Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 4, 2010

NO ONE SHOULD BE SURPRISED BY THE SHUTDOWN.... Josh Marshall had an item yesterday that I suspect represents the way many observers consider reports of a government shutdown next year: "When I first heard this talk of another 'government shutdown' in 2011, I figured it was just Democrats whipping it up as a cudgel for the election. Then I heard Republicans talking about it too. But I still figured it was just a way of ratcheting up their own core voters -- who of course loved the first one too."

Two months ago, when I first put the odds of a government shutdown, in the event of a GOP majority, at over 50%, I heard this, too -- it's just a lot of talk; it'll blow over; and cooler heads will prevail.

But Josh started reconsidering his take when he considered in detail how the funding fight over health care is likely to play out if Republicans take the House (and/or the Senate). Christina Bellantoni reported yesterday on the right-wing plan to "defund" health care policy, effectively holding the government hostage unless President Obama agrees to go along.

GOP leadership is on board with defunding health care and it's the most popular idea on the America Speaking Out voter forum run by the House Republicans and is included on the tea party's version of a Contract with America.

"Since we would need 60 senators to stop a filibuster, defunding is really our only option," said Alex Cortes of DeFundIt.org.

While some GOPers suggest they could cut funding entirely, there is only $150 billion in the reform law that's discretionary and not self-executing. Those funds are to help the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS implement the new law, and Republicans believe, "If we exclude those funds, they can't institute the program," Cortes said.

"I don't think a shutdown would eventually happen," Cortes said. "We'd ultimately win the PR battle if we did it. We won the battle in the 90s because we stood on principle."

Conservatives who think the shutdown(s) made Republicans look good probably need a quick refresher of the politics of 1995.

Regardless, the talk of inviting a government shutdown is getting harder to miss, and Republicans haven't even won anything yet. The GOP won't be able to repeal the health care law, so this is widely seen as the next best thing, despite the severe consequences.

The next question is whether it's likely Republicans would go through with it.

Jonathan Bernstein recently argued that Boehner & Co. would not. In the mid-'90s, Gingrich assumed Bill Clinton was weak and could be pushed around -- he could threaten the president with a shutdown, and Clinton would give Republicans what they wanted. The GOP probably perceives Obama differently.

Now, John Boehner was there, and remembers what happened. He almost certainly has a lot more respect for Barack Obama than Gingrich did for Clinton. He also should know, and probably does know, that the rise of the partisan media since 1995-96 will make it even harder for him, and for House Republicans, to extricate themselves from a high-profile stalemate; frankly, I think it's highly unlikely that Boehner could survive as Speaker following a high-profile "surrender" (that is, compromise). Given all of that, I think it's unlikely that Boehner would let himself get trapped in such a situation.

That's a reasonable assessment, but I'm not sure how much of a choice Boehner will have. The House Minority Leader has already said scrapping the entire health care reform law is his top priority, and Boehner's caucus -- and the party base -- will expect follow-through. Boehner could pass a repeal bill in the House, but after it failed in the Senate or got vetoed, he wouldn't be able to say, "Well, we gave it a shot; let's move on to other issues now." It's too late for that -- defunding the law is already far too popular within the GOP. There's an expectation that the fight has to happen.

Bernstein's right that Boehner's role as Speaker might not survive a failed confrontation with the president, but I'm not sure Boehner's role as Speaker could survive if he decided not to force the confrontation.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that in a showdown, Obama would come out ahead of Boehner & Co., in much the same way Clinton looked better than Gingrich. I think that's true. But I also think Republicans have already backed themselves into a corner -- they've made the president out to be the devil; they've all but ruled out compromising; and they've committed to a path that almost certainly ends in a government shutdown. GOP leaders may have even deluded themselves into thinking that they're more popular than Obama (they're not), and that if a shutdown hurts the economy, they'll avoid blame (they won't).

When gaming this out, there's a temptation to think rational players will act in accordance with reason and self-interest. With Republicans, especially in the House, the models are skewed by their often-bizarre interpretations of reality.

Steve Benen 11:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

That's a reasonable assessment

Therefore, given the GOP, wrong.

Posted by: martin on September 4, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Common sense has it that a rat, when backed into a corner and facing destruction, will die fighting---and Boehner is an uber-rat....

