Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2011

INCHING EVER CLOSER TO A SHUTDOWN.... The current funding for the federal government will expire on March 4, leaving three possible outcomes over the next 15 days: (1) Congress and the White House agree to a spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year; (2) they agree to a temporary spending measure while negotiations continue; or (3) the government shuts down.

The conventional wisdom has been that policymakers would likely go with the second option. It doesn't seem especially unreasonable -- Congress can just keep the status quo for a little while longer, while working with the White House on a larger compromise.

Today, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted this isn't quite good enough.

Speaker John Boehner is holding the line on spending for the rest of the fiscal year, saying he will not move another continuing resolution at current funding levels if the House and Senate can't come to an agreement on a final bill before March 4.

"When we say we are going to cut spending, read my lips, we are going to cut spending," the Ohio Republican said at a press conference Thursday. "We're hopeful the Senate will take up the House-passed bill that comes out of here today, tonight, tomorrow morning, whenever it is. ... I am not going to move any type of short-term CR at current levels."

In other words, Boehner wants a fourth option: policymakers can approve a temporary spending measure while negotiations continue, but only if it includes the job-killing cuts Republicans want. Mr. "So Be It" is effectively trying to narrow the options -- Dems can go along with a continuing resolution that includes deep cuts, or Republicans will shut down the government.

I said the other day the odds of a shutdown are roughly 50%. As of today, I'd say they're now about 60%, if not a little higher.

In related news, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said the other day that a shutdown wouldn't be too big a deal: "The government is not going to shut down, it's not going to stop. People aren't going to lose their Social Security checks and they're not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid."

The problem with this, of course, is that Mike Kelly has no idea what he's talking about. When the government shuts down, Social Security checks are not mailed, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements do not happen.

It raises an important point: Republicans aren't just moving closer to a train wreck, they're doing so based on little more than their own ignorance, making threats without a grown-up understanding of the consequences. This is what happens when confused, unprepared children are elected to run a legislative body.

Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

I wonder what happens when the red-faced, old tea baggers don't get their Social Security checks?

Posted by: SaintZak on February 17, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it the case that 99.9% of SS checks are not mailed now? Ever heard of direct deposit?
Doesn't the Government insist that you use it?

Isn't it much less costly than mailing out checks?

Maybe Kelly is more right than he knows, but still wrong on the entire gist - the direct deposits will STOP.

Posted by: catclub on February 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

The price of gold will continue to spike upwards.

Food stash companies will make out like bandits as folks rush to prepare for the coming SHUT_DOWN.

Perhaps more civil unrest will spill outwards from Wisconsin (and the Mid-East).

Guns and ammo will be gobbled up at a fantastic pace.

God Bless America.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the GOP wouldn't be stupid enough to do a shutdown. What was I thinking?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on February 17, 2011 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

I just checked:

Currently about 80% of the federal benefit payments are made electronically. The regulation announced today will move most of the remaining recipients away from checks.

There have been some other minor changes. Under the original proposal, new applicants would have been affected by the changes in March 2011. But now, anyone who applies for federal benefits will receive the payments electronically on or after May 1, 2011.

Posted by: catclub on February 17, 2011 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Even electronic deposits need information input. I'm a Federal employee and I went through the 1995 shutdown. I was on electronic deposit then and did not receive my paycheck because of the shutdown (got caught up later but that doesn't help when other bills have due dates and you can't meet them because your federal deposit was not made). I am currently rescheduling my automatic payments in anticipation of not getting a paycheck.....

Posted by: Diane on February 17, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Better to have this trainwreck now over the 2011 budget, than in a couple of months over the debt limit.

Let the Teabaggers get their pound of flesh, and let them discover when the Social Security and Medicare reimbursement checks don't arrive that part of that flesh is their own.

That'll make them at least a tad less eager to repeat this dance over the debt limit, when the consequences could be much greater.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hate to say this but if I'm a Republican strategist I think about Fox news, a complacent mainstream media, and a confused and angry electorate, when I think about those factors, combined with a government shutdown and I like our chances of "winning" (i.e hurting Obama politically).

