Noodling Through the Bismarck Option

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has been stressing about the possibility of the “Mother of all Government Shutdowns.” His view is, essentially, that since the GOP will have to fold over taxes and the fiscal cliff — given that doing nothing at all raises taxes even more — they will come back with a vengeance over the debt ceiling fight in February. This strikes me as a plausible concern, but isn’t really even close to the “Mother of all Government Shutdowns.”

The debt ceiling is a complete artifact, and if push really comes to shove, there are all sorts of creative option for waging a debt ceiling fight, including platinum coins, declaring it unconstitutional, and of course, the ability to target the shutdown in ways to that generate maximum political pressure on the GOP. What infuriates most of us about the debt ceiling issue is that while the GOP likes to pitch it as preventing Obama from unilaterally borrowing and spending, it is really about funding already authorized government spending and operations. But there is the rub.

“Already authorized government spending and operations.” That’s where the real power lies, the classic power of the purse. And I wonder if we’re not heading for a situation where having exhausted  other forms of hostage taking, we may not rapidly get to the point where the GOP simply refuses to pass appropriations. Indeed, I can’t quite understand why this isn’t actually the where the fight occurs since (a) it is unquestionably a Constitutional approach, and (b) is a chance to actually shape, on GOP terms, the outlines of a shutdown. In a debt ceiling fight, the President gets to prioritize spending with available cash. In a budget fight, the GOP can pass or hold certain parts of the appropriations process and essentially choose which parts of the government it wants to shut down. So, my suspicion is that, ultimately, regardless of the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling, the crisis will ultimately revolve around the appropriations bills at some point down the road.

Anyway, all of this is a long intro for my real thought, which is that at some point the GOP is going to graduate from hostage taking to premeditated murder. Grover Norquist has famously claimed he would like to shrink the government down to the size where he could “drown it in a bathtub.” Well, the GOP can largely already do that, if that wanted. By simply refusing to fund government operations, they can, essentially, kill the federal government. Now, they’ve never wanted to do that in the past. They’ve just wanted to tinker at the margins. But the GOP is increasingly becoming a rump party — not in the sense of being a bunch of asses, though that is also true — but in terms of a shrinking electoral base.

They are only going to get more desperate, more extreme. And sooner or later, they are going to shutdown the federal government not as part of a negotiation, but as an end in itself. It isn’t as dramatic as shooting up Fort Sumter, but the effect would be the same.

Personally, I like the Bismarck option. Facing a budget crisis in Prussia, “He contended that, since the Constitution did not provide for cases in which legislators failed to approve a budget, he could merely apply the previous year’s budget. Thus, on the basis of the budget of 1861, tax collection continued for four years.”

Basically, the argument is that the American Constitution was not meant to allow for 50 percent + 1 of a single chamber of Congress to effectively dissolve the union by simply refusing to appropriate funds.

I don’t actually know that we’ll get to a crisis this severe, but then again, it never occurred to me that we’d face periodic crises over the authority to borrow money for already approved spending. We’re in uncharted territory here already, so I, at least, refuse to allow myself to be surprised by even the most outlandish scenarios.

Also, too… This is a good place to note the importance of filibuster reform, since the filibuster makes this an option for 40 percent +1 of the Senate to attempt.

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127 replies
  1. 1
    c u n d gulag says:

    This entire generation of ratfeckers, learned their ratfeckin’ from “The King of the Ratfecker’s,” Richard Nixon.

    And now, they want to feck any rat they can find.

    After all, feckin’ rats is what these ratfecker’s do.

    They’ll burn this country to the ground, and be happy about it, as long as they’re the ones standing on the ash pile.

    They’d ‘rather rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven.’

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    How did we get here? The GOP now consists almost entirely of fanatics who have the exact mindset of Hitler in the bunker.

    I swear, the reason we die is that it is the only way some people will change their minds.

  3. 3
    Jerzy Russian says:

    This is nice post, but don’t give them any ideas.

  4. 4
    Yutsano says:

    Personally, I like the Bismarck option.

    Me too. That’s how Germany got universal health care.

    PS: I’m glad all this brinkmanship mildly amuses you. For some of us, not funding the government means no paycheck.

  5. 5
    Ted & Hellen says:

    PS: I’m glad all this brinkmanship mildly amuses you. For some of us, not funding the government means no paycheck.

    Wow. Get over your fevered imaginings. There is nothing in this post that implies amusement on Bernard’s part. Your dislike of him as a poster, because he posts true things from time to time; and of course because he is a Nonbot, is showing.

    So you’re on the dole? What branch of government?

  6. 6
    danimal says:

    Also, too… This is a good place to note the importance of filibuster reform, since the filibuster makes this an option for 40 percent +1 of the Senate to attempt.

    Is this true? My understanding is that reconciliation and budget bills aren’t subject to filibusters. But I’m hardly an expert on Senate procedures.

  7. 7
    NCSteve says:

    . . . if push really comes to shove, there are all sorts of creative option for waging a debt ceiling fight, including platinum coins, declaring it unconstitutional, and of course, the ability to target the shutdown in ways to that generate maximum political pressure on the GOP.

    Oh FFS. Shutting down the government in a way that generates maximum political pressure on the GOP is an option. Issuing asterisk bonds that will sell at a steep uncertainty discount depending on their serial number, and whose mere issuance would cast doubt on our ability to make good on out debts, isn’t.

  8. 8
    Punchy says:

    Personally, I like the Bismarck option

    Fuck that. Yeah, lots of oil, but damn cold winters, desolate landscape, and far too close to our soc!alist bretheren up there in Canuckistan.

    I suggest the Miami option. Hot chicks, nude beaches, and cheap condos.