Posted by: S. Waybright on September 4, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Steve:
Can you please stop giving the GOPers the benefit of the doubt? A government shutdown is coming. And what partisan media are you talking about? Do you really think that KO, Maddow and Ed Schultz can drown out Faux Noise(and the rest of the traitors in the TradMed)? Just look at your own website. Mike Castle is crapping his pants. Everywhere I go(and it's funny that it's all over the lefty blogosphere) I see the anti-Christine O'Donnell ads. They are out for blood. And along the same avenue, they will itch for impeachment. Just you watch.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on September 4, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, yeah, impeachment will be on the table. It'll start off as 'investigations' into nonsense.
And yeah, a government shutdown is in the works, too. I don't doubt that for a minute.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 4, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

In 1995, Clinton was perceived as weak. That perception was wrong. Today, Obama is perceived as weak, and that perception is correct. Obama's approval ratings are circling the drain, his progressive base is openly discussing a third-party alternative, and HRC is becoming increasingly unpopular, not only among conservatives but also among progressives who view it (rightly or wrongly) as a massive giveaway to the medical-industrial complex. Moreover, for all his faults, Bill Clinton was willing to play hardball with the Republicans. Obama has never shown any willingness to confront anyone, ever, over anything. If the Republicans threaten a shutdown over this issue, the White House will crank up the predictable -- and increasingly shopworn -- rhetoric about the Party of No, and then it will cave.

Posted by: fradiavolo on September 4, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bible quoting Republicans would do well to recall the story of Samson. You know; the guy who lost his hair, and then lost his power.

"Then Samson prayed to God, "remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines" (Judges 16:28)

"Samson pulled the two pillars together, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more as he died than while he lived." (Judges 16:30).

Posted by: DAY on September 4, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, it's wrong to think that Republicans don't act rationally in their own self interest- read what Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has written about negotiations with "irrational" actors like North Korea. The trick is in figuring out what their self-interest actually is and how much they care about the topic. With politicians, the self interest is pretty clear: they want to get elected, and they want money. For a large enough group of Republicans who don't have competitive general elections, both causes will probably be served by a government shutdown.

Posted by: spiny on September 4, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

They (Repugs) just do not f#%king care if they take this whole country into an eternal toilet. It is so obvious that they will do anything to prevent a black man from suceeding as a leader in this country. Some of them are talking impeachment already in anticipation of taking over Congress. Impeaching for what offense? Obama and the Dems had better grow some balls and grow them fast because the Repugs who have NO solutions to the problems THEY CREATED over the last 30 yrs. beginning with St. Reagan do one thing really well- they stick together like flies on shit and they will do what they say. The Dems must put it out there PLAINLY for all to see that government in the hands of the Repugs has been a complete disaster for those in the middle class. IF you vote for them it's like coming back to shit and eating it. And Obama, for being an intelligent man, is incredibly stupid in his dealings with the Repugs. When is he (and most other Dems) going to learn that the Repugs hate him and everything he stands for. THEY JUST DON"T FU#$KING CARE.

Posted by: Chris on September 4, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama's approval ratings are circling the drain, (and) his progressive base is openly discussing a third-party alternative..."
Where do you get this stuff? Obama's ratings are in the mid 40s. I read the New York Times, watch MSNBC, and read this blog as well as TalkingPointsMemo, and this is the first I've heard of a progressive third-party alternative. I may not be as plugged in as you, fradiavolo, but these progressives are sure keeping quiet about it.

Posted by: t case on September 4, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"his progressive base is openly discussing a third-party alternative, and HRC is becoming increasingly unpopular"

Especially given the context, I thought you were saying that Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) was becoming unpopular. I'm guessing you meant HCR (health care reform).

Posted by: navamske on September 4, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Well, after the initial shock of watching a retarded republic re-elect the fuckholes that got the country in a bind to begin with, I gotta say I'm looking forward to 2011. Should be interesting. No longer having the cover of minority to throw stones, it'll be time for those darling Republicans to amaze us with all their policy solutions.

Either the country will finally wake-up or we'll be saying the words President Palin and Vice President Brewer come 2012.

Posted by: Oh my on September 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

@FRADIOVOLVO: Obama is NOT weak, he's been getting shit done while his critics and his opponents are admiring the marks on their measuring sticks - if you know what I mean. His approval rating has barely changed since last September. Gallup has him at 47%, CNN has him at 50%, He won with 53% of the votes and according to Gallup since last September he has only dropped 4 points. So what's happening here is that just like the GOP you are under the illusion that Obama is weak and unpopular and those who think that will eventually lose. Just like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, ANYONE who underestimates Obama WILL LOSE.

