it’s easy to lose sight of such an intriguing story as the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling that Obamacare should be enforced according to the language in the bill rather than the language that it’s dwindling number of supporters would prefer. The bill’s dwindling number of apologists insist that that subsidies shouldn’t be paid only to people who singed up in the 14 states that were willing to set up their own exchanges, but their efforts have only added to a growing number of reasons to believe that was the explicitly stated intention of the people who passed the law without reading it so they could find out what was in it. This doesn’t mean that a Supreme Court Justice would want to uphold the plain language of the law, but it makes it slightly more likely that Obamacare and all its embarrassments will remain in the news through the fall.
There’s that Argentinian default and the country’s rather comely but entirely incompetent president blaming it all on America, and the big drop in the stock market that might have been caused by the relatively good news about Gross Domestic Product that might just result in a 2.3 percent growth rate after that the dip in the last quarter, and something about some homosexual football player and some ex-coach who said something about him. Just the links that Matt Drudge daily provides about the border invasion are all too exhausting, and trying to figure out the administration’s apparent belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is crucial to world peace is downright vexing, so we’re wishing we’d spent the time on a good lurid sex scandal.

— Bud Norman

Gaining From a Bad Deal

Good policy is good politics, according to an old saying, and like most old sayings it is often but not always true. The congressional Republican’s cowardly capitulation to a “clean” debt ceiling deal on Wednesday might prove one of the frequent exceptions to the rule.
No real Republican would argue that the deal isn’t disastrously bad policy. The legislation basically hands a blank check to the most profligate president in history, guaranteeing the nation’s debt will rise to a staggering $17.2 trillion just after November’s mid-term elections, and achieves nothing in the way of much needed spending cuts or any other curbs on a government rapidly and clumsily expanding into every niche of American life. Although the party leadership and the minority of Republican congressman who followed them argue will that the deal guarantees the full faith and credit of the federal government, an increasingly restive conservative base will not be convinced that adding yet another $512 billion dollars of debt over the next few months is the most fiscally responsible course of action.
Nor can the Republicans point to any immediate political advantages gained from the deal. Indeed, the more prominent media are gleefully quoting the Democrats’ gloating that the deal represents a total defeat for the Republicans in general and their more rock-ribbed Tea Party constituents in particular. House Speaker John Boehner, whose hold on the house speakership grows more tenuous with each passing offense to the party’s most essential voters, couldn’t even win the inclusion of an amendment to rescind some previous unpopular budget cuts to veterans’ benefits that the Democrats probably could have been shamed into accepting. As the most outspoken opponent of the deal and the only Republican to attempt a filibuster Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was rewarded for his noble efforts by some of the most sneeringly disdainful press coverage of his already controversial career, and if the party leadership and its timid followers expected to be lauded by the pundits for their non-partisan willingness to compromise they have been sorely disappointed.
On the other hand, at least the Republicans aren’t being pilloried for their strident partisanship and stubborn refusal to compromise. That’s what happened every other time the Republicans tried to use the debt ceiling as leverage for sensible reforms and essential spending restraint, with the damage done to the party’s popularity evident in all the subsequent opinion polls, and we will generously assume that the Republican leadership was merely trying to avoid yet another hit. Those talk radio hosts shrieking “damn the opinion polls, full steam ahead” are quite right to argue the public should be grateful for the Republicans’ efforts, that government shutdowns are a minor inconvenience at worst and a welcome break from bureaucratic meddling at best, that a federal default would not occur in any case, and that the eventual consequences of all that debt far outweigh any damage done by a protracted political squabble, but they are wrong to assume that an electoral majority of the country can be made to understand any of it.
A crucial percentage of voters pay too little attention to politics to hear these arguments, and even if the arguments were to somehow sneak into the news accounts that occasionally interrupt the average uninformed American’s day he would likely be unmoved. Government shutdowns always sound scary when the news anchors say it, the laws and constitutional requirements precluding default are as a confounding as the economic concepts involved, and the public has become inured to warnings about it since the Democrats started squawking about it back in the Reagan days. When the debt it called due and the inevitable economic calamity occurs it will be big news, but at the moment the weather is a far more pressing matter for the average American.
Unless the bottom falls out before November, the Republicans’ cowardly capitulation could provide them with a slight advantage in the mid-term elections. By that time the deal will be largely forgotten even by the talk radio hosts, who are already shrieking less loudly than after other Republican leadership outrages, and the majority of Republican congressman who opposed the deal will be able to remind their conservative voters that they at least voted “no.” The Democrats won’t have another unpopular showdown to blame on the Republicans, and they’ll still be remembered as the party that promised you could keep your health care plan if you liked it and then cancelled the policy and forced you to pay more money for one covering things you don’t want or need. To the extent that America’s dire fiscal situation is an election issue, even the most cowardly capitulators in the party can claim that they were forced to bankrupt the country by the Democrats.

