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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Thinking ‘Bout the Government, Part Two (Don’t Follow Leaders … or was it TeaPers?)

Uploaded: Oct 18, 2013
My foray into lyricizing this blog met with indifferent reception, at best. Those impulses will probably be restrained in composing this conclusion. I reserve the right to inflict another year-end poem on the readership, however. You've been warned.

The first installment proposed that Americans are universally distrustful of government – for different reasons, left and right, but so consistently that it's practically in our DNA. This continent was settled by malcontents, after all, many having chosen a harrowing sea journey and the frontier's many risks over a more stable fate in their countries-of-origin. Fundamental protections against the depredations of tyrannical power are built-into the US Constitution's amendments.

So why did the TeaPers' recent challenge to the government's operations and duties fail so miserably to muster popular support?

To be sure, one reason is that the government we've created since the Founding has grown to a monstrous size. Its expenditures and reach are of such scale that it cannot be destroyed, or even suspended in any significant fraction, without damaging the rest of the economy. It may not be Audrey 2, the ravenous houseplant of Little Shop of Horrors (sorry), but many jobs and much commerce do depend on sustaining it. They were sorely missed during the Tea Party interlude.

However, I think the best answer to why so many, so uniformly rejected the metaphorical assault on the Capitol may be found in the body of Constitution. For while the citizenry often suspects the institution and dislikes the sausage-making of politics, there is deep allegiance to the system – the essence, the processes and the framework on which the country's polity is built are close to the American heart; I believe most folks felt a threat to those cherished traditions.

Americans share an abiding faith in the system that finds expression in the Constitution. That allegiance may come from a neighboring source of the intuitive distrust of institutional power – it's a sense of fair-play that is embodied in that process. The checks-and-balances built-into the three-branch government, to try to ensure both majority rules and minority rights has an instinctive appeal that has sustained it and us for more than two centuries.

The failure to recognize the difference between concern and occasional annoyance with government, as practiced, and the revered system of governance may have led the insurgents (there you go, S-P) to over-estimate their appeal. Their process had two immediate flaws – first, it used parlor-mentary tricks to allow their merry little band to hamstring the proper legislative process. It had the feel of an unnecessary, made-up crisis, and indeed it has been widely reported to have been months in the planning. It was clearly fomented by the 50-odd TeaPers – indeed, early in the debacle, they basked in the attention. And It was just as certainly an attempt at minority rule that struck very many fellow citizens as extreme – most folks just don't see the sky falling over ObamaCare.

The second problem with the shutdown strategy (to dignify it with the term) was that it felt to most observers like dirty pool. The ObamaCare law is so unrelated to the routine duty to make financial decisions about budget and borrowing that it give life to the 'hostage' imagery. It was at least in the nature of those unpopular earmarks whereby Congressfolk append unrelated provisions onto popular, important bills – usually to promote some narrow interest that would not pass otherwise. They hope it will be swept along, and under the rug.

Of course, this ploy varied the earmark theme by taking on the signature achievement of the current Administration. It also simply had no business being considered together with matter of finance. It offended senses of fair-play; and it only got worse as that flaw was attempted to be rationalized. It may be a corollary to Occam's Razor that if you have to go the heroic lengths to defend your actions, you're trying to be too clever. The attempts at convoluted explanation just pinned the public's BS-o-meter, and sent the TeaPers to ignominious defeat.

Will we see this kind of tactic used again? Maybe not soon, as the TeaPers will be lucky to sit down comfortably by Thanksgiving. But nothing really got fixed, here – it was just extreme behavior that got punished. To find ways to inoculate the law-making process against these shenanigans will require harder fixes, based on more remote, deeper causes.

More on that soon.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rick Pshaw, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

No Comments on such a controversial issue?

How does that make you feel, T-cush?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by TL Nelson, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 1:36 am

Maybe the strategy was flawed, but the House of Representatives are, by definition, the people's representatives. Instead of addressing legitimate concerns that the people of this nation have with debt, spending and health care reform, President Obama made the decision to shutdown the government, hurting millions of Americans and damaging our economy. By failing to negotiate with the people's representatives, the President sent a clear message to the 50% of Americans who do not support his political agenda: "You are irrelevant and your concerns are of no consequence. Your voice will not be heard". Obama proves once again that he is not the President of these United States, but rather the President of his constituency. By failing to address the issues, Obama has declared war on the very people he was elected to serve. Obama may think he is fighting the Republican Party or some nebulous thing called the Tea Party, but in reality he is fighting the American people ... and the American people are enraged with Obama's smug declaration of victory. A competent leader would find a compromise that is acceptable across a broad political spectrum, but Obama is incapable and unwilling to do this. This is a President who has practiced partisan politics from his first day in office and will do anything to accomplish his personal political agenda... and he does not care who he hurts in the process.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 19, 2013 at 6:58 am

Obama thwarted the will of the American electorate. Obama taunts Republicans, saying that if they don't like his agenda, then "go win an election." They did. Americans elected an enormous Republican majority to the House of Representatives in large part to stop Obamacare.

At the time of the shutdown, a plurality of Americans favored stopping Obamacare even if this caused a temporary government shutdown: 49% favored repealing the law, compared with 36% who favored expanding or preserving it.Web Link

53% of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. 53% disapprove of the way Obama is handling health care policy.Web Link

Tom says Obamacare is unrelated to the budget, debt, and other financial matters. But Obamacare will cost the federal government at least $250 billion per year, and likely much more than that. It is a significant budget item. Web Link

Obama and Democrats refused to work out their differences with the House, and instead began a divisive campaign of name calling, which is harming the country, dividing America, and is not helpful in resolving these issues.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the budget and borrowing deadline was extended for a few months.