  9. 9
    Amir Khalid says:

    Let’s see if I have this right. Your House of Representatives can authorise a budget, but afterwards it can forbid the executive branch to borrow the money to meet it? I still don’t understand why the authorisation for the latter is not implicit in the authorisation of the former.

    (And I hate it when the spellchecker puts the red squiggle under my British spellings. Hmph.)

  10. 10
    Rommie says:

    Well, if they want to prove, once and for all, that they don’t believe in the idea of the federal government, then I think the appropriate response is “please proceed.”

    Especially if they try it in 2013 or early 2014. If they want to neuter their gerry-mandering advantage, don’t interrupt them.

  11. 11
    BruinKid says:

    So somewhat related, the U.S. Treasury has actually made $7.6 billion from selling off the final shares of AIG.

    With the latest sale, taxpayers have gained about $22.7 billion from a bailout that many predicted would prompt a staggering loss.

    Ah yes, the Tea Party (and certain “progressives”), wrong yet again on this particular aspect of the bailout.

  12. 12
    👽 Martin says:

    The debt ceiling is a complete artifact, and if push really comes to shove, there are all sorts of creative option for waging a debt ceiling fight, including platinum coins, declaring it unconstitutional, and of course, the ability to target the shutdown in ways to that generate maximum political pressure on the GOP.

    I think the reason why Josh is calling it this way is that Obama knows that he’s going to lurch from one debt ceiling fight to another. The GOP can vote for all of that spending in the House and then oppose it and get a do-over during the debt ceiling fight (remember, the last budget that the GOP House shut down of the debt ceiling, was passed by the GOP House – they shut down paying for their own budget.)

    Josh seems to believe that Obama is done playing this game. He’s 4 years out from the next time a Democrat runs for President and 2 years out from the next national election. And he’s got this giant tax increase in his corner for leverage. If Ezra thinks that the Dems may give on entitlements, that can only mean that it comes in exchange for Geithner’s plan to make debt ceiling increases automatic subject to presidential veto. That’s Obama’s offer – to eliminate the ability to use the debt ceiling as hostage taking. I do not believe that Obama is entertaining any proposals that lack a permanent debt ceiling solution, which is why the GOP seems to still be negotiating when everyone knows they’re powerless to stop the tax increase – and why some GOPers in the House are calling for a vote on the middle class tax cuts now. It’ll look better for them to voluntarily pass them and then have the Dems stick their hand up and say ‘But we want our debt limit!’ and look as though the Dems are holding things up rather than the GOP.

  13. 13
    PeakVT says:

    What happens over the next few months may change my view, but since the election I have thought that Obama should spend the next two years running against the GOP-controlled House. I think the GOP caucus will double down on obstruction, and if anything gets done, it will be in the form of extenders. That means there’s not much at risk if the Dems fail to take the House in 2014, since the GOP already has a veto on all legislation.

    Basically, the argument is that the American Constitution was not meant to allow for 50 percent + 1 of a single chamber of Congress to effectively dissolve the union by simply refusing to appropriate funds.

    Well, I think it is the case that the constitution does allow for it. I don’t see how “imposing” a budget has any constitutional basis, unlike ignoring the debt ceiling. The Framers didn’t program for that particular failure mode either because they didn’t consider the federal government not conducting business in a non-emergency situation to be damaging, or because they just couldn’t conceive of the legislature failing to legislate.

  14. 14
    piratedan says:

    Remember… Republicans are doing this for our own good.

    After all, they were the Daddy spending all that money we didn’t have on those shiny new wars to go kill brown people because their sky buddy is different than our sky buddy. Plus that pesky idea that no one needs to worry about the labeling of those financial entities that comprise themselves of being a shite sandwich for the unwary, we have an in with the guys who do the labeling and they’ll slap anything on those that we tell them too. Well now the time for you people who trusted us as being fiscally responsible have to pay the price for our mistakes and we’re sorry but we’re going to do the best we can to protect our real buddies from taking the hit, never mind that they already made the most out of YOUR taxpayer bailout, now we’re gonna have to screw with your retirement too because… well it’s there just asking to be raided isn’t it?

    There are times when I wish that the Occupy folks had raided the wall street financial institutions and threw a few CEO’s down into the street from their panoramic view business suites just to make a point, but that would be uncivil of me, heh… indeed.

  15. 15
    catclub says:

    @BruinKid: Funny, the US gov made all that money on the TARP, but the companies they saved benefitted by MANY, MANY, times more. So who won? The US gov got $23B back, golly! This also ignores the Fannie and Freddie account, which is not quite so happy.

    And I still was (and am) in favor of doing something rather than letting it all burn, which was the do nothing/collapse of global finance, choice. But the banks (and especially their management) won.

  16. 16

    Your House of Representatives can authorise a budget, but afterwards it can forbid the executive branch to borrow the money to meet it? I still don’t understand why the authorisation for the latter is not implicit in the authorisation of the former.

    I’m in this camp: The whole ‘debt ceiling’ is fiction. Congress already spent the money. They shouldn’t be allowed to then renege on paying the proverbial ‘credit card bill’ when it comes.

    That said, we are now dealing with a pissed off, mortally wounded elephant: The GOP is past the point of no return. They can no longer win national elections as-is… but if they change into something else, then they stop being Republicans (nice corner they’ve painted themselves into there). So I fully expect the GOP to try and essentially destroy the country before they surrender.

    Here’s hoping that Obama 2.0 has the spine to break the GOP’s collective back on this. Because that is exactly what he’s going to have to do.

  17. 17
    👽 Martin says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    I still don’t understand why the authorisation for the latter is not implicit in the authorisation of the former.

    Neither does anyone else.

