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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘shutdown’

GOP: Polls and the Hinge Points of History

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

What does it mean that recent polls show 7 in 10 respondents think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country, as opposed to the 5 in 10 respondents who think President Obama is doing the same?

The answer probably lies in an analysis of the ancillary question posed in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: do respondents agree or not with the statement that the GOP or the president is “demonstrating strong leadership and standing up for what they [he] believe[s] in”?

For Republicans, only 27% of respondents agreed with that statement.  For Obama, 46% of them agreed.

On the face of it, that’s actually a contradictory assessment about the Republicans.  Only 27% of respondents think Republicans are standing up for what they believe in – and yet more than 70% of respondents (the actual figure was 74%) think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country?  How can that be?

Here’s how: a meaningful number of the respondents are conservative Republicans (call them the “Tea Party,” for short) who are disappointed with GOP leaders, because the conservative respondents don’t think GOP leaders are standing up for Republican beliefs.  Those respondents add to the number who are predisposed to blame or dislike Republicans for other reasons.  But the “Tea Party” demographic despises GOP leadership because it thinks the party is doing too little to combat current trends in government, rather than too much.

I don’t think it can be disputed that the opinion-poll numbers are bad for Republicans.  But I do think the narrative that reflexively calls this a linear reaction to The Stupidity of Cruz is all wet.  For one thing, that narrative itself falls apart on examination.  The specialized thought process and the poll-respondent demographic just don’t exist to make it descriptive.

Equally important, however, is the key difference between Democrats and Republicans in October 2013, which is that Republicans are profoundly divided.

As long as the Democrats keep their communications reasonably disciplined, they can be sure of getting a unified set of characterizations across to the public without interference.  But the Republicans, who already find every talking point distorted by the media, have the added burden of genuine disagreement among themselves.  There’s no question that Republicans look, at this juncture, like we can’t get our act together.  This is because we can’t get our act together.  We don’t agree on what it should be.

Poll respondents are quite reasonable in recognizing that there would be no government shutdown if everyone in the GOP agreed with the Democrats on what should be done.  That’s really kind of a forehead-slapping “duh!” revelation, and I suspect it’s what the poll numbers are telling us.  Of course it’s the GOP’s fault that there has been a shutdown.  Of course the shutdown has been forced by political differences.

Does it follow that 74% of poll respondents – or of Americans in general, who may or may not be well represented in this poll – think “the” problem is the Tea Party, and that the way to resolve it is for the GOP to crush the “Tea Party wing” and get on with the business of agreeing with the Democrats?

No, it doesn’t – any more than it follows that the GOP should do the converse: rout the GOP “moderates” in a turkey-shoot from the right.  There is no such quantity out there as a 74% majority making it clear that Republican blame for the shutdown should translate into gigging Ted Cruz like a swamp-bottom frog, or into running John McCain out of town on a rail.

What there is instead is a profound dispute within the GOP about who we are and what our way forward is.

There may no longer be a unifying “center” to hold the GOP together.  If the GOP doesn’t encompass the limited-government views of the Tea Party, there is an essential sense in which the party no longer represents an alternative to the Democratic Party.

But there is still a sizable number of Republicans who see a viable future for a Republican Party that makes its name on what George Will has been calling “splittable differences” with the Democrats in Congress.  I admire Will’s broadly positive and genial take on the current impasse between the parties, and between the factions in the GOP.  But ultimately, I’m not convinced that being the party of “splittable differences” would be a big motivator or vote-getter for Republicans.

How I Stopped Fearing the Tea Party Apocalypse and Started to Love It

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

The most memorable early executive act on the part of the newly elected President Barack Obama, for whom I voted in 2008, was to embrace his predecessor’s economic stimulus package, push it up to $800 billion and give it to all the many speculators and fat cats who had caused the collapse in the first place.

As far as I was concerned, this was an act of class betrayal of an enormous magnitude. The White House and the loyal media bombarded us with the notion that if we dared permit sick, corrupt financial institutions to meet their natural demise it would mean the end of civilization. They were—so we were told—just too big to fail. Millions of Americans could go underwater with their properties – that we weren’t afraid of, but if AG stock holders were left at the end of the day with what amounted to so much useless paper – that would have been catastrophic.

What Obama should have done back then, which would have surely brought us over the hump in a couple of years—instead of schlepping a delusional recovery for the better part of a decade—was to hand out trillions of dollars to local municipalities, so they would in turn give them to their citizens for make-work. Dig ditches, mow lawns, fix bridges, write poetry, I don’t care. It wasn’t about the end product – it was about getting money into people’s hands so the economy would be resurrected not on Wall Street, but in the thousands of towns and hamlets across America. Because when you give a poor man a paycheck, he goes right away and pays for food, clothing, rent. It’s the best distribution system known to man. If it took ten trillion dollars – what the heck, print ten trillion dollars and send them out to fix the country.