Posted by: Alli on September 4, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Progressive Third Party? LOL!!!! LOL!!!! Led by who? Jane Hamsher? LOL!!!! LOL!!!! For the past two years a segment of the left has done nothing but sit on their arses and complain. Now those people are talking about forming a third party? yeah good look with that.

Posted by: Alli on September 4, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps fradiovolo's source of information is a daily dose of right wing talking points in his(her) e-mail in-box. Sure seems divorced from reality. Whatev.

The RW base is already acutely aware that their pet issue (abortion) has been used for decades by the Republican party. If Bernstein is correct and Boehner doesn't toe the line by shutting the government down, the RW will look upon that as a betrayal. 2010's midterms are not an isolated event. 2012 support by the RW depends on following through with 2010 promises. Boehner doesn't have the luxury of over promising and under delivering this time.

Posted by: jcricket on September 4, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

This guy Cortes who is behind the shutdown website is a 21-year old college student. He has no idea what really happened in the 1995-6 shutdowns. He knows only what he has been told, so he thinks it was a success for the GOP, doesn't realize it made Gingrich a laughingstock and helped Clinton win in 1996.

The Dems ought to begin circulating a rumor that if the GOP gets in and shuts down the government, Social Security checks (direct deposits) will not be sent out and neither will Medicare reimbursements. Who cares whether it is true or not. That's what the Right does. It's the one sure way to win seniors over. The GOP wants to do away with Social Security and if they get in they will shut down the government and you won't get your money. Put them on the defensive explaining what they will and won't shut down.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 4, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

There was no way Obama could live up to his soaring campaign rhetoric, much as the country said it wanted him to. However, he has demonstrated to anyone paying attention that he is not a fighter; that he prefers to compromise in worship of the bipartisan god to the point of achieving little or nothing.

The Dimocrats have no message control, and no balls. Obama has no coattails, and a true mandate has been squandered. Dumbfuckistan is alive and well, and its borders are spreading.

Posted by: rrk1 on September 4, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Right now, it seems as though there is only one political party, and it's the Republican party.

Can anyone remember the last time a prominent Democrat triggered a news cycle on his/her own (i.e., not in response to Republican mischief)?

Posted by: PowerOfX on September 4, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The House Minority Leader has already said scrapping the entire health care reform law is his top priority, and Boehner's caucus -- and the party base -- will expect follow-through.

Balancing that is the fact that the Republican base is damned ignorant about how government actually works. Remember, the GOP strung along social conservatives for decades by talking a good game about social issues and then doing almost nothing about them once elected.

They may well be able to do something that any rational person would consider a compromise or small change, and have Palin/Beck/Limbaugh declare it a great victory. Since the TPers have no actual understanding of health care reform or fiscal policy and don't trust the "mainstream media," how would they know they haven't gotten what they thought they wanted?

Posted by: Redshift on September 4, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Of course they will go through with it. When will people learn that the Republicans actually believe everything they say, even it is contradictory and no matter how crazy it seems to others.

Posted by: Jim on September 4, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Just the thought that Boner could be third in line to lead the US makes me weep...and shudder deeply.

As to Jane Hamsher, I hope she will be rejoicing in a dem loss; for she will be one if the voices responsible for creating that loss.

Posted by: MsJoanne on September 4, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Dougj at Balloon Juice posted also posted on a GOP shutdown today. I am adding the same comment here.

(Unattributed)
"In his 2003 book, Breach of Trust, Coburn portrayed Gingrich as lacking in courage and in good judgment."

"Coburn said Gingrich was outwitted by President Bill Clinton in the 1995 battle over the budget which led to temporary shutdown of the government. "Our leaders folded instead of standing their ground," Coburn wrote. History shows that the shutdown fight was a fight we could have won.""

Posted by: patrick on September 4, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

> . Obama's approval ratings are circling the
> drain,

A 50 percent approval rating for a President in mid-term during a recession is "circling the drain"? I have my beefs with Obama, but that interpretation is ridiculous.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on September 4, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, we better campaign on "they're gonna hurt you" rather than "we're gonna help you." Or, as liberals say, Democrats could put forth an actual plan, and -- I know this is shocking -- fight Republicans. Democrats used to do that, you know.