— Bud Norman

Dealing With Defeat

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Republican circles on Wednesday, as the party went down to a widely acknowledged defeat in the great government shutdown battle of ’13.
As a result of a last-minute-before-the-phony-baloney-default-deadline deal the government will be fully back in business on Thursday, which is disappointing enough to any true Republican, and it’s hard to see what the GOP won in exchange in for the bad press and battered poll numbers that it suffered during the much-ballyhooed brinksmanship that proceeded it. The deal does not withhold funding from the much hated Obamacare law, which was the quixotic goal that started all the fuss, nor does it end Congress’ hugely unpopular exemption from the law or delayed its widely hated individual mandate, which we were the backup bargaining conditions of the rebellious Republicans, and it doesn’t seem to offer anything in the way of budget cuts or entitlement reforms or any sort of face-saving fig-leaf at all. The Democratic partisans who predominate in the press are predictably triumphalist, while the conservative outposts of the media are engaged in the usual internecine finger-pointing.
Most of the “RINO” or “establishment” portions of the party, as they’re known to their more rock-ribbed critics, are plausibly claiming vindication for their warnings against the shutdown strategy. Meanwhile the “extremist” or “loony-bird” segments of the party, as they’re known to their more cautious colleagues, are angrily and plausibly arguing that it might have worked if only the party had not been undermined by the weak-kneed defections of those darned “RINOs” and “establishment” types. Both might well be right, at least to some extent, but intra-party sniping is only further proof that the battle did not go well.
About the best that can be said of the deal is that it could have been worse, as it’s all very short-term in extending the government’s ravenous appetite for debilitating debt and record spending, and thus provides future opportunities to attempt to restrain these disastrous tendencies, but that’s not saying much. Partisan rooting aside, and the enthusiastic response of Wall Street to any sort of default-delaying deal notwithstanding, the deal does nothing to address the nation’s most pressing problems but merely puts off the day of reckoning by a few months. A few months hence the same realities of the current political and media landscape that caused Wednesday’s debacle will still prevail, and necessary reforms will likely once again be thwarted no matter how deft or unified the Republicans might be.
Which is why the Republicans should be primarily concerned with changing the political landscape after next year’s mid-term election, and stop in the finger-pointing and aspersion-casting that threatens to turn it into another debacle for the party. The government shutdown affected few people other than some unlucky visitors to the national parks and monuments, most of whom understand that the heavy-handed tactics they encountered there were the fault of officious Democrats, and it will be long forgotten in the eternal span of 13 moths from now. Obamcare’s myriad disasters will still be with us, as will the sputtering economy and overwhelming debt that Obamacare and other administration policies are causing, and the Republican party’s stubborn and poll-defying resistance to such nonsense could prove a winning argument if the GOP doesn’t cannibalize itself in the coming months.