    In truth, there is a certain validity to it. Treasury is in executive branch and is responsible for issuing that debt. They can do that independent of the budget – borrowing money with no intended purpose. Congress authorizes certain but not all spending. Between these two, there is room to do bad things. I don’t think the founders expected that budget issues would become quite so embattled. It’s really an invention of Newt Gingrich that we’re still suffering under.

    Geithner’s proposal is to do what you claim, however. Budgets outline spending, and would constitute an automatic debt limit increase to that level. Congress would still need to authorize above that level, however. That’s an incredibly sensible idea.

  18. 18
    David in NY says:

    I thought that Obama’s position was going to be that they’d actually have to shut the government down, if they wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling, with all the consequences of that. It’s no accident that they haven’t tried that trick for nearly 20 years — it burned them badly after 1994. I though Obama was going to let them own it again.

    After all, there’s nothing the Republican base loves more than not getting their social security checks. /snark

  19. 19
    Boots Day says:

    The dirty little secret of the GOP is that they’re not all that keen on slashing government spending, either. They want to talk tough, and maybe take things like Medicare away from brown and poor people, but they don’t want to cut Social Security and Medicare and defense spending.

    So they pass appropriations for all these things, then wring their hands and shed crocodile tears when it actually adds up to trillions of dollars in government spending.

    Their constituents still get served, and the GOP gets to posture as if they’re appalled that someone is spending all this money. It’s win-win.

  20. 20
    PeakVT says:

    @Amir Khalid: Well, that’s the argument against the debt ceiling: the authorization to spend implies the authorization to borrow (if the authorized taxes are insufficient, which everyone knows they will be.) But in the constitution, the power to authorize spending and the power to borrow are on separate lines, so from the beginning they were viewed as separate action. The directive to not question the validity of the debt came later. Here’s some background on the debt ceiling.

  21. 21
    catclub says:

    @👽 Martin: It seems to me that Obama has to say: “Any appropriations bill that I sign has to include authorization to raise the debt ceiling as necessary to pay for it by bond issue.”

    If he actually vetoes appropriations bills that fail this test, and enough of the DC establishment then blames the GOP house rather than him, then it will work. Otherwise, no congress can bind the actions of any future congress, so a deal now only works until it stops working. Of course, if he gets a debt ceiling deal he can then apply this criterion in the future.

  22. 22
    SatanicPanic says:

    Wow, we’ll you’ve given me a lot to think about. The idea that they’ll just stop paying the bills is nuts, but I wouldn’t put it past them

  23. 23
    jayjaybear says:

    @piratedan:

    There are times when I wish that the Occupy folks had raided the wall street financial institutions and threw a few CEO’s down into the street from their panoramic view business suites just to make a point, but that would be uncivil of me, heh… indeed.

    Ooh…the Defenestration of Manhattan! I understand you have to really throw ’em hard to get those skyscraper windows to pop, too…

  24. 24
    Brachiator says:

    @PeakVT:

    Well, that’s the argument against the debt ceiling

    Oh, what a feeling,
    When You’re Dancing on the ceiling.

    Lionel Richie, Dancing On The Ceiling

    More seriously, I’m getting the feeling that the Republicans will take a deal soon. They’re just working out how they will continue to rail against Obama after capitulating to him.

  25. 25
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @catclub:

    Just this.

    Those bankster parasites should have been allowed to die, from lack of a food supply.

  26. 26
    NonyNony says:

    @catclub:

    Of course, if he gets a debt ceiling deal he can then apply this criterion in the future.

    Actually, my understanding is that what he and Geithner were saying the other week is that the “debt ceiling deal” is that Congress will pass a law saying that the President gets to raise the debt ceiling to meet the requirements for spending that are in the budgets that Congress passes. Congress will be allowed to vote to stop the President from raising the ceiling, but he can veto it. So it would take 2/3 in both Houses to stop a debt ceiling increase to cover spending that Congress has already budgeted.

    If that’s the “debt ceiling deal” then it pretty much ends the use of the debt ceiling as a political tactic against anyone. Which is good for Democrats, who like their government, but bad for Republicans, who hate government in general and the US government in particular.

  27. 27
    redshirt says:

    We must destroy this Village to save it. And by save it I mean in the afterlife, with Jesus.

  28. 28
    WarMunchkin says:

    @Amir Khalid: That is correct. My interpretation of appropriations is a command to the executive to spend x amount of money to accomplish y things. If the executive does not have that money on hand, it is legally compelled to finance Congress’s budget, so it issues debt to do so. Ordering the executive to spend money and also preventing the executive from accessing that money strikes me as a constitutional contradiction.

  29. 29
    Seth Owen says:

    @PeakVT: I don’t think the framers would have considered a federal government shutdown due to no budget as being an especially acute emergency. Remember that the government was much smaller then, had much less of a role in day-to-day life and things generally tended to happen at a slower pace. Aside from a very small number of public servants, few relied on the federal budget for a paycheck every week and there was nothing like Social Security and most other direct payments.

    Even civil servants and soldiers generally got paid on a monthly basis and it wasn’t uncommon for that to be in arrears. People made do. I’m not even sure that revenues would have suffered. most revenues came from customs duties and I think the customs collectors may even have been paid out of a portion of what they collected, so they’d still have been paid on on the job.

    We live in a very different world now.

  30. 30
    KCIvey says:

    I’m wondering if the debt ceiling madness will develop into yet another quest for an impeachment excuse. If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, then Obama is in a no-win situation. Either he ignores the debt ceiling and borrows the money for the spending Congress passed, or he doesn’t borrow and therefore can’t spend the money and thus is violating congressional legislation. Regardless of his decision, the congressional GOP can shout about his illegal actions and convene and start up the impeachment hearings.

  31. 31
    fidelio says:

    I have a single vivid memory of the last government shut-down, another “briliant” idea of Newt Gingrich’s that turned out to bite the GOP much harder in their collective ass than they imagined possible.

