Shut It Down, Shut It Up

Senator Ted Cruz wants to “shut the government down” and Senator Rand Paul wants Governor Chris Christie to “shut up”.  What a classy group of new conservative Senators Congress can now boast.  Hmmm.

Most likely Cruz does not really want to shut the government down.  For reasons that aren’t quite clear, he says he really wants instead to shut down “Obamacare”, the Affordable Care Act.  Paul probably really didn’t think Governor Christie was hoarding Federal funds that could instead have gone to national security.  Instead both Cruz and Paul are saying controversial things they hope will identify them as future leaders of a Republican Party.

Christie and other more moderate Republicans are saying “not so fast”.  These Republicans are pointing out that Cruz and Paul have not thought through the consequences of their proposals.  And in the opinion of these moderates, the consequences will be bad for the GOP.  (What about the country?)

Pause…  Let’s catch our collective breath.

The national economy is slowly but steadily recovering.  Most everyone wishes it was recovering faster and unemployment was lower.  The national debt is shrinking but not very quickly and with a balanced budget not in sight.  Most everyone intuitively believes the US should balance its budget.  While there is argument over the roll of tax increases, no one foresees balancing the budget with taxes increases alone or with 100% budget cuts.  Most economists, however, worry that a sharp increase in taxes and a proportionate reduction in government spending will bring our economic expansion to a halt.  Hmmm.

So what should our politicians be telling us we should do?

A slow but steady recovery has the advantage of lessening the chances for creating dangerous “bubbles” like we saw in 2007 with the housing industry and the derivative trades.  Small to moderate tax increases (like income tax code reform) and small to moderate reductions in government spending (like the size of the sequester) every one to two years might actual make progress.  But balancing the budget?  Not in the cards.

Why?

Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense Spending.

These three Federal expenditures are huge and growing.  Progress made with small to moderate increases in taxes and/or reductions in spending will be eroded with sucking sound of increased Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense spending.

Obamacare is a red herring.  It has nothing to do with the deficit by itself.  Shutting down the Government has nothing to do with the deficit (the money is already spent, the bills are already owed).

Healthcare and what is defined as “our national interests” has everything to do with the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense spending.  Any politician who cries out to repeal, roll back, or defund Obamacare (ACA) is disingenuous unless he/she offers a detailed alternative which offers the same coverage and does it at a lower cost.

Our national interest is a harder question to answer.  Since George W Bush (read Dick Cheney) lead America off its course and into endless wars in the Middle East, we have seen a world community only too happy to see America act as the world’s policeman.  Where is our national interest?

By the same token, an isolationist US would most likely produce a world where regional conflicts were numerous and international trade was severely restricted.  One can imagine a very dysfunctional world.  Hmmm.

I am getting the feeling that small to moderate change is actually a very prudent approach.  Whether some politicians like it or not, the current (and likely future) demographics, call for the US to work hard and cleverly towards an “inclusive” society.  What we might have thought was an inclusive society in the past, may not fill the bill in the future.  Senators Cruz and Paul (and all the others shouting to be heard) ought think about where the US is really headed and what internal changes will be necessary to meet the needs of that population.

Once the country pragmatically focuses on the future, then these spokesmen can more clearly see whre our national interests really are and what policies best serve them.

It won’t be “Shut Down” or “Shut Up”.

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4 Comments on “Shut It Down, Shut It Up”

  1. Ray Plenty Says:

    Our deficit is one of the few things that can destroy our republic. The founders knew the threat had collapsed other once great nations. It is why they put in so many “checks and balances” into our constitution. Such as congress controlling the purse strings, and having the power to end foolish spending which can increase the deficit. “Shutting down government” is actually very sound checks and balances at this point. Congress has strayed from the limits layed out in the constitution. They spend on things that were never supposed to be done. I don’t think politicians like Cruz and Paul want to turn us into anarchy. They just want to roll back government to what is constitutionally allowed.


    • Ray, thanks for commenting.

      The deficit, I agree, is very important and if we were to emulate former great nations that died from disease from within, we would continue spending on Defense… or even increase that spending. Unlike the past, Medicare and Medicaid are even larger expenses and are projected to only increase. Something has to change.

      You may argue that Medicare and Medicaid were not foreseen in the Constitution, and the proper measures are simply to cut them out or at least reduce them drastically. But these programs were enacted in accordance with the Constitution and are law. They represent a by-product of a modern capitalist society which has decided it does not want to see older citizens dying on the streets (unable to afford proper care) and the poor of all ages joining them. Like it or not, these are social problems which must be dealt with.

      Cruz and Paul can no doubt play an important role in what spending the government should or should not undertake. Neither is stupid as far as I can see. It will surprise me greatly should the rest of the Republican Party follow them down this dangerous path of shutting down the government.

      I also agree with your comment that our government spends lots of money on unnecessary things (and grants tax loopholes and exemptions for just as many crazy things). I just feel that Cruz and Paul would better spend their time working on wasteful spending and tax reform.

      • Ray Plenty Says:

        The more immediate threat I see for our elderly is the Fed. The Federal Reserve has printed trillions which has made traders frontrun their actions. This has made many daily essentials for the elderly spike in price. Things like gas and food have doubled in price in many instances. Meanwhile, the seniors lifetime savings are earning 0%. Our old folks are being starved to death by our Federal Reserve and the politicians who tolerate this terrorism. Cruz and Paul may talk big, but they really don’t have the majority of congress by their side to do what they think should be done. Obama and his stagflation is what the elderly should be most worried about….


  2. Ray, I share your concern about the Fed, although I do not see the connections you have made. No doubt most items we purchase have increased in price (gas, food, clothing) but if you compare their price to those in other countries where the Fed does not have direct influence, one will find those same goods have increased in price too.

    While interest rates are low, that applies also to borrowing such as for a mortgage.

    No doubt we are living in unusual times. I would, however, look to other causes than you suggest.


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