Besides, theres a word for old folks and federal employees not getting checks on our way to power in 2012, it's called collateral damage.

Posted by: Archon on February 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yup, a shutdown isn't just Feds not going to work-everything shuts down. VA Hospitals close, National Parks close, contractors across the country on federal contracts stop working. It's a complete clusterf*ck that Republicans will own going into November 2012.

Posted by: puravida on February 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

If I recall correctly, during the 1995 govt shut down, "essential services" were exempted -- so that people still got their soc security checks, and all the other ways that average US citizens got benefits from the US were not much affected. (This was so that GOP politicians could say "see, the govt was shut down, but not much has changed")

My point is really a question: isn't there a way the GOP could shut down the govt, but slyly leave enough not shut down so that average citizens don't feel much of a short term effect?

Posted by: A DC Wonk on February 17, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

professional Democrats appear so poor at message control, it's very likely any shutdown will be blamed on them.

I'd hope for the same result as followed the shutdown in the '90s, but the GOP has a captive media now, and the Dems are going to get blamed for everything the GOP does or causes.

Posted by: LL on February 17, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Just relax everyone !Ms Palin has this problem well in hand. Take a look at what she said at a luncheon on Long Island today: “It doesn’t necessarily have to result in a government shutdown.”

Ms. Palin said she believed that increasing the Treasury Department’s legal borrowing limit would simply “create the allowance for big spenders to get in there,” rather than save the country from defaulting on its financial burdens. She said that “the government receives so much revenue” every day that she doubted the money would run out to pay for critical operations.

(Source-NY Times)

Posted by: mariposarojo on February 17, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

"This is what happens when confused, unprepared children are elected to run a legislative body"

But - they sounded so tough, so blunt and self-assured! They really laid it on the line! They made everything sound so simple!

Hmmm - maybe that's the problem...

Posted by: zandru on February 17, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

No tax collections either Mr. Boehner. Does that mean a day for day slip in the filing deadline?

BTW, I assume they don't get paid either. And the cafeteria closes down, and the offices are locked (no security after all).

I suppose they can meet at Starbucks. Some of the bigger ones even have private meeting rooms you can reserve in advance. Ryan should pick up the tab, but I wouldn't expect him to cover any raisin scones.

Posted by: Tom on February 17, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

To DC Wonk: I believe there were "essential services" but that did NOT include processing of SS checks. Another thing that will shut down (unless they include it in "essential services") is TWO WARS and all the services that operate to support them.....there are a lot of contractors providing services to and in the war zones...

Posted by: Diane on February 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

No, they really can't be that stupid. No one is that stupid. There is no scenario where a government shutdown benefits the republican party.

Posted by: Rochester on February 17, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK
The problem with this, of course, is that Mike Kelly has no idea what he's talking about. When the government shuts down, Social Security checks are not mailed, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements do not happen.

The federal government doesn't directly reimburse Medicaid services in the first place, so for Medicaid, there isn't an immediate interruption in reimbursements to providers. The Feds reimburse states a portion (up to 100% for certain clients) of the costs the states reimburse providers for Medicaid services (and for 50% of state administration costs.)

The impact of Medicaid reimbursement interruptions is to -- potentially catastrophically -- make worse cash flow issues for states (this is compounded by the fact that Medicaid isn't the only federal-state transfer payment that would be held up.)

On Social Security, I think that in the last shutdown checks to current recipients continued, but new application were not processed and support/help calls weren't answered, so people retiring, becoming eligible to collect death benefits, or otherwise having new issues/problems were not served.

My point is really a question: isn't there a way the GOP could shut down the govt, but slyly leave enough not shut down so that average citizens don't feel much of a short term effect?

Only if a spending bill covering the parts they wanted to keep going, but not other parts, was passed.


Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2011 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

The last Republican who said "Read my lips" lived to regret it. I wish Boehner all the bad luck in the world on this.

Posted by: T-Rex on February 17, 2011 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

So they are basically striking like a union would do...

Posted by: Kill Bill on February 17, 2011 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Note that these "confused, unprepared children" were elected by confused, unprepared, ignorant, and equally childish voters.