    I was driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway to visit my family. Technically, the Trace is a federal park. Although the road was not closed, all the facilities along the way were closed–every restroom, visitors’ center, and maintenance post was shut up tight as a drum. Given the route, there’s often not much close by at the exits to the Trace in the way of gas, food, or rest areas–you really have to know where you are to know what’s conveniently available nearby.

    I stopped at one of the closed restroom stops to call my mother. There was another car parked there–a big shiny new Lincoln. As I was finishing my call, a couple appeared from the path leading up into the woods. They were older, and dressed to match their car. She certainly didn’t look as if she’d ever had to pee in the woods since she was a co-ed, at least. As they got into their car, I could hear bits of her diatribe, aimed at at GOP US Representative from Tennessee–Vann Hilleary. It was apparent that Rep. Hilleary would not be enjoying her support in the next election, and would certainly not be able to rely on them for a campaign contribution.

    We should only be so lucky for the GOP to try and shut down the federal government again. It might please their rock-bottom base, but no one else will be pleased, including some people who’ve been Republicans since 1968. My sympathies are with the government employees who’ll be affected for the days the GOP tries to hold out in the face of the increasing chorus of jeers and catcalls, but trust me–Boehner really doesn’t want to go there. At all.

  32. 32
    NCSteve says:

    @Amir Khalid: Because, for reasons that have never been made clear, they a law that says it doesn’t.

  33. 33
    👽 Martin says:

    @catclub:

    It seems to me that Obama has to say: “Any appropriations bill that I sign has to include authorization to raise the debt ceiling as necessary to pay for it by bond issue.”

    He could say that, but the public doesn’t understand this issue at all (because it really makes no damn sense). The GOP know that they can use this understanding gap to their advantage and get extra concessions out of Dems in every. single. budget.

    No, it needs to be solved permanently. Besides, that doesn’t solve the issue in Jan – the last budget is already signed, and the GOP knows the Jan debt ceiling is their only leverage on taxes. Taxes and debt ceiling have to go together this year.

  34. 34
    Roger Moore says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    And I hate it when the spellchecker puts the red squiggle under my British spellings.

    If you’re using Firefox, you can right click in the text entry box and go to “Languages” to select a different dictionary. They have several English dictionaries available, including British English. Interestingly, my Linux box seems to have more English dictionaries available than the Mozilla web site.

  35. 35
    👽 Martin says:

    @KCIvey:

    If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, then Obama is in a no-win situation. Either he ignores the debt ceiling and borrows the money for the spending Congress passed, or he doesn’t borrow and therefore can’t spend the money and thus is violating congressional legislation.

    I think Obama will shut the government down.

    I think it’s important to understand the timing of this event relative to elections. Most of this is happening before he even begins his 2nd term. Good or bad, it will be ancient history by 2016. We’ll barely remember most of it in 2014. If there was ever a time for playing hardball on this issue, where political considerations would be minimal, it’s right now. No other president will ever get this particular opportunity. Obama seems to understand that. Geithner does too. This is a go big or go home moment for them, I believe. Obama wanted to change how politics is done – and forever wiping out the debt limit as a means to take a 2nd run at the budget would do that. At the same time the GOP has an equally big symbolic fight here with being forced to support a tax increase and possibly losing their big obstruction stick.

    That seems to be what Josh is reading.

  36. 36
    Roger Moore says:

    @Boots Day:

    The dirty little secret of the GOP is that they’re not all that keen on slashing government spending, either. They want to talk tough, and maybe take things like Medicare away from brown and poor people, but they don’t want to cut Social Security and Medicare and defense spending.
    __
    So they pass appropriations for all these things, then wring their hands and shed crocodile tears when it actually adds up to trillions of dollars in government spending.
    __
    Their constituents still get served, and the GOP gets to posture as if they’re appalled that someone is spending all this money. It’s win-win.

    QFT. The GOP doesn’t actually want to shut down the whole government, and even the parts they really want to kill, they don’t want their fingerprints on the murder weapon. Maybe they’ll lose their qualms about being seen as killing popular programs, but only because they’re so out of touch with reality that they’re totally wrong about how popular those programs are and will be surprised when killing them has severe electoral repercussions.

  37. 37
    Walker says:

    @KCIvey:

    Let them. The Senate will not convict, and it makes the GOP look even worse.

  38. 38
    sheithappens says:

    yawn, another day another gloom porn masturbation piece on bj.

    I am constantly amazed how the rag tag collection of wanna be bloggers Mr “I got a man crush on fat bastard Christie” Cole has assembled here.

    You fall for the GOP scare tactics every single fucking time like lemmings and dutifully generate more buzz and rumor about it just like they want you to.

  39. 39
    redshirt says:

    I’d say the odds of the House impeaching is close to a 100% over the next four years. Whatever BS reason used is irrelevant, as it will have no merit and be entirely politically motiviated.

    I know many will suffer, but I like Martin’s take above – bring it on, Repukes. Shut it down, shut it all down and let’s have our crisis.

    We need to burn these crazies out of their bunkers.

  40. 40
    NR says:

    My prediction: Obama will cut a deal that includes Medicare cuts, and possibly Social Security cuts as well. And you all will support him, because Obama Gets Shit Done.

    Maybe Boehner will only get 95% of what he wants this time.

  41. 41

    @WereBear:
    We elected a black man president. There were some other causes – the GOP was primed to get more extreme – but when Obama became president, the large white racist segment of the population completely lost their shit. Their assholery became pathological, as in ‘are knowingly hurting themselves to attack Obama in even the most token ways’. Not everyone went nuts, obviously, but the ones who did went SO nuts that it’s thrown the country into chaos.