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 4, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Martin got it, first out of the gate. The bulk of our political analysis fails to take into account that the Republican party currently before us is for all intents and purposes insane. Sadly, that is not hyperbole.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on September 4, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"As to Jane Hamsher, I hope she will be rejoicing in a dem loss; for she will be one if the voices responsible for creating that loss."

Yeah, because Dems listening to their liberal base has got us to the point of losing control of both houses of Congress. I'm sure if you don't adhere to cause and effect, that makes sense.

Centrists have brought us to this pass. Now you're trying to blame us liberals because you opposed our advice. And you're trying to guilt us into giving you support. How quaint.

Posted by: Tom Allen on September 4, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

This guy Cortes who is behind the shutdown website is a 21-year old college student. He has no idea what really happened in the 1995-6 shutdowns. He knows only what he has been told, so he thinks it was a success for the GOP, doesn't realize it made Gingrich a laughingstock and helped Clinton win in 1996.

Posted by: Mimikatz on September 4, 2010 at 1:16 PM

More on this idiot Cortes, six years old when Gingrich threw his tantrum and shut down the government and apparently, still about six years old:

"A Google search of the name produces as the top item a link to a column about an op-ed written by an Alex Cortes in 2007 defending the author’s right to chant “not gay” during the recitation of the “Good Old Song” at University of Virginia football games.

That Alex Cortes and the Alex Cortes behind DeFundIt.org are one and the same.

“It was completely misguided. I apologized for it at the time, I’ll apologize for it today. It was ignorant, arrogant, and I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” Cortes told AugustaFreePress.com.

The issue with the ‘07 Cortes column published in the UVa. student-run Cavalier Daily briefly became an issue in the Fifth District GOP primary. Cortes served as the campaign manager for primary candidate Laurence Verga when a brief flurry of media reports put an uncomfortable spotlight on what he had written two and a half years earlier.

“Some call it a drunken joke while others refer to its adherents as homophobes. Unfortunately, in doing so, this University has completely disregarded the religiously and politically-minded like myself who say the chant out of disgust for the gay lifestyle and support for our natural heterosexuality given to us by God,” Cortes wrote.

Posted by: electrolite on September 4, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

There are two ways to look at this: Either the Republicans are engaging in the "Defund It" rhetoric because they want to stake out the strongest position with their base that they can before the upcoming elections, and then intend to quietly accept federal dollars thereafter. Or they really mean what they say and plan on conducting a government shutdown and to abstain from all federal HCR largesse that they can.

While the chances of the latter being the case aren't nil, I still think the former is more likely. And my reason for thinking this is that the Republicans talked from hell to highwater about how evil the stimulus bill was, and yet, almost to a man, quietly accepted stimulus money for their constituencies all the while. All they care about is being able to get up on a stump speech in their local districts to boast about helping out their voters' livelihoods.

So with that fact in mind, I think it's at least possible to hypothesize that, once the right gets some skin in the game after this November -- by taking the House, for example -- they have to tread a careful path that avoids both publicly conceding any ground to the Democrats on the one hand, and actually helps the economy improve on the other.

In the alternative ,maybe I'm just being optimistic and they really do mean what they say. But I find that pretty hard to believe. More likely the fairly intelligent party leaders running the show realize that they've been hijacked by the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins of this world and have to toe the party line. So they've tried to turn into a bunch of posturing, blustery lawyers, pimping for their clients and stretching the truth as much as possible so that the jury helps them out with their only real concern: keeping their jobs.

Posted by: Zach on September 4, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Evil assholes.

Posted by: impik on September 4, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Chekhov's gun

Steve:

There's an expectation that the fight has to happen...

The Wikipedia:

The name Chekhov's gun comes from Anton Chekhov himself, who stated that any object introduced in a story must be used later on, else it ought not to feature in the first place.

They will fire the gun that is hanging on the wall in plain sight of a uninterested public.
They must: It's loaded and tempting and they are hateful children...
And you thought the immediate past was ugly? Looky: These teabaggers won't stop until they get the police and fire departments privatized and the street lights turned off...
That's their nirvana...

But most salient: It only took them 18 months to turn things around! Wow. So another caveat: What happened in 1995 might well not be prologue. That was 15 years ago. The country has a lot more tatoos, less brains, and no three main networks to keep us all on the same page...