This is the real consequqnce of our failing public education system...voters who are too stupid to make informed political choices.

Posted by: mfw13 on February 17, 2011 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Are Congressmen and their staffs considered "essential." If so, the Dems have to pound the hypocrisy of them getting their paychecks while "real" Americans are left holding the empty envelope.

If they aren't essential, I anticipate the whining of the TB Freshman will be even louder than their not getting their medical insurance for the first month.

Maybe we can get their medical insurance cut off during the shut down for failure to pay the premiums. Then make them wait another year before they are eligible to apply again. That may get their attention.

Posted by: martin on February 17, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Boehner was really mad about those engines. Good thing the budget cuts won't effect Republican brain power, nothing left for reduction.

Posted by: Diane Rodriguez on February 17, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Last time their was a government shutdown the Republicans were rightly blamed. Remember the big corporations who own the mainstream media, are also government contractors. GE is one of the biggest. They don't want the money to stop. Our sombulent MSM will all wake up when the green stops flowing to the contractors. We will see stories about National Parks shutting down, grandma going without her SS check, nursing homes contemplating laying off staff, but behind it all the big contractors who own the MSM will be screaming.

There really isn't a way for the Republicans to win, but they really are stupid enough to try.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 17, 2011 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK
My point is really a question: isn't there a way the GOP could shut down the govt, but slyly leave enough not shut down so that average citizens don't feel much of a short term effect?
Only if a spending bill covering the parts they wanted to keep going, but not other parts, was passed.
But surely that will happen, no? I mean, they will pay the military, right? And air traffic controllers? So, they'll slip other stuff in there to minimize the direct burden to large parts of society, for the specific purpose so that they can say: "see, the government is shut down, and hardly anyone is noticing" (which, I think, is pretty much exactly what Phil Gramm said last time -- I remember, because I was a fed employee at the time). Posted by: A DC Wonk on February 17, 2011 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

There seems to be a lot of speculation on what will and won't happen. Maybe Steve can contact an expert and post a clarification.

Posted by: Seould on February 17, 2011 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

There are lots of offices that will close. And, eventually, they will have to re -open, and gosh - won't you know it - there will be backlogs on all sorts of things, and in the end, it will cost MORE to take care of the backlogs, the delayed processing of stuff, that government does, rather than just working as normal.

Would it make sense to make it be as big a stoppage as possible? I assume the Congress has the power to exempt things like "essential services" but - who decides that? Can things that affect the military be stopped - procurements, supplies, etc?

Posted by: bigtuna on February 17, 2011 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

"I mean, they will pay the military, right?" A DC Wonk @ 5:23 PM.

Not necessarily.
However, not receiving a paycheck on time won't cancel any servicemember's contract, so they will remain on duty. I have no idea about other Federal employees, but I would imagine that ATCs would maintain at least a skeleton crew. Most other Federal employees would be simply sent home as they were in 1995. Much would depend on the "Continuing Resolution", if any, that is passed.
The Semi-Orange Satan is in for a rude awakening...

Posted by: Doug on February 17, 2011 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Who pays air traffic controllers? Security screeners? Cargo inspectors?

Posted by: Tomm Undergod on February 17, 2011 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

"This is what happens when confused, unprepared children are elected to run a legislative body."

And yet the so-called adults are trying to pursue polite, bipartisan negotiations with the children. Have you ever tried to negotiate with children? It. Doesn't. Work.

Posted by: Tom Allen on February 17, 2011 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

This country is about as eff'd up as Christina Aguilera's super bowl rendition of our national anthem.

Posted by: rb on February 17, 2011 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

Read my lips, Boner, you are an idiot and as asshole. Shut down the government? 'Hell NO YOU CAN'T!"

Posted by: In what respect Charlie? on February 17, 2011 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think we are reduced to hoping that the big boys on Wall St. get so concerned by the prospective damage to the economy and their bond portfolios that they tell the little boys in the Republican Party to behave.

Posted by: bob h on February 18, 2011 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

... Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements do not happen.

The first volley in defunding socialized medicine.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 18, 2011 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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