  42. 42
    Karmus says:

    @Roger Moore: Yeah, when I’m on my Ubuntu (Studio) box, Firefox always wants me to spell things in the British way. I know I could change it, but I kind of enjoy the quirk.

  43. 43
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    So you’re on the dole?

    Fuck you. Dude does an important job for which he is underpaid by any meaningful measure.

    What the fuck do you do?

  44. 44
    hoodie says:

    @👽 Martin: I think that Boehner and McConnell know that, and this is just kabuki for the teabaggers. My guess is that Obama will get a mix and match on the tax side, e.g., 2% in rates and closing of some deductions on high earners, and the McConnell plan on the debt ceiling, in exchange for chained CPI on SS. The Medicare eligibility gambit is likely a feint. Chained CPI is technical and no one really understands it, thus it can be gamed to make it inconsequential. They’ll have a riot if they raise the Medicare eligibility age, that fucks a lot of people.

  45. 45
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    @PeakVT:

    Well, I think it is the case that the constitution does allow for it. I don’t see how “imposing” a budget has any constitutional basis, unlike ignoring the debt ceiling. The Framers didn’t program for that particular failure mode either because they didn’t consider the federal government not conducting business in a non-emergency situation to be damaging, or because they just couldn’t conceive of the legislature failing to legislate.

    (Emphasis mine.) I worry for the future of our country because I see some parallels between what the Republicans are doing now and the end of the Roman Republic. While the Roman Republic had laws and institutions, it also relied on uncodified custom to function. Much of the destruction of the Republic was done by powerful men who didn’t necessarily break the law, but ignored or defied custom to do what they wanted. The formal system couldn’t take the strain once the informal system that supported it was gone.

  46. 46

    @…now I try to be amused: I look to the example of Chile’s Pinochet coup. Obviously they were pushed by outside forces (e.g., us), but the system was breaking down for awhile. They had a separately elected legislature & president, and they started playing hardball, breaking the unwritten rules.

    Our Constituion & Chile’s were the only ones to have that structure & succeed as a democracy for an extended period of time. Juan Linz wrote around 1990 that our heterogenous parties were part of the reason why. Ain’t so anymore.

    Lotta big differences b/w us & Chile, of course, but our system really isn’t designed for two parties, with higher loyalty to party than body (or, in the GOP’s case, country). I don’t expect the GOP to destroy the Constitution, but they really are playing with fire.

  47. 47
    Maude says:

    @👽 Martin:
    I think you are wrong. It costs a lot of money to shut down and then open up the Federal Government.
    A lot of people get badly hurt if the Federal Government shuts down.

  48. 48
    Brachiator says:

    @NR:

    My prediction: Obama will cut a deal that includes Medicare cuts, and possibly Social Security cuts as well. And you all will support him, because Obama Gets Shit Done.

    Odd that your “prediction” omits tax increases.

  49. 49
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Republicans have reached a point where all they can do is break things. They no longer possess the intellect as a party to do anything else. They will break things for all of us because that’s all they can do and we deserve to have things broken because we failed to recognize their greatness.

    Fasten your seatbelts.

  50. 50
    👽 Martin says:

    @hoodie: That all makes sense to me too. Obama may be willing to give up on Medicare eligibility depending on how it’s phased in. If you do it as a long-term phase in, so nobody feels it for 20 years, it’ll still bend the curve on Medicare whose solvency is based on a 75 year model, and it gives the Dems 2 decades to get Obamacare up and running and illustrate that the government actually loses money with that effort and changing it back later. It’s a gamble, but if the math shows it should work, sometimes you need to trust the math to bring everyone around and forget about the optics. The long-term solution to Medicare is more Medicare, not less. That’s obvious to anyone with a calculator.

    Raising Medicare age is deeply unpopular, so I don’t think they will – I think it’s just a trial balloon. My guess is whatever tinkering they do here will have an eye toward long-term single payer. They won’t do things that undermine that effort, and they’ll accept things that support it even if they seem more painful.

    Shit, what they really need to do is just acknowledge that the GOP never paid for Part D and fucking pay for it by raising the payroll tax a bit.

  51. 51
    SatanicPanic says:

    @NR: I think it will be a mix of repealing Obamacare, torturing political prisoners, banning abortion and drone strikes on liberal neighborhoods in exchange for reinstating DADT, eliminating public schools and a 1,000 foot tall border fence.

  52. 52
    Maude says:

    @👽 Martin:
    You are so right about Medicare Part D.

  53. 53
    Paul says:

    @NR:

    My prediction: Obama will cut a deal that includes Medicare cuts, and possibly Social Security cuts as well. And you all will support him, because Obama Gets Shit Done.

    You got that one right. Unlike both Carter and Clinton, he managed to give us health care reform. Damn right I support him.

  54. 54
    👽 Martin says:

    @Maude:

    A lot of people get badly hurt if the Federal Government shuts down.

    A lot of people are getting badly hurt by this constant hostage taking. Time to make it stop.

  55. 55
    chopper says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God:

    I know. It’s like cutting a check to your plumber and as soon as he leaves, calling up the bank and stopping payment on it.

  56. 56
    Schlemizel says:

    Not that Bernie can be bothered to read the comments, but he is missing an important point with why the goopers may not want to try the appropriations stunt.

    A big part of the goopers success has been in convincing the morans that the goopers have no intention of harming the morans pet programs/source of income. They very carefully NEVER mention where cuts will be made & who will have to suffer. The result is its always “those T-bone eatin’ bucks & Caddy drivin’ welfare brood sows” that they imagine will get the cuts.

    Once the goopers are forced to indicate which programs get the ax the morans will see that they were the target too & support for the goopers will flee like rats from a sinking ship

  57. 57
    Sly says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Fuck you. Dude does an important job for which he is underpaid by any meaningful measure.
    What the fuck do you do?

