Friday, October 4, 2013

Who Shut Down the Government and What We've Learned From It

I'm going to share an article a friend passed along, because it made some clear, thoughtful points and is written by an economist and Harvard grad, Thomas Sowell.  He's also African American, so I'm pretty sure based on the news that if you disagree with him, that makes you a racist.

Here's his article:  Who Shut Down the Government?

Some great points:
There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going -- except for ObamaCare.
The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he wants a "clean" bill from the House of Representatives, and some in the media keep repeating the word "clean" like a mantra. But what is unclean about not giving Harry Reid everything he wants?
...the whole point of having a division of powers within the federal government is that each branch can decide independently what it wants to do or not do, regardless of what the other branches do, when exercising the powers specifically granted to that branch by the Constitution.
If Senator Reid and President Obama refuse to accept the money required to run the government, because it leaves out the money they want to run ObamaCare, that is their right. But that is also their responsibility.  
What about not paying our debts?
Perhaps the biggest of the big lies is that the government will not be able to pay what it owes on the national debt, creating a danger of default. Tax money keeps coming into the Treasury during the shutdown, and it vastly exceeds the interest that has to be paid on the national debt.

Even if the debt ceiling is not lifted, that only means that government is not allowed to run up new debt. But that does not mean that it is unable to pay the interest on existing debt. 
As always, Thomas Sowell thinks and explains clearly.  I've selected a few choice bits and arranged them so they work well here.  You should read his whole column.

Whether or not the majority Republican House of Representatives should be blamed, they have been blamed and that may be a political mistake on their part.  Instead of headlines about the exchanges not working, we're only getting partial government shut down news from the mainstream media.  Then again, they might have chosen not to cover the early failures of the ACA (Obamacare) even if there weren't partial shutdown news.  Despite the potential repercussions from being blamed, I can't help but wonder if they're not doing it because they know that once an entitlement program begins, it never goes away, so this is the last chance to keep the ACA (Obamacare) from being implemented.  The ACA is designed to fail so that private insurance will be gutted and we'll have to move to a single-payer system like the NHS in the U.K.  De-funding prevent implementation may be the only way to stave off that result.  I may be giving them too much credit, though--they may have thought they'd win political points on this.

There's a lot to learn from what's going on, though.  The administration is acting like petulant children at best, nasty bullies at worst.  Remember, government is supposed to exist to serve your needs and help keep you safe so you can go about your daily activities.  Instead, because there's a threat to their usual operation, they're trying to make you suffer and prove you need them, even when it isn't true.  I'll provide three examples.

The first example is the Panda Cam at the national zoo that the news media went crazy about.  I can't think of anything less essential to the running of government, so shutting it down would make sense if it were taxpayer funded.  It's not.
Funding does not appear to be the issue here, because the National Zoo's panda cams are sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund, as part of a two-year, $400,000 grant to study giant panda health. The majority of the grant covers research into disease transmission, but the cameras are factored in.
So, shutting it down was an attempt by the administration to punish you, even though it's not taxpayer funded.

The second example is the World War II memorial that veterans reportedly stormed, going around barricades to get in.  It's really odd that there are barricades, because:
“This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances — even when Park Service personnel aren’t present.  It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would to simply let them through. My office has been in touch with NPS officials and the Administration to try to resolve this issue.”
Source here.

We're not talking about saving money, then.  We're talking about petulant foot stomping and trying to make you hurt for daring to allow the shut down of about 18% of the federal government.

Need further proof?  Here's the third example:
The National Park Service has ordered the closure of a Virginia park that sits on federal land, even though the government provides no resources for its maintenance or operation.
“You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money,” [said Anna Eberly, managing director of the farm].

The park withstood prior government shutdowns, noting in a news release that the farm will be closed to the public for the first time in 40 years.

“In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm,” Eberly explained in an emailed statement.
None of this malfeasance is simple incompetence.  It's absolutely deliberate.
“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
 Source here.

How does that famous text go?  Oh, right (emphasis mine):
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
So, aside from the fact the federal government has become a self-serving beast designed mostly to protect the privileges and excesses of the wealthy political class running it (precisely what the founders wanted to prevent for as long as possible), we've learned a few valuable lessons from this shutdown.

Nick Gillespie does a great job pointing it out in his article:  Shutdown Highlights Basic Fact: Most of Government is “Non-Essential”

That's right.  We don't actually need these employees, yet in a difficult economic time, their temporary layoff is somehow an outrage.  Nick Gillespie phrases it even more incisively:
Nevertheless, the shutdown provides the country with a perfect moment to ask why a federal government whose spending habits are an insult to drunken sailors everywhere is paying above-market compensation to hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” workers.
If we wanted to take the opportunity afforded by the shutdown to question the size, scope, and spending of the federal government, we could start by asking why the 397 national parks, 582 natural landmarks, and 2,461 historical landmarks overseen by the U.S. Park Service aren’t operated instead by state and local governments or nonprofit trusts. Indeed, despite an annual budget north of $2.75 billion plus revenue raised by user fees, there are billions of dollars of backlogged maintenance and upkeep that everyone knows will never get completed.
I encourage you to read his whole article.   Perhaps the deliberate, unnecessary and aggravating closures the government is engaging in are simply to keep you from thinking about these things.  It would behoove you to take a moment to consider them and then perhaps share your thoughts with your senators and congressperson.

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