Expect the worst from your fellow Americans...
You won't be disappointed and will be able to manage a belly laugh at their exploits now and then...

Posted by: koreyel on September 4, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

they have to tread a careful path that avoids both publicly conceding any ground to the Democrats on the one hand, and actually helps the economy improve on the other. Posted by: Zach

Thanks for my chuckle of the day.

Short of "cut taxes on billionaires, kick back, light a cigar, and watch new jobs poor in" I don't know what Republicans could possibly offer for the economy. Further, I'm pretty sure they'll still be in the make Obama fail at all costs mode come Nov.3. They'll drive the trailing caboose into this trainwreck of an economy, pushing what's left of it over the edge. That way real Merican's will be desperate to vote for whitey come 2012.

Posted by: SWENXOF on September 4, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Do the voters realize what a hellhole they'd be getting into with a GOP victory? Is it stupid, is it being "bad romanced" by creepy subconscious siren songs, WTF is their problem? I've heard answers, but we need more than just further repetitions here. We need a big discussion, call into shows and bring it up directly (uh, not using my same language.0

Posted by: neil b on September 4, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

So we're going to get Bush tax cuts renewed; a government shutdown; all investigations, all the time; impeachment; and don't forget-- Nuclear War. Bolton and McCain have both repeatedly called for nuclear weapons to be used against Iran and several other countries. And yes, Obama would make a lot of people happy if he would appoint Elizabeth Warren, abolish the Catfood Commission, and start acting like liberal legislation actually IS a matter of life and death. One step in That direction is to force Replicants and other Regressives into vote after vote against sanity.

Posted by: Tomm on September 4, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats do not want the Republicans to shut down the government, then Speaker Pelosio should have already passed in the FY 2011 fiscal budget. That would put the first day of a shut down in Oct 1, 2011.

Second, the Republicans do not need to have a shut down. They just need to pass a budget, have President Obama veto it and then just pass continuing resolutions that exclude spending on what they do not want to spend.

I think a more interesting situation would be to have HHS officials testifying in front of Congress about missing deadlines for ACA.

Posted by: superdestroyer on September 4, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I was a Federal Government employee who was furloughed in 1995 and 1996. I worked in Rockville, Maryland, which at least saved me from the traffic problems going into DC. But, what people forget about is that the Washington DC Metorpolitan area suffered greatly because of the Government shutdown because there are more Fed employees in that area than any where in the nation. Fed employees were not able to pay their mortgages, rents, buy food, buy school supplies for the kids. The merchants of the area suffered greatly because the spending was way down. Doing something like this will always have unintended consequences. As the furloughs went on, the Republicans received bad press, which got worse each day. They threw in the towel because they thought the American people (including those of us on furlough) would blame Clinton and we did not. Most of us in that area did not blame Clinton because we knew it was the Republicans who were causing this. We had a front row in the battle. And, then, as mentioned above even though we were not paid during our furlough time, we received back pay, which means we were paid for doing nothing. Talk about fiscal responsibility. The other thing that is forgotten by some is that the day before we were scheduled to return to work, the Blizzard of 1996 hit the Washington DC Metropolitan Area and we were off for another week WITH PAY. I always thought that was God telling the Republicans that you don't have the say in every thing. Shutting down the government is NOT a fiscally responsible act. However, if the Repugs should go forward and do it again, I suggest they shut down Congress, too. See how they and their staff like going without a salary for a couple of weeks (albeit most are millionaires). But, Congress is the government, too; and with their lack of getting any real work done in the last legislative session deserve to be furloughed, too.

Posted by: Bonnie on September 4, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

fradiavolo on September 4, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Despite what other commenters have said, I feel that Fradiavolo is pretty close to the truth. People who talk about how much Obama has done miss the point entirely because they ignore what he actually could have done with executive orders and by prodding legislators. To say that he couldn't move mountains is ignoring the fact that he didn't even try to move molehills. Examples are the funding for religious organizations that continue to discriminate in hiring, the lack of controls on what the banks could do with the money they were given, the failure to tie the money for readjusting mortgages to actually readjust mortgages (Geithner has said that the purpose was to help the banks, not the people losing their houses), the failure to push for jobs as hard as possible, the illegal spying on American citizens, continuing renditions, torture and military commissions, recess appointments not done, etc.