    Expects other people to martyr themselves for his own political comfort.

    I hear the pay is nice.

  58. 58
    Schlemizel says:

    @Douche & Bag:

    Well I can give you one example of someone on the dole for you to make fun of.

    My cousin lost his left leg, part of his left arm, hearing in his left ear and sight in his left eye to a mine while serving in the USMC protecting your useless fat ass. That check he gets makes his life possible amidst the additional expenses he has because of his situation.

    But you just go ahead and point and laugh about him being on the government teat because I am sure you are sooooo superior to him & the men and women like him

  59. 59
    Pinkamena Panic says:

    @NR: Careful there, seems you’ve nicked your wrist somehow. Might wanna get a bandage or something.

  60. 60
    redshirt says:

    If the Republicans try to shut down the government again, I’ll be much more optimistic for 2014 for Congress and state governments.

  61. 61
    sparrow says:

    @WereBear: death is the great equalizer, so long as it keeps happening. I shudder to think what will happen when we crack the mortality problem.

  62. 62
  63. 63
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Schlemizel: Which is why I’m glad both Obama and the Democrats are refusing to offer anything until the Republicans put up. From the Washington Post:

    With talks to avert a series of spending cuts and tax increases continuing between President Obama and congressional leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday that no deal will be reached until Democrats step forward with specific proposals to cut federal spending.
    __
    “For all the president’s talk about the need for a balanced approach, the truth is he and his Democratic allies have simply refused to be pinned down on any spending cuts,” McConnell said.

  64. 64
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    BTW, Brit Hume thinks Obama needs to be nicer to the Republicans:

    If you have an ounce of compassion this Christmas season, save it for John Boehner and the House Republicans. President Obama is treating them as if he has them over a barrel headed for the fiscal cliff, and he does. This is not because Mr. Obama won re-election. After all, he won only 51 percent and needed the greatest voter mobilization operation in history to do it. His leverage now stems from the law, which ends the Bush tax rates on January first, imposing new, higher tax rates and a steep set of spending cuts that fall with special force on the military. Nobody wants these things, but Republicans, the low tax and strong defense party, want them least of all. Not only that, but polls indicate that if these things come to pass, the public, by large margins, will blame the GOP.

    As Kaili Joy Gray points out in the article, Obama’s the first president since Ike to win 51% in both elections, so it’s not “only 51%.”

  65. 65

    @Yutsano: Well, bud, I am a government employee as well. A shutdown means no salary for me either.

  66. 66

    So I had to unfilter spatulator to confirm, but I find it weird that someone who prides himself on pushing Obummer from the left accuses people “on the dole” of being moochers. Now back in the filter with ye.

  67. 67
    catclub says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): “Nobody wants these things, but Republicans, the low tax and strong defense party, want them least of all.’

    But they did VOTE for them to happen in the sequester bill.

    The phrase ‘no backsies’ springs to mind.

  68. 68
    NonyNony says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday that no deal will be reached until Democrats step forward with specific proposals to cut federal spending.

    Jeebus. McConnell is either an idiot or has balls the size of Kentucky.

    I know that Democrats have routinely fallen for this kind of “why don’t you stop hitting yourself” form of negotiations, but it looks like they’ve finally caught on and aren’t preemptively negotiating. If McConnell wants to cut the budget then he should damn well be the one making proposals.

    Also too:

    The squirrel, designed by researchers at San Diego State University and the University of California Davis, was built with a grant from the National Science Foundation. It is used to study snake behavior.

    And:

    “A small part of the money was spent on building the squirrel, the rest was spent on the students,” Block said. “This is how National Science Foundation grants work.”

    The funding was for the whole project, not just for the robosquirrel, and like all NSF projects it’s a job creation project because it pays for grad students (tuition and stipend) who are doing research (which is used for the public good or used by companies to make a fuckton of money without having to pay for their own damn basic research).

    So blow it out your ass McConnell. That robosquirrel probably created more jobs in a single grant than you ever have on your own.

  69. 69
    catclub says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Yes. The Nelson Muntz ‘Ha,… ha’, comes to mind.

  70. 70
    wrb says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Fuck you. Dude does an important job for which he is underpaid by any meaningful measure.
    What the fuck do you do?

    Sells pie

  71. 71
    Chris T. says:

    @Boots Day: Exactly—that’s why McConnell and Boehner keep saying “the President and/or Democrats need to make up a list of programs to cut”, because they don’t want their own fingerprints all over the actual cuts. “Everyone” is for cutting thirty gazillion dollars of spending, but oh gosh no I didn’t want that spending cut, see, it was the Easter Bunny God Obama and the Democrats that cut it, doncha know!

  72. 72
    PeakVT says:

    @…now I try to be amused: @reflectionephemeral: All democracies depend on norms of behavior for legislators to some degree. For instance, the Senate has been crippled by rules based on the assumption of constructive intentions on the part of Senators, but that assumption is no longer valid. One could try to write a very detailed constitution that would try to cover all contingencies, but that would have downsides, too.

  73. 73
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @jayjaybear: The one thing that makes me love the English language is the word defenestrate.

  74. 74
    NonyNony says:

    @Chris T.:

    that’s why McConnell and Boehner keep saying “the President and/or Democrats need to make up a list of programs to cut”, because they don’t want their own fingerprints all over the actual cuts.

    That’s right. And that’s why being able to just stand up to them and say “you want something cut – YOU tell US what you want cut” is dirty politics.

    It’s obvious that this is a winning move for Democrats at this point, so I’m really hoping they press the advantage here and just loudly say “hey, we’re waiting for Republicans to tell us what they want to cut. They passed this damn budget in the first place, so they need to figure out what they passed that they want cut. Then we can talk.”

