The Government Shutdown A Broken Clay Model

I wrote that the recent government shutdown had nothing to do with what has become known as Obamacare.  Defunding the law would not stop implementation, the law would remain valid and failure to comply would be at one’s own risk and one’s freedom would be determined by whether or not an agency had the desire and means to enforce a particular aspect of the law.  As noted some of the analyses requested by individuals such as Senator Coburn and Speaker Boehner suggest that additional costs would be incurred by either overturning the law at this point or by defunding it.  Defund is actually a misleading term in that much of the funding mechanisms are written into the law.

To me ACA or Obamacare has both positive aspects and negative aspects.  Every person I know who took the time to read the actual law has listed sections to which they agree and others to which they disagree.  I didn’t conduct a real poll, but the split is near 50/50 as to whether one believes the positives outnumber the negatives or vice versa.  Still, 100 percent agreed that a framework existed within the law and making subtle changes here, deleting something there, and adding something here would make the legislation more agreeable.  Since many of the people with whom I spoke at length also have multiple degrees in history, comparisons to Henry Clay’s great omnibus bill of 1850 often came up.  In 1850 the dying gentleman returned to Washington in hopes of forging another compromise.  While his health limited his ability to advocate that multi tiered legislation through passage as a single bill, the resulting pieces of legislation taken from sections of that bill passed and became known as the Compromise of 1850.  Sides liked and disliked specific aspects of the bills, but they gave and took to reach a level where they all could claim a victory to counter the parts where their side lost.

The same could have happened with Obamacare, but the opposition always focused on total repeal which became the new version of “repeal and replace.” Think of all of those votes in the House which had no possibility of passing.  What if that time had been spent on breaking down and trying to repair aspects of the law?

Over in the Senate, we had the Cruz talk-a-thon and comments later that Senators did not have enough time to read over the CR legislation.

Arguments from both Senate and House that the other Chamber or President Obama refused to negotiate.  Shallow because the budget reconciliation process should have started in March since the Senate finally got around to passing a budget.  Yet even the hoopla of “No Budget No Pay” could not persuade the House to enter into reconciliation.  So at the end, they blamed the Senate for not entering into a joint Continuing Resolution Conference and passing piecemeal funding bills instead of working together.

The end result of this rhetoric that we will shut the government down unless Obamacare is defunded and we will not raise the debt ceiling without concessions resulted in what?  The budget reconciliation process which should have begun in March started today with a report expected by 13 December.  The government is funded without a budget through 15 January 2014 and the debt limit is lifted until 7 February 2014.

In simple terms, Congress has given itself extensions to actually try and fulfill its responsibilities.

Three immediate thoughts of mine:

1 ) All of the recesses this session, 5 weeks in one case, were apparently necessary not for the good of the country but I reckon for reelection purposes.

2 ) All of the hearings which did show that “conservative” groups were singled out by the IRS for tax exempt 501(c)(4) status which was not a huge shocker in my view since the national taxpayer advocate has harked on the problems with such an increase in applications by these civic organizations who only engage in political activities part time.  Personally I think all the organizations regardless of name or ideology should have faced the same targeting.  Honestly, I think all of these groups should be classified as 527 groups because politics is different from charitable causes.

3 ) During the shutdown, the House could hold hearings on why attractions on the National Mall were closed and blame the National Park Service for doing their jobs.

What was the cost to the typical American taxpayer?

People are debating numbers such as Standard and Poor’s assessment of at least $24 billion and shaving 0.6 percent off the nation’s economic growth.  Nobody should debate, however, all the workers furloughed who even though they will receive back pay, still had to pay their bills on time.  Some people, however, are  arguing about why they should get pay for 16 days when they did not work.

Congress has an excuse for receiving pay while not working which is the 27th Amendment.

Contractors and those people who have businesses which rely upon patronage from these workers or traffic to these attractions will not receive any back compensation.

Where do we stand today?  Essentially in the same spot as before.

If Congress refuses to work and does not have the decency to represent the United States of America and not their own political faction, the same debate will happen in January and February of next year.  Ted Cruz has already stated that the threat of a government shutdown is a negotiating tactic he will use again.

He may hate Obamacare and Obamacare may be a huge train wreck, but defunding does nothing to stop it.  I just can’t figure out why having all those people furloughed, the negative impact on the US economy, the estimated losses whether $24 billion or less, is considered patriotic.  To me patriotic would be writing a piece of legislation that transforms what you believe is a train wreck into a modern day version of the American Standard 4-4-0 locomotive making it into a magnetic levitation high speed engineering masterpiece.  Maybe that’s impossible or maybe it’s something that he is unwilling to try.

I only know that there was time and opportunity to try and repeal the law which failed.  There was time and opportunity to try and reform the law which didn’t seem important enough to work on until deadlines approached.  Defunding does not stop a potential train wreck; it only stops any possibility of a rescue attempt.

Still it is free publicity for some at the cost of $24 billion and a dent in economic recovery for the rest of us.

Since Clio no longer watches over Congress perhaps all should be given a packet of modeling clay.  Those who know me professionally probably never envisioned a day when I would have such a longing for Henry Clay to return.