What he has done however, is to cave to rightwing huffing and puffing over just about everything. Examples are a financial regulatory bill that allows the banks to continue as before and health reform that enriches the insurance companies but doesn't do anything to reform actual health delivery or create competition for medical insurance.

So when fradiavola implies that Obama has the "backbone of a chocolate eclair - TR," he isn't too far off.

When a farmer wants to control flies in his barn, the measure of his success isn't how many dead flies there are. The measure is how few live ones there are. So measuring Obama's success by showing all the bills that have passed (all the flies he killed) ignores how much could have been done (all the live flies still flying around) but wasn't.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on September 4, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

"health reform that enriches the insurance companies but doesn't do anything to reform actual health delivery" - not true.

Posted by: neil b on September 4, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

One additional factor that probably guarantees a shutdown is the yammering media. They would help to incite such an event, no doubt excited by the ratings boosts obtained by endless 'coverage' and bloviating, pontificating talking heads talking into the deep dark night.

Posted by: -syzygy- on September 4, 2010 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Do the voters realize what a hellhole they'd be getting into with a GOP victory?" neil b.

NO. This has been another simple answer to a simple question.

We haven't told them. Nobody has. Nobody will. They will find out just what a hellhole they have committed us too at exactly the same time the New York Times, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, CNN and Washington Post and people setting on the boards of a host of Fortune 1000 companies figure it out. Not before.


Posted by: Ron Byers on September 4, 2010 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Indulge me for a moment. Let me share with you what I think the media elite is missing.

The American economy, as weak as it has become, is still the most powerful in the world. If the American economy sneezes the economies of Asia and Europe catch a cold.

The American economy is mostly a consumer driven economy.

The American consumer needs a lot of income to consume at the level needed to keep the world's economy humming, that means American consumers need good, high paying jobs, lots of them.

Over the last decade or two the American economy has shed millions of good, high paying jobs. For a while we lived off of our credit cards and road a housing bubble. The bubble burst. The credit cards are maxed out. Without good paying jobs, lots of them, we don't have the cash to pay for all the stuff we used to buy.

Large corporations have over 1.8 trillion dollars sitting idle in corporate accounts. The media elite and the Republicans say that the money is lying idle because the corporations are afraid of Obama. Bullshit. There have been lots of Democratic administrations. Most of them presided over good times at least at one point or the other. Corporations can adapt to nearly any regulatory regime.

Corporations are sitting on their hands because the boys at the top don't have confidence that enough Americans will consume their stuff to make the effort worthwhile. They have lost confidence in the American consumer. That is because they look at the jobs our miserable economy is generating and realize replacing 8 million high paying jobs with 8 million low paying jobs doesn't get American consumers the money they need to buy the stuff they need to drive the world's economy.

In short we, and the rest of the world, are in deep shit, but nobody in Washington, New York or the media elite is willing to talk honestly about it.

You know what, as technology continues to develop it is going to get worse. Imagine a day in the not too distant future when your checkout at the local Costco store is done not by well paid workers, but automatically as you walk out of the store with your stuff. No human intervention necessary. Your bank account is charged automatically. Guess who is going to be laid off?

What are we going to do when it only takes 30,000,000 people to service 350,000,000 out of work, never going to work again, Americans? Remember we need all 350,000,000 Americans to consume at high levels to keep the 30,000,000 employed.

It is the stuff of science fiction, but some of you reading this will live in that world.

Don't feel bad, the Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Japanese are going to deal with the same issues except in China and India there are billions already living below the poverty line.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 4, 2010 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

republicans will win a sweeping mandate to repeal and replace obamacare, and will attach repeal to every bill authorizing government spending out of the house. If obama chooses to ignore the will of the people, andlimply and effetely remark "i won ... two years ago", then republicans will win the argument. Make no mistake, with deficits running so high, and taxes and spending so completely out of control, a shutdown is not the big negative you'd like to hope it will be. Also, a shutdown inflicts the most oain on furloughed government union workers, a constituency now totally in the driver's seat with democrats. A shutdown will place extraordinary pressures on democrats not faced by clinton.

Posted by: apetre on September 4, 2010 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

The sales spam has been up for nine hours. Are you asleep? Is no one there on Saturday? Why can't you figure out a way to address this seemingly simple problem?

Or do you not give a flying fuck about the integrity of your blog?