    Republicans will not come back with an answer. Some of the ‘baggers will, but no answer from the leadership. Not until the tax increases go through and they think they’ve got the upper hand again when they can use the debt ceiling and middle class tax cuts as hostages.

  75. 75

    perhaps the first shift of funding priorities should be to suspend Congress’ paychecks for the duration.

  76. 76
    Amir Khalid says:

    @ranchandsyrup:
    You know that making sense is not Special Timmeh’s strong point, don’t you? (Neither is portrait art, come to think of it.) He’s the most dedicated poo-flinging attention seeker I’ve seen at this blog.

  77. 77

    @Amir Khalid: true enough. he seems to let his mask slip from time to time. bad form Timmeh. Bad.

  78. 78
    Xenos says:

    @…now I try to be amused:

    Much of the destruction of the Republic was done by powerful men who didn’t necessarily break the law, but ignored or defied custom to do what they wanted. The formal system couldn’t take the strain once the informal system that supported it was gone.

    Some even bigger mistakes happened later, too. Who had the great idea of selling the starving Vandals beef and then delivering dog meat? A little consumer protection could have saved the Romans a sacking or two.

  79. 79
    Brachiator says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    This is not because Mr. Obama won re-election. After all, he won only 51 percent and needed the greatest voter mobilization operation in history to do it.

    Let’s see, now. Bush “won” the 2000 election even though he did not receive a majority of the popular vote; he received 47.87% to Al Gore’s 48.38%. And Dubya needed the greatest Supreme Court/vote nullification operation in history to do it.

    And then Bush proceeded to demand that the Congress enact his tax cuts.

    Shorter: Fuck Brit Hume.

    The Republicans and their spokes-holes have some nerve talking about winning vote margins.

  80. 80
    Culture of Truth says:

    In a debt ceiling fight, the President gets to prioritize spending with available cash. In a budget fight, the GOP can pass or hold certain parts of the appropriations process and essentially choose which parts of the government it wants to shut down.

    In the former, the burden is on the President. In the latter, the burden is on the GOP. So they prefer the debt ceiling fight.

  81. 81
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @Schlemizel: How’s the cat?

  82. 82
    Xenos says:

    Does that mean that the White house can ask the Pentagon what bloated projects it does not want, and that are built by GOP constituents, to slash? This could be fun.

  83. 83
    Bill Arnold says:

    @fidelio:
    My parents were taking a couple-month long drive-the-country-visit-the-national-parks post-retirement vacation when Gingrich and Republicans shut down the U.S. government. They were literally ordered to leave Death Valley, and missed some of the other parks in the west. The Republicans were never forgiven.

  84. 84
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    @NonyNony: This chain is basically it in a nutshell. They don’t want their fingerprints on any cuts which is why the brinksmanship is about the debt ceiling rather than actual appropriations. I don’t even think they want cuts – they never bring up cuts when they’re in control. Spending and debt is just a bludgeon they drag out when there’s a Democratic POTUS to thwart his agenda.

  85. 85
    shortstop says:

    @burnspbesq:

    What the fuck do you do?

    With all the nuance of a Mack truck, he baits people who are dumb and hyperemotional enough to keep falling for it. Yutsano is noticeably absent from that category.

  86. 86
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Maude:

    A lot of people get badly hurt if the Federal Government shuts down.

    As Bernard suggests, in a partial shutdown due to hitting the debt ceiling, Obama would have choices about who gets badly hurt, and where. I am certain that a (secret) target list of GOP pain points is already drawn up and is being continuously updated.

  87. 87
    Tom says:

    Strikes me as a form of sedition!

  88. 88
    Tom says:

    Strikes me as a form of sedition!

  89. 89
    Barry says:

    “In a budget fight, the GOP can pass or hold certain parts of the appropriations process and essentially choose which parts of the government it wants to shut down. So, my suspicion is that, ultimately, regardless of the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling, the crisis will ultimately revolve around the appropriations bills at some point down the road.”

    The trick is that the Democratic leadership in the Senate can tie things together and let the GOP deal with larger chunks. The GOP in Congress would undoubtedly like a line-time veto, but they don’t have that power.

  90. 90
    Ash Can says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): LOL @ Brit Hume. He and Boehner should get together at some Capitol Hill watering hole and have themselves a good cry.

  91. 91
    hueyplong says:

    I’m totally distracted by the fact that the only “Boots Day” I know of played OF for the Montreal Expos about 40 years ago.

    Please don’t let it end up being the case that it’s also the name of a famous jazz musician from the bee bop era that everyone but me knows well. Or a Republican congressman.

  92. 92
    hueyplong says:

    duplicate

  93. 93
    Tom says:

    Exactly!

  94. 94
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Didn’t Obama win 53% of the popular vote in the most recent election, and 55% or so the last time? Where is the 51 number coming from?

  95. 95
    Brachiator says:

    Personally, I like the Bismarck option.

    I think we should sink the Bismark option.

  96. 96
    Tom says:

    Good points; the past can be prologue!

  97. 97
    Brachiator says:

    @Lurking Canadian:

    Didn’t Obama win 53% of the popular vote in the most recent election, and 55% or so the last time? Where is the 51 number coming from?

    The Official Fox News Wingnut Karl Rove Memorial Poll Trakker(tm)

    AKA: Totally Made Up Pseudo-Number

  98. 98
    hueyplong says:

    Fox News’ position seems to be that, other than the states where Obama won big, he didn’t win big.

    And somehow, that means he won “only” 51%, which is of course a Double Mandate with a Half Gainer and Full Twist if done by a Republican.

  99. 99
    shortstop says:

    @Lurking Canadian: I’d like to know, too. I thought maybe it meant Ike got 51% or better in both 1952 and ’56, but he got 55% and 57%, respectively, in those years. Guess it means the only president since Ike exclusive of Ike, since Reagan got 51% in 1980 and W got 51% in 2004.

