Thursday, October 17, 2013

Radical Republicans Surrender, Shutdown Ends, Historic Default Averted: Dysfunctional System Experiences Rare, Temporary Burst of Sanity

OK, it's over -- at least for now -- both the Federal Government shutdown and impending debt ceiling breach / start of an unprecedented rolling Treasury Dept. default. Here is The New York Times story.

It ended thanks to the work of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and, yes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (despite the fact he is in a tough reelection race); a relentlessly and unusually unified Democratic Party; an uncharacteristically tough-as-nails President Obama who refused to give into radical Republican blackmail / ransom demands; and a palpable general exhaustion in the ranks of the House Republican caucus after 16 days of slow-motion GOP political disaster (with crashing poll numbers) resulting in a strategic, tactical, and legislative rout from its original demands to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") (whose rollout has been a total disaster -- in part owing to the hunkered down / under siege way the site was created and in part to the incredible complexity of the multiple overlapping agencies the site must tap).

The bill that passed the Senate -- tacked onto the unrelated bill H.R. 2775 that originated in the House) -- by an 81-18 lop-sided majority (I think Sen. Inhofe was the lone non-voter) also passed the House less than 2 hours later (with an unusually passive and quiet GOP majority). Speaker Boehner brought it up in violation of the silly Hastert Rule that requires a majority of the majority party pass it. The bill passed 285 to 144 with 198 yes Democratic votes and 87 yes Republican votes to 0 Democratic no votes and 144 no Republican votes and 3 no votes (2 Dems and 1 Rep). (This means that over half the Republican House caucus voted to allow the country to go into default with everything that means.)

The bill funds the government through Jan. 15, 2014 in yet another CR and the debt limit through Feb. 7, 2014. It still locks in sequestration (Budget Control Act of 2011) spending levels but Obamacare is virtually untouched -- just minor things such as strengthening the income verification requirement.

Importantly, the bill directs the House and Senate to appoint budget conferees -- something the House Republican leadership has refused to do since at least January -- and agree on a long-term budget blueprint by Dec. 13.

So the Federal Government reopens in full on Thursday after 16 day closure -- shorter than the second of the two shutdowns in 1995 / 1996 (the second one lasted 21 days) but much more damaging all around in a more intractably divisive and economically and financially stressed time.

I was lucky in that I was never furloughed. As for that 401k loan I took, I intend to return the whole thing in full -- all $3,000 plus whatever the fee-skimming middle-man investment company charges -- rather than have it in my checking account. I may need to take it out again in January.


Because we may revisit all of this again in early 2014, though at this point, I'm doubtful the GOP would want to go through this debacle again. Then again, it's hard to overstate the neo-Confederate radicalism of the Tea Party faction.

I would like to link to another Michael Lind piece "The South is holding America hostage" that continues on his theme of the neo-Confederate basis for so much of the dysfunction in America's political climate.

This piece also includes an overview of what are his (admittedly unlikely to occur) policy and legislative recommendations for isolating the power of the "Nabobs, Bourbons, and Big Mules" and in the process helping working class whites, disenfranchised minorities, and others exploited by the South's "local notable" oligarchs.

Nabobs, Bourbons, and Big Mules ... Nice.

I was going to write a more fiery opinionated political-themed entry, but I'm too tired and feeling spent. I would like to link to this New York Times piece about the incredulity and dismay with which so much of the rest of the world has viewed this American spectacle. I also want to link to two Jonathan Chait pieces from Wednesday (with embedded links):

Here is an extended excerpt from the first piece (broken up by additional pictures and with emphasis added in one of the paragraphs):

Most of the analysis has focused on the mind-boggling stupidity of Republicans in Congress, who blundered into a debacle that failed in exactly the way they were warned it would. The episode will be retold and fought over for years to come, perfectly emblemizing the party's internal disorganization, mindless belligerence, and confinement within an ideological echo chamber that sealed out important warnings of failure.

A grassroots revolt forced Republicans to shut down the government two weeks before the debt ceiling deadline, serving to weaken the party's standing at the moment they hoped to hold the default gun to Obama's head. (It's possible they lesson they'll take away from their failure will only be not to shut down the government and threaten default at the same time, requiring another showdown.)

Ha ha

But it also represents a huge Democratic success -- or, at least, the closest thing to success that can be attained under the circumstances. Of the Republican Party's mistakes, the most rational was its assumption that Democrats would ultimately bend.

This was not merely their own recycled certainty -- "nobody believes that," a confident Paul Ryan insisted of Obama's claims he wouldn't be extorted -- but widespread, world-weary conventional wisdom. Democrats would have to pay a ransom. Republicans spent weeks prodding for every weakness. Would Senate Democrats from deep red states be pried away? Would Obama fold in the face of their threat?

Part of what undergirded Democratic unity went beyond a (correct) calculation that it would be dangerous to pay any ransom at all. Democrats seemed to share a genuine moral revulsion at the tactics and audacity of a party that had lost a presidential election by 5 million votes, lost another chance to win a favorable Senate map, and lost the national House vote demanding the winning party give them its way without compromise.

Probably the single biggest Republican mistake was in failing to understand the way its behavior would create unity in the opposing party. Not until the very end, when the crisis was well under way, did any conservatives even acknowledge the Democratic view that the GOP had threatened basic governing norms. Ted Cruz and his minions may have undertaken a hopeless crusade, but they dragged along the Paul Ryan Republicans who all along seemed to think their extortion scheme was a simple business deal. Its collapse is one of the brightest days Washington has seen in a grim era.


OK, that's all for now. I'm home after a decent day at work -- I'm working with (and probably annoying to no end as a "bureaucrat") a medium-sized town in Texas near San Antonio on two lighting projects as part of one of my last compliance cases -- and a good gym workout tonight. I jogged 5 miles (climbing the equivalent of 1,087 feet) on the treadmill, did roughly an hour of light-to-moderate weightlifting, and swam / did laps for about a half hour. I've pretty much reached the weight I want to -- in the 144 to 146 range of late (down 40 pounds from my 185 pound peak in June 2012 and more like 43 or 44 pounds of fat).

Yay, me.

Tomorrow, I'm doing a post-work happy hour and will skip the gym. I usually skip Fridays and likely will not go until Saturday. My next blog update should be on Friday night.


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