Saturday, September 21, 2013

Government Shutdown: State of Play
The present situation
Definition of "State of Play"
A  government shutdown may be imminent if neither Republicans or Democrats budge in their budget battles.
The state of play is this:  The House yesterday  passed a  bill defunding Obamacare and tying it into resolution to continue funding government past October 1.    The bill would cut off all spending for implementing and running Obamacare, including subsidies for low income people to help them pay premiums and federal funds to help states expand Medicaid programs.
The bill keeps the government running but eliminates money for the health care law.  Next week the House will vote on another bill to postpone the law for a year to extend the government’s borrowing limit. Neither bill would survive the Democratic controlled Senate. President Obama says he will not negotiate, compromise, or even discuss either bill with Republicans.
The first bill will now move to the Senate, where majority leader Harry Reid will strip the bill of defunding Obamacare language and pass it back to the House.   President Obama says it will veto any bill that defunds Obamacare. 
Neither side wants to shutdown government.   It would hurt the GOP and embarrass the President.   So a last minute settlement is likely,  the nature of which I do not know.
The present situation boils down to a standstill, standoff, impasse, gridlock, paralysis, grandstanding, a game of chicken, partisanship at its worst,  whatever you want to call it.
The two budget battles are fundamentally a face-off between the center right and the center left of American politics, between big government and limited government, between liberal and conservative ideologies.  Both political parties want to be perceived as in the center for the good of the American people.  The United States is neither libertarian or liberal, but where the center lies is unclear.
The two centrist issues are:  the wealth of the economy and the health of Obamacare.   At this point,  the twain have yet to meet.
The  right will surely point  to the economy’s stagnant growth – 2% under Obama with 20% of Americans in near poverty (average income below $29,316)  and 15% in poverty (defined as incomes below $23,492). The left will say someone has to protect these folks, particularly the Hispanics (average income $39,005)  and blacks (average income $33,718) . Both groups, which voted for Obama by margins of 70% and 93%,  lag far behind whites in income (average $68,182).  The source for these figures is the Census Bureau.
Whether the shutdown occurs will come down to shouting match and parliamentary maneuvers over Obamacare.  The Democrats, with the President and the Senate and the law on their side have the edge.  
The GOP will argue the health law is badly conceived, poorly received by the public,  and naïve about its negative impact of the economy.  
Democrats  will  say the health law is  a moral, not an economic  issue, a matter of warm-hearted compassion against cold-blooded capitalism.
The right will say a rising tide lifts all boats, as it did with Kennedy  and Reagan.  The left will say don’t let the poor go out with the tide.
The right will say high taxes and strict regulation depress the economy. The left will say taxes and regulations are needed to rein in abuses and are the price of a civilized society.
Meanwhile, President Obama, in a fit of pique, accuses Republians of trying "to extort a president" and "messing with me," as if the whole battle were about him personally rather than the health and wealth of the American people.
And so the debate will rage, with no side a clear winner.   At 12:59 on September 30 a compromise will be struck  that temporarily saves face for both parties and delays the final reckoning to another day.  Because of the political and economic consequences, the shutdown is unlikely to occur.
Tweet:  The stage is set for a possible government shutdown over the issue of defunding Obamacare. 


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