Posted by: emjayay on September 4, 2010 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I've read your work for a long time and have never commented -- not here nor at your earlier blog -- I admire your work and think that you had a pivotal role in pushing the health care narrative in the right direction.

I have had a thought, and I wrote about it on my blog. It's about the Bush Tax cuts. I may be out there, but I would appreciate it if you gave it a thought. I could just be out there as far as privacy rights go, but I think it could work.

I admire your work and if nothing comes of my little idea -- I know it was silly and won't be insulted. It's just that I trust you and if you think it's idiot, then ok. But if you think it has merit, then ok too.

I hope I haven't embarrassed myself here -- I have in the past on other blogs, but I'm just putting what I believe out there.

Thanks for your blog, Steve.

Thanks for your push on Health Care.

Posted by: Michelle on September 4, 2010 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers: You're mostly right. Until the last part. You're talking about productivity increase. It always puts some people out of work in the short term, but it's the only thing that improves everyone's standard of living in the longer term. No Costco checkout people in the future? Thirty or forty years ago they had to read price tags. No bar codes. No cash register figuring out the change. Credit card payment with a carbon form in a manual machine, to be accounted for by hand later. Way before that, no cash register. Some clerk finding the item you wanted and writing out a receipt by hand. Probably wrappping it up with brown paper and string.
But what has happened in the past thirty or forty years is the directing of income to the rich and super rich, by a combination of labor market forces (OK, thats a couple of words describing a whole lot of stuff) and lack of regulation, less progressive tax rates, and anti union legislation. In the seventies the top 1% (yes, that's one out of one hundred people) managed to corner less than 10% of national income. Now they get about a quarter. That's right, 25% of income to 1% of the population. That's where the bssic economic problem lies. Not to mention a little economic justice problem. (Oh no, Class Warfare, better not go there.....)

Posted by: emjayay on September 4, 2010 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I read the gop health reform plan. i call bs. if they take back house and senate they will put a more insurance lobbyist insurance plan thru for more subsidizing and call it privatization and their base will promote it. imo.

Posted by: Kill Bill on September 4, 2010 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

As for the gop plan to fix the economy..what is it? I am reminded of when mccain said he knew how to win iraq but wouldnt say until he was elected.

or how about the old talking point 'only the one that made the bomb can defuse it'

or how about 'you cant change leaders during a time of war'

Posted by: Kill Bill on September 4, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Likely to follow through? Republicans are manly men, they can't admit mistakes or back down once they start strutting around the stage. They are more likely to cut their own balls off than not follow through on their posturing.

Posted by: Shalimar on September 5, 2010 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

These aren't just dullards--we are in epic stupidity territory. The country can't survive the current crop of republicans. Maybe this was Murdoch and Rove's plan all along. Why learn from history if you can pretend that everything always worked out well for conservatives? The whole Reagan era is not understood nor even accurately remembered by these idiots. Fox News said it was the best of times. Must be true.

Posted by: Sparko on September 5, 2010 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

Some of them are talking impeachment already in anticipation of taking over Congress. Impeaching for what offense?

Presidentin' while black.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on September 5, 2010 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

I've said this before, but I will say it again. "Shutting down the government" does not automatically play into the favor of the Republicans or Democrats.

The American people will ask why it is being done. If the answer is "for cheap, partisan purposes" the REpublicans will lose. But if the answer is "to protect America" then Republicans will win. It's all in the spin.

Last time this happened, Gingrich made a fatal error in publicly admitting that part of his motivation was based on a personal grudge with the WH. The public immediately turned on him. I can assure you that the Republicans will not make that mistake again.

For the next year, you will hear that "as a matter of principle", it is necessary for Republicans to do anything in their power "to stop Obama from dragging the U.S. into a European-style socialist state."

I predict that, in response, you will hear crickets from the Democrats. Democrats may even secretly encourage such a standoff, believing that the Democrats will inevitable win the battle. Democrats will continue to believe that this will blow up the GOP's face, right up to the moment when John Boehner hands Obama and Pelosi their asses.

Oh yeah, then it will be Jane Hamsher's fault.

Posted by: square1 on September 5, 2010 at 3:16 AM | PERMALINK

How much of this can an economy running at stall speed take? A powerful, growing economy can take a few years of Republican ascendancy, a weak one will probably go into the tank soon.