Americans expect Congress and the president to work together to reach a consensus about budget and debt issues.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 9:45 am

RickP: thanks for your concern, but no comments within a few hours of posting isn't unusual. It generally takes ol' S-P longer than that to find weblinks that he can properly misrepresent. "Views" tell the tale, as well, and they're not doing too badly for a Part Two posting.

TLN: I have several problems with your claims. First, there were enough votes in the People's House form the outset to avoid this entire mess. GOP internal caucus rules prevented that vote. I'd also note that the GOP majority is both thin and the product of conscious, unconscionable gerrymandering of district lines to create "safe" Repub seats -- that breeds this brand of extremism if the Moderates in those districts stay home, as they've done so far. If you aggregate all the House votes in the last election, the Dems won by 1.5 Meellion votes. Some "People's House!"

As to the Prez, he's been elected and re-elected on a very clear platform that includes ObamaCare (originally a GOP idea, until he adopted it -- now the Worst Thing EVer. What nonsense!). He has repeatedly negotiated on the debt and the budget, and said he would/will here, too -- but not with a crazy guy wearing a suicide bomber's vest. He's right about that, and a huge majority of The People agree with him. The Minority Party Will Be Heard -- and that's how it should be.

Finally, I think your contradictory sense of what hurts and helps betrays a motive other than the merits. You just can't be so verifiably wrong about so many things without having an irrational motivation. We, who don't want to be charged with playing the race card every week, call it "visceral" hatred of this President. Frankly, though, we're running out of other explanations for the kind of slanderous, loony hostility that he endures with stoicism and grace. I admire him for it.

S-P: the coolest head in the room was Obama's. He held the high cards and refused the GOP bluff. He won the hand, and counseled the crazies against bluffing again, for the country's sake. Go ahead and lick your wounds -- please -- and repair the deep dysfunction within your party. But please do not try to claim that you got anything good for the country about this disaster, or that it was the fault of the Prez -- there's nothing there, except a whole lot more 'nothing.'


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Three-Fingered Jack, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm

The number of "views" we see is entirely fabricated. I will momentarily press "replay" button on my computer ten times, thereby "creating" ten additional "views." I'll not comment on how many times this tends to be done by bloggers in order to create the illusion of readers.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Three-Fingered Jack, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Hey Tom, congratulations on having been read by 10 readers over the past 15 seconds or so. Yes, there's a really avid readership out there just busting a gut in anticipation of your pithy writings. Still, you remain a mere 300 views behind the perspicuous and perspicacious one, Tim Hunt. Oh, don't bother subtracting all those views that have popped up each time to check out your own site. Do you actually believe the stuff you write? LOL


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Thanks TFJ, for your contribution to my Views, even if your post doesn't say much about Your views.

To be fair, my esteemed colleague Mr. Hunt has a one-day head start on this edition, and I think I beat him out on the previous one -- but who's counting? ;-) By your reckoning, we both have a Long Way To Go to catch Madame Editor -- but then, she's got staff in the basement pressing "replay" all day long. So, feel free to invest your time hitting "replay" on my blog, just like so many other readers do. Who knows -- you might get me syndicated.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Three-Fingered Jack, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Right, Tom. Who's counting? LOL Didn't you mean to say 'just like so many other bloggers do?' You're not, right? Ha-ha. Work harder - click, click, click - and you may yet catch up to your esteemed colleague -- you know, the one with 500+ views but no comments. Maybe you and he will share a Pulitzer one day.

Write something which shows you actually have something to say and I'll be happy to comment. Re-hashed pap is not my thing.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm

You know, my daddy taught me long ago to listen to what folks say, but more importantly, to watch what they actually do. Now, TFJ, you've claimed disinterest in this blog, yet you took time out of your Sunday to make three comments about it. You've also refused to engage on any issue, beyond a sarcastic 'LOL' insight -- and yet you want us to believe that I"M the one with nothing to say?

Really, man -- it's tempting to add that you don't know Jack.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Three Fingered Jack, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:35 am

I confess to an amusement with the process and the kinds of egoistic display to which some individuals resort, and no less the denials that accompany them. You know, clickety-clickety. You're catching up to your esteemed colleague. A Pulitzer can not be far off.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

This was probably the climactic political fight of Obama's second term, and as usual, he wasn't there to fight it. It was all up to Harry Reid negotiating with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi delivering a unanimous Democratic caucus.

It was a big win for the Democrats, a big loss for Republicans and a big nothing for Obama.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:35 am

TFJ: again with the Pulitzer joke, and not much else? It is a very good thing that "rehash" is "not your thing."

And speaking of rehash, S-P, you owe royalties to one Mr. Bob Royfills of San Francisco, who wrote the following, yesterday morning in response to Maureen Dowd's column in the NYT:

" ... This was probably the climactic political fight of Obama's second term, and he wasn't there to fight it. It was all up to Harry Reid negotiating with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi delivering a unanimous Democratic caucus. It was a big win for the Democrats, a big loss for Republicans and a big nothing for for Obama."

Really, S-P -- word-for-word, except for omitting a typo? Not even a weblink to give credit where it's due? Well, here's one Web Link .


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Observant taxpayer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:05 am

I am no fan of the tea party, but before all this Obama had said several times, he wanted a shutdown, so Repubs would be blamed for an assortment of things he has ignored, messes he has made. Now he's trying loss of jobs....FIVE years worth