Shutdowns, Symbols, and Strategy: the Dangers of Going Galt

Stop the presses, the Republican Party had an idea! Of course it’s crazy, buttressed by at-best optimistic numbers, and sold with overwrought partisanship, but at least one member of the Republican Party appears to have thought about ideas and theory, and come up with an innovative-if-absurd solution to a serious problem, to wit, ending Medicare. Credit where it’s due: the GOP’s intellectual dry streak is over, or, as it shall surely continue, at least now punctuated by one lightbulb over the party’s collective head.

By the way, note the following interesting concession: the graphic accompanying Congressman Ryan’s op-ed, reproduced above, clearly shows Reagan ballooning the nation’s debt, Clinton slashing it, and our current peak beginning under Bush. The less said of the weird, invented parabola, the better.

Nevertheless, as the parties’ priorities and positions diverge (the GOP pulled the West Wing maneuver of watching the White House cave, then upping their demands), we must face the possibility that a government shutdown could happen, or will be inevitable by the time this post is published.

Why? Right or wrong, the Republicans seem to have convinced the electorate that government’s size can and must be cut; that they either don’t need, or shouldn’t want the government’s presence in their lives. But this is the kind of thesis that can only suffer from testing, especially under extreme circumstances. Assuming a shutdown, the summary termination of the entire public sector is the kind of blow from which the anti-government right will not recover, at least in this term, especially in light of continuing un- and under-employment. Moreover, it will drown out, or kill, Ryan’s budget proposal, which will never even see debate unless the current negotiations move back from the brink.

Unless you assign some non-zero value to reaffirming the GOP’s tea party bona fides — and I do not — House Republicans have nothing to gain, and everything to lose. Why are we this close to the brink?

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6 comments

  1. They’re going to completely eradicate the national debt in 40 years?

  2. “…the graphic accompanying Congressman Ryan’s op-ed, reproduced above, clearly shows Reagan ballooning the nation’s debt, Clinton slashing it, and our current peak beginning under Bush.”

    Ummm…you DO realize that the upward trend has continued under Obama at an even faster rate than under Bush, right?

    “Right or wrong, the Republicans seem to have convinced the electorate that government’s size can and must be cut; that they either don’t need, or shouldn’t want the government’s presence in their lives.”

    You contradict your points in that sentence. People want the government’s size CUT not ELIMINATED COMPLETELY. People aren’t saying they don’t want the government in their lives, they just want them in their lives less than what most liberals want.

  3. But do they? And what part? Cutting the National Park Service (Or National Public Radio) won’t get rid of “onerous” county and state land use permitting processes. Eliminating support for the basic research done by the NIH or CDC or NOAA won’t speed up check in lines at airports; none of that will lower property taxes or shift tax burdens off the rich.

  4. oneiroi · ·

    I’ve said it before, I think Republicans are really good at messaging. You can broadly ask (and later state as you do), do you think a smaller government would be better? YES! Do you think government should take money from people and give it to others? No!

    Yet when you get to the details, then you look at polls that show favorability for things like raising taxes on those higher than $250k, people not wanting cuts to social security/medicare/medicaid, people supporting unions in states even with deficit problems.

    Yet, these Republicans speak as if people wanting to lower the deficit automatically means they want to do what Republicans want to do.

    So I don’t agree that that liberals want something that different than what the people want.

  5. Eliminating Medicare will indeed solve multiple serious problems, and it’s about damn time somebody in DC got serious about doing it.

    And the New York Times editorial, their reason why ending Medicare and Medicaid is bad amounts to “Poor people and old people need them.” Well no shit! They’re poor people and old people – half the point of ending those two programs is ensuring that those people die off naturally like they’re supposed to!

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