Posted by: bob h on September 5, 2010 at 6:11 AM | PERMALINK

In one sense the government shut down long ago, that is, government by the people shut down long ago.

Posted by: Dredd on September 5, 2010 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

There is no reason to believe Republicans will not shut down the government again, for this reason: In 1995, the House and House Republican leadership under southern reactionaries Gingrich, DeLay and Armey were more radical than the GOP base, while today the Republican "Tea Party" base is more radical than the GOP establishment. As I have said before regarding Nixon's 1968 Southern Strategy: a political party that once hoped to absorb and assimilate America's reactionary Southern elements has been absorbed by it -- the movement has become the party.

That is because in 1995 when Gingrich et all first tried this radical tactic Fox News and conservative talk radio were both in their infancy and so the radical right's extremist, anti-national ideas had not yet been mainstreamed. Since then, conservative have had a decade and a half to marinate in a far right revolutionary petry dish that instructs liberalism = anti-white and anti-Christian hatred = socalism/communism/fascism = a tyranny that must be resisted at all costs.

15 years after Gingrich first tried it, in other words, the shut down of the federal government won't be just a political tactic or act of brinksmanship but a righteous cause, the logical result of a revolutionary political party that has been successfully radicaliszed.

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 5, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers

You hit it exactly. If there has been a single failure since the financial collapse in 2008 and in the Obama agenda since then it has been the hopeless attempt by Democrats to gently push our thoroughly corrupted corporate institutions in a more public spirited direction without reforming or even tinkering with those institutions themselves -- whether that has meant putting public resources at risk to bail out reckless banks or providing huge public subsidies to a health care insurance industry that only wants to cover healthy people.

But as we have seen, this "middle of the road" approach has not produced a detectable windfall for average Americans and yet it's timidity can still be exploited as "radical socialism" by the Fox-inspired reactionaries trying to regain power. And, so we have the tragic/comedy of radical right populists actually pissed off at Democrats for the fact that Republican consituents on Wall Street are getting their bonuses.

After the capital markets froze solid following the financial collapse of 2008, both Republicans and Democrats rushed to bail them out because finance is the circulatory system of our capitalist market and, just like blood, if money stops flowing the body dies.

Economists like Simon Johnson (former chief economist of the IMF) thought we should have just nationalized the banks and split them up -- treating finance as just another public utility whose resources are too important to the larger economy to leave entirely in private hands. But instead we just helped private banks dig themselves out at taxpayer expense.

The idea was that if we gave taxpayer money to banks, the banks in turn would give credit to consumers and small businesses to jump start the economy again. But they haven't. Instead, they are sitting it out on the sidelines with their ill-gotten gain, either earning safe interest on T-bills or speculating in risky investments that don't necessarily add jobs. That's how profits on Wall Street are up but the economy is not.

The banks say to themselves -- why should we risk our capital (even capital given to them courtesy of American taxpayers) jump starting the economy. Why not hoard it until Obama and the Democrats figure out some way of get by Republican "supply-side" obstruction in order to jump start the economy with fiscal stimulus. That way we can invest in a sure thing. Why should we be the first to flop on the barbed-wire and let others run over our backs. Let the public sector take the risks so we can then swoop in and tak all the profits -- thanks to the capital the American people gave us in the first place.

Greed is good.

Posted by: Ted Frier on September 5, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK
Oh yeah, then it will be Jane Hamsher's fault.

It can't be her fault. To have an effect, you have to have some actual power, some real influence beyond the occasional talk-show booker, or coterie of blog readers first.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 5, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure of that D X M.

As far as I can tell, Obama has accomplished more than the past 5 Presidents combined. The only reason he hasn't gotten the credit is because of Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, damn them!

Posted by: square1 on September 5, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK


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Posted by: gaga94 on September 5, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

It looks like someone else is tracking the tea party http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJlfnMOy2d4

Posted by: Sabbo on September 6, 2010 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP will burn it all down to get back into power. Its was they are great at, slash and burn. They don't want to I to have another term and they will do anything to gum up the works.

Posted by: the fake fake al on September 7, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Hi. I just noticed that your site looks like it has a few code errors at the very top of your website's page. I'm not sure if everybody is getting this same problem when browsing your site? I am employing a totally different browser than most people, referred to as Opera, so that is what might be causing it? I just wanted to make sure you know. Thanks for posting some great postings and I'll try to return back with a completely different browser to check things out!

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