Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Government Shutdowns

I am fuming right now and have been since I learned that Speaker Boehner received an ovation after telling his caucus to prepare for a government shutdown.

Looking past the outright childishness of applauding the shutdown of the federal government, what really gets me about this is that the GOP has gotten what it wants all ready. The House leadership asked for $32 billion in fiscal year 2011 cuts and what do the Democrats give them? $33 billion, and that's in comparison to the billions they wanted to spend on infrastructure projects and extra stimulus. But they realized, as President Obama once said, that "elections have consequences" and that they have to compromise in order to govern (a more liberal man would say capitulate because they gave the GOP everything they want and more but I choose to go with the $60 billion as the new GOP number and be the bigger man).

One would think the Republicans would have taken the deal, declared victory, and moved on to fight the debt limit fight (more on that in a future post) and the Fiscal Year 2012 fight (ditto) with some momentum. Sadly logic and political ability escape the GOP freshman, and instead they decided to go whole hog on this one. They decided, with a shutdown on the line, to pick up their ball and go home instead of stick around and play with the other 192 participants in the game.

Now I don't profess to know anything about anything but if I were given dictatorial powers for an unspecified amount of time (powers I would relinquish upon completion of my goals of course), I might be likely to do some or all of the following:
  • Set up a bipartisan group to curb the long term debt and give them legislative powers (Simpson-Bowles, but with actual bite). They would have a fixed term that coincides with the next congress and would expire the day congress adjourns. Any recommendations would take at least 6 years to take effect, giving the American public the chance to vote out of office each elected official in office at the time of passage. All recommendations would be subject to bills passed by congress and signed by the president, that is to say if the congress and the president want to pass a bill to stop its implementation then it is their constitutional right to do so. Lacking a countermanding law then the recommendations themselves would become law.
  • After the term of this group has expired there would be boards for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Discretionary spending that would also have legislative authority to find redundancies and cost saving techniques and propose new taxes or cuts to pay for them (sort of like oh I don't the Independent Payment Advisory Board set up by the ACA). Again it would take 6 years for anything to be enacted and could be countermanded by the normal legislative process.
  • Debt increases would become something you have to vote down not vote for.
  • And possibly more if I put more than 30 minutes of thought into it.
The goal here is to take the politics out of the process so we dont have months like the one past and dont find ourselves in a political crisis. While at the same time giving our elected officials the final say (and do they ever say).

Who knows maybe the events of the past two days are a huge ruse being run by the GOP leadership in order to get the Tea Party to eventually vote for the compromise. I don't know but man do I hope so.

At the end of the day the only solace I can take away from this is that somewhere out there, there is a frustrated and fuming 20 something GOPer who is furiously pecking away at the keyboard about how the Democrats are shutting down the government.

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