  100. 100
    AA+ Bonds says:

    As long as people are informed by the Bavarian option.

  101. 101
    Culture of Truth says:

    if you add 2008 and 2012 Obama won 101% of the vote.

  102. 102
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Fuck you. Dude does an important job for which he is underpaid by any meaningful measure.
    What the fuck do you do?

    Interesting. So you and Putz are besties. In which case I’m sure he appreciates your riding to the rescue on your white horse.

    What do I do? I do something that frees me from crying out on comment boards that the primary reason a government budget MUST pass is MY next paycheck because it’s all about me, that’s what I do.

    Now fuck you too. What do YOU do?

  103. 103
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Brachiator: Yeah. That 51% is fast becoming the “but for the 5,000 votes in Chicago” that will keep conservatives from admitting that democrats have actually won any elections in this country in the past 60 years.

  104. 104
    Roger Moore says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    if you add 2008 and 2012 Obama won 101% of the vote.

    Yeah, in 4020.

  105. 105
    khead says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    I don’t know burnspbesq or Yutsano.

    But I’m a government employee. One who’s office is funded by user fees.

    Go fuck yourself. In the ear.

  106. 106
    khead says:

    Whose even.

  107. 107
    Boots Day says:

    @hueyplong:

    You guessed it. I am a Republican congressman.

  108. 108
    Yutsano says:

    @shortstop: To be fair though, I’m in training today. I’m now on a lunch break and I’m quite appreciative of Burnsy’s intercession on my behalf. I will choose to ignore the insults hurled at me, as they come from ignorance and blind hatred. My job is rather difficult. The baklava I’m about to eat won’t be. :)

  109. 109

    @Bernard Finel:

    Well, bud, I am a government employee as well. A shutdown means no salary for me either.

    The Republicans have convinced a large number of Americans that their lives will be better if government employees are put out of work because, hey, what about that DMV, right?

  110. 110
  111. 111
    NonyNony says:

    @Lurking Canadian:

    Didn’t Obama win 53% of the popular vote in the most recent election, and 55% or so the last time? Where is the 51 number coming from

    Wikipedia says 51% and 53%, respectively.

    Dave Wasserman at Cook Political Report has the 2012 tallies here. Also reports 51% vs. 47%.

    So in this case, I suspect that Hume’s numbers might actually match reality. Note this day on your calendars folks.

  112. 112
    catclub says:

    @What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ): “I don’t even think they want cuts – they never bring up cuts when they’re in control.”

    This. The two Santa explanation.

  113. 113
    MikeJ says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):
    (Quoting britt hume)

    His leverage now stems from the law, which ends the Bush tax rates on January first, imposing new, higher tax rates and a steep set of spending cuts that fall with special force on the military. Nobody wants these things,

    Then why did the Republicans vote for it? This is exactly what they said they wanted when they voted for it.

  114. 114
    Not Sure says:

    Alternate to the Bismarck plan, you could just issue 3 million or however many pink slips and just disband the federal government. Give the idiots what they want, since they refuse to think first before asking for it. All that money the 1% has hidden in the Cayman Islands instantly becomes worthless.

  115. 115
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Culture of Truth: But in 2000, Bush won 100% of the African-American vote, which is an even more remarkable accomplishment.

  116. 116
    NR says:

    @SatanicPanic: Well unlike you, my prediction has a basis in reality, since Obama has already proposed Medicare and Social Security cuts. But go on being an idiot, makes no difference to me.

  117. 117
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NR: Please show where Obama proposed cuts. Not where he agreed that cuts would be on the table. Proposed.

  118. 118
    gwangung says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Some people hear the “C” word and it means only one thing to them.

  119. 119
    NR says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Here you go:

    Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense. We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

  120. 120
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NR: In context, I do not think it says what you suggest. You did, however, provide what I requested of you.

  121. 121
    Lurking Canadian says:

    @NonyNony: That’s right! I had stuck in my head that Romney got about 47% of the vote, and must have been computing 53% for Obama as “everybody else”, forgetting that there actually were some “else” choices on the ballot. Thanks.

  122. 122
    priscianusjr says:

    @chopper:

    It’s like cutting a check to your plumber and as soon as he leaves, calling up the bank and stopping payment on it.

    … and then claiming that to actually let the check clear would be the height of irresponsibility, because it’s just too expensive to keep your toilet working.

  123. 123
    AxelFoley says:

    @NR:

    And you’re so predictably stupid.

  124. 124
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @NCSteve:

    Shutting down the government in a way that generates maximum political pressure on the GOP is an option

    Personally, I think it’s conceptually dead simple. Compile a list of Congressmen in order of their Redness, and let it be known that you will be cutting off all federal funding on a district by district basis running through the list. The moment the Congress balks, the most wingnuttiest of them loses every piece of the Federal government, and they can go screaming to him about it. Then the second most wingnuttiest, and so forth.

  125. 125
    mclaren says:

    @WereBear:

    How did we get here?

    Because generations of liberals voted first for Nixon as the lesser of two evils, then for Reagan as the lesser of two evils, and finally for George W. Bush as the lesser of two evils.

    When you vote for the lesser of two evils long enough, you wind up duct taped to a chair with your ear cut off and a sociopath pouring gasoline on you while he dances to La Vida Loca on 70s radio.

  126. 126
    Nathanael says:

    The Republicans will not do this because the first program to be shut down due to lack of appropriations is the military.

    End of story. They can be completely blackmailed with the military funding bill if the Senate and President act competent.

  127. 127
    IM says:

    Personally, I like the Bismarck option.

    You want to repeat the historical defeat of german parlamentarism?

    The second time as farce?

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