You would be worried about inflation, you’re saying? Well, since the dollar has been taken off the gold standard in 1971, inflation is caused by one, singular factor: what it costs banks to buy money from the Fed, the U.S. central bank. If they pay half a percent or so in interest—as they’ve been doing for decades now—then there’s no inflation. The only other possibility for an inflation is if there’s a shortage of goods, and then too many dollars are chasing too few goods and the prices soar. Look around you – we’re in a merchandizing glut, despite all the economic catastrophes and the poverty line and the single mothers – there are still way too many iPhones out there for each American.

But you don’t have to agree with me on any of the above to understand the following: If, back then, in early 2009, when President Obama was pushing his stimulus package in all the wrong directions, a group of 80 Democrats had stood up on their hind legs and said, Hell, No, We Won’t Go, I and all my Democratic friends would have rushed to the streets to cheer them on.

That’s the part I find hard to accept – why is it that when 80 right-wing parliamentarians are standing on their hind legs and telling their leadership and their president to go to hell, they won’t sign on to what they consider to be a wrong budget policy – why are they being attacked as messianic crazies, just this side of the loony bin?

Former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration Robert Reich, whom I happen to like very much, had this to say to Spiegel about the Tea Party Congress members: “Some of them really have contempt for the entire process of government. They’re followers of people who say that we ought to shrink government down to the size that it can drown in a bathtub. They hate government viscerally. They’re not in Washington to govern; they’re in Washington to tear it down.”

I’m not telling you anything you haven’t seen and read over the past month or so, and as the looming date of the “default” grows nearer, those character assassinations will only get nastier. And the polls are showing that America is buying it, and seems to be blaming the Republican party for our economic mess. And since our politicians live and die by the polls, it’s quite possible they’ll find a way out of this crisis, maybe for 6 weeks, maybe for 2 months, who knows.

On the Job but Not Getting Paid?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

I’m very glad Congress and the president decided to make sure the uniformed military will get paid during the government shutdown.  That was the right thing to do.  The move averts a game-of-chicken mistake made in late 1995, when Bill Clinton was dispatching troops to Bosnia while their pay was in jeopardy.

As long as preparations are made beforehand, meanwhile, there’s enough in the trusts to make sure Social Security and veterans’ pension payments go out next month as well as this month. That’s a relief to millions of elderly who can’t just go start harvesting vegetables or sweeping floors if their checks don’t come in.  We can assume Congress will keep a sharp eye out for the potential problems, and make provision for them.

That leaves our Border Patrol, FBI, other federal law enforcement agents, federal firefighters, and air traffic controllers, some of the 80% of federal workers who will remain on the job during the shutdown.  At least some of them are reportedly being required to work without their latest-due paychecks being in the bank, until the government is “open” again.  It’s not fully clear how many or which of these workers are having to show up for work with their pay suspended.  I’ve seen reports that suggest some are being paid; other reports seem to indicate that law enforcement and essential-services people are working without pay (i.e., presumably, pay delayed, not “pay never coming”).

In any case, as happy as I am to see the EPA and other agencies off the job, I’m concerned about morale among the hard-working law enforcement and essential-services folks.  They do a tough job 24/365, and a lot is being asked of them today, and for as long as the shutdown lasts.

We can hope the shutdown will last only a couple of days.  Presumably, Congress will be looking out for these workers, and have a care for the hardships they will face if the shutdown goes longer than that.  (In extremis, much could probably be done, even within the current debt ceiling, through issuing IOUs to the Social Security trust fund.)  As with those in all professions, the younger workers – with kids, mortgage and college-loan payments, living paycheck to paycheck – will be the hardest hit.

If the shutdown does become extended, those who have the means can consider donating to organizations that provide a helping hand to these particular federal workers in their time of need.  Here are some links to get you started:

Federal Law Enforcement Foundation

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Foundation

Wildland Firefighters Foundation

Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (especially for non-law enforcement personnel; air traffic controllers are members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, or NATCA, a labor union with some funding for mutual aid, as well as its own charitable foundation)

I (Heart) Public Safety Network (umbrella network coordinating various forms of assistance to public-safety programs, public-safety workers, and their families)

Note:  per the Washington Post summary at the first link, U.S. Postal Service workers should be getting paid on schedule.  Except for its annual requests for bailouts, USPS is “self-funding,” and should last through the shutdown, however long it goes.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/on-the-job-but-not-getting-paid/2013/10/02/

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