As usual, the much-ballyhooed national government ”shutdown” that kept vacationers out of the national parks and attempted to keep Normandy Veterans from entering the very memorial that they themselves made possible ended last night with a whimper, not a bang, and another ineffectual kicking of the taxpayer’s can down a bumpy fiscal road.
A nation that has not adopted a proper budget in years – and that refuses to live within one anyway – still has no meaningful control over ongoing expenses, accumulated debt, or a plan for dealing with either.
Instead, in a deal only Washington insiders could regard as progress, Republicans in both Houses of Congress caved in and, together with Congressional Democrats, passed a bill, H.R. 2775, to “reopen” the “partially-closed government” at currently unsustainable spending levels for yet another three months – until January 15, 2014 – and to suspend the national debt limit until February 7. In the meantime, House and Senate “leaders” promise to appoint representatives to a conference committee to address “broader budget issues” – such as whether to replace the current across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration” with other purported “savings.”
This is bankruptcy on the installment plan, both moral and fiscal. The United States government is the political equivalent of an alcoholic who insists that he will sober up next month if the bartender will only increase his credit limit yet again and keep buying him drinks on the house until a week from next Tuesday. In the meanwhile the bartender’s children are in danger of missing meals and the bar’s own creditors are threatening foreclosure because the mortgage loan is nearly in default.
“Furloughed” federal workers will as usual be paid for the time that they weren’t at work, meaning an additional two weeks or so of (albeit stressful and unplanned) vacation on the tab of the same taxpayers who, if vacationing at their own expense the past two weeks, were shut out of the national parks and presidential libraries, also through no fault of their own. Congressional staff will still get huge Obamacare subsidies that the rest of the citizenry does not and the “individual mandate” of Obamacare remains in place even though the administration has delayed, waived, or gutted every other significant portion of the law for purely partisan political purposes.
What Republicans up for re-election in 2014 have to show for all this are a memorable reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” by Canadian-born Texas Senator Ted Cruz – who ultimately refused to block the legislation that he initially pretended to filibuster – and a popularity rating lower than the keel of the Titanic on April 16 of 1912. Meanwhile President Obama quickly signed the bill and, of course, proclaimed victory. Although also taking a temporary hit in popularity but not subject to re-election, he wisely remained largely above the fray and accordingly felt free to lecture the nation this morning that the only things standing between the people and the nirvana of cradle-to-grave government are citizenship and voting rights for people who have entered the nation illegally, “closing corporate tax loopholes that don’t create jobs” and – in our post-industrial information technology-based economy – a new farm bill.
On the whole, the country is worse off than back where we started, having been subjected to further abuse by a non-responsive and irresponsible government and a few steps further down Friedrich von Hayek’s fabled road to serfdom.
As Tennessee Ernie Ford once plaintively lamented, “You load sixteen tons, and whaddya get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”[Image originally posted on macromike.com]