Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saturday morning thoughts on the non-government shutdown.

I actually thought that there would be a last-minute agreement reached once it became apparent that the sticking points were funding Planned Parenthood and some heavy-handed restrictions on the EPA. The Republicans were going to look like total fools for shutting down the government over stuff like that. It was no longer about budgetary issues. It was about Republicans trying to foist their agenda on the U.S. through the only branch of the federal government that they control. They were going to get absolutely killed next election. They still might. But I figured, once we got to that point, there would be an agreement. Anything less would have been political suicide, or at least some major self-inflicted wounds.

Great, the government isn't going to shut down. Troops will continue to get paid, 700,000 federal workers (including me) will go to work on Monday morning. But we are going to have to live with the medium to long range fallout of this agreement. I believe the number that the R's and D's agreed to cut from the federal budget from last year's is 38 billions dollars. 38 billion. That's a LOT of money. Now, I am absolutely certain that there are large areas of wasteful spending that could be cleaned up. But 38 billion, all in this year? Where is that money going to come from? There is already a very large amount of what I consider to be damage done to how the government operates. People are going to lose their jobs, services are going to be cut. I am a great believer in the Law of Unintended Consequences. 38 billion, at this point, is still mostly just a number that the R's and D's were arguing about. Very soon, the rubber has to meet the concrete. Where is this money going to come from? I am going to guess our national parks are going to take huge hits, for one thing. I would bet anything that most federal agencies get edicts like "reduce your workforce by X%." There will be lots of social programs that people, here and now, depend on that will be cut or greatly reduced. On and on. We have yet to see the very real fallout from this arbitrary number that people agreed to last night.

And, as for looking toward the future, I've got news for you (if you thought otherwise, and you probably didn't), the Tea Party types did not give up after last night. They will come out fighting that much harder in order to achieve their goals. (Just what those goals are, from the "bigger picture" perspective, aside from "shrinking government", I really don't know.) They are going to want that 38 billion to come from all the programs that they seem to detest; education, environmental protection, any sort of oversight of business and industry, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, any programs which give financial support to the poor, disadvantaged and out of work, etc. And on top of this, they are going to continue to demand more and more tax cuts for the rich and for corporations and an overall reduction of spending and revenue collected by the U.S. government.

Lastly, I find it amazing that all of this thrashing about in the last few weeks was SOLELY about cutting spending. There was not a single word spoken about increasing revenue through letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the rich to very rich, nor was there any discussion about making American businesses (e.g., GE, Boeing) actually pay corporate taxes like everyone assumes that they are already doing. No discussion about closing up tax loopholes. None. That subject seems to be totally off-limits.

There was also no discussion about jobs, other than some very unsupported declarations by the Republicans that jobs would come streaming back when the government's deficit was reduced. I am not an economist, but that assertion makes absolutely no sense to me, and it certainly doesn't to some very smart people who should know, such as Paul Krugman. (I may go try to find a link for this later. For now, you can go do a Google search yourself if you are that interested.)

The Dems, even though they control both the Senate and the Presidency, still have handed the nutjobs running the Republican Party right now a very large victory, even if those self-same nutjobs don't recognize it as such right now. The discussion is solely about spending, not taxes. It is solely about which programs to cut or get rid of entirely. The public will not know who's to blame when they don't get the services they want.

The Dems have found a way to continue on this path that the Tea Party has defined for this country. Oh, they didn't get everything they wanted, but they certainly got a lot. They certainly didn't get enough pushback to think that this approach isn't going to work in the future.

I can't imagine what this country is going to look like in 25 years. Well, I do have my own thoughts on the matter. I hope I am wrong. But I have a feeling that most of the people in this country will look at the state that things are in and wonder how they heck the United States of America ended up there.

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