— Bud Norman

A Good Day to Ignore the News

Our yesterday was mostly devoted to preparing today’s speech to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, a weekly gathering of downtown’s Republicans, and the effort left little time to keep abreast of the day’s events. It’s an honor to be asked to address our fellow right-wing lunatics, and we wanted to make sure the oration had a few laugh lines to leaven all of our usual gloominess, so we paid only scant attention to our usual news sources.
What little we did hear was mostly about the crazed woman who attacked the White House and the Capitol, or the ongoing inconveniences caused by the government shutdown and the endless speculation about who is to be blamed, and neither story seemed especially compelling. The crazed woman’s attack and subsequent death are regrettable, of course, but unlikely to be of lasting public significance. Whenever these incidents occur much of the media are breathlessly hoping that the perpetrator will turn out to be some white male “tea party” member with an assault weapon, but in this case it turned out to be an African-American woman dental hygienist armed only with an automobile, which wasn’t even a sport utility vehicle, so we expect the matter will quickly fade away.
The government shutdown will likely be with us for a while, and the blame game will certainly linger even longer, but at this point the latest juicy details are of little importance. We got a good laugh from hearing President Barack Obama boast of how he’s carefully tempered his rhetoric against those suicide-vest-wearing Republicans who are holding a gun to the public’s head because they’re so eager to deny poor people access to health care, but the rest of it was too dreary to distract us from our speech-writing. In several of the radio news snippets the president was also warning that the Republicans would cause the government to default on its debts, an admittedly unpleasant possibility, but we also spent enough time perusing the more complete news outlets to notice that the Republicans’ House leadership has promised to avoid that at any cost including complete capitulation, so we’re not yet ready to panic. Default lies not in the stars, as Cassius might have said to Brutus had they been misfortunate enough to live in these times, but rather in Obama.
The deranged woman who crashed through the Capitol Hill barricades on Thursday isn’t the only crazy person in Washington, it seems, and the rest of them are more likely to do the most lasting damage.

— Bud Norman

Who’s Afraid of a Government Shutdown?

There’s been talk lately that the federal government might shut down, due to Obamacare or the debt ceiling or a convoluted combination of the two, and some people seem worried about it. Some people will always worry about such things, we suppose, but it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about.
The government has shut down too many times to keep track of, including a sizeable number of federal holidays and almost every weekend of the year, and if not for all the furor in the press it would almost always have gone unnoticed. All the stories invariably involve families that are disappointed to find a national park closed while on their vacations, which seems a minor inconvenience at a time when all the kids should be in school, or horror stories about old folks starving in the streets for want of a Social Security check, which never seems to actually occur, and most readers remain unconvinced that there’s a real problem. The stock markets typically take a slight temporary dive, although that might be for fear the federal government will eventually return to work, but otherwise the economy stumbles along in its usual way. All the cops and firemen and other useful public servants are still on the job, drawing paychecks from state and local governments that some how manage to stay in business throughout the year, and all of the “nonessential” personnel who are furloughed for the duration prove as nonessential as advertised.
President Barack Obama is warning that a government shutdown will mean the nation’s bills go unpaid and America will be a “deadbeat” and a “banana republic,” with economic catastrophe following from the international doubt about the full faith and credit of the country, but we suspect this is only because the old saws about national park closings and unsent Social Security checks have lost their scariness. He also talks about those crazy spendthrift Republicans have been running up a huge tab against his frugal counsel and now want to “run out on the bill,” as if he hasn’t fought against their effort to restrain spending, and has offered the preposterous claim that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t mean the country will go further into debt, making the president sound rather desperate for something to say. Thus far even the supposedly anarchist wing of the Republican party has been willing to pay for all the government anyone might want except for Obamacare, and they’ll surely cave on that one sensible demand before they allow the government to default on its obligations to bondholders, so the economic catastrophe will have to await the all-too-soon date when the government debt has grown so large that the bondholders stop buying and the Fed is forced to concede that it can’t keep printing up money to pay them.
The people who are most worried about a government shutdown seem to be politicians worried mostly about who get the blame if anything noticeably bad actually does happen. Many Republicans, especially the ones with a professional stake in the party’s political fortunes, are understandably concerned that the traditional media outrage will once again bring the electorate’s wrath down upon in the upcoming mid-term elections and hand complete political control to Democratic party hell-bent on the same sort of mischief they inflicted on the country in the first two years of Obama’s reign. The Democrats, on the other hand, fear a government shutdown because it once again might have no noticeable effect and thus remind the country that it really doesn’t need to pay them so much money to run the meddlesome behemoth.
With neither party gaining any advantage from a prolonged government shutdown, it’s not likely to happen. Preventing it will mean Obamacare and another trillion or so of federal debt, both of which are far more disastrous than a government shutdown, but at least the full faith and credit of the country will be restored and banana republic status delayed for another year or so. That should get us past the mid-terms, and that’s all that anybody is really worried about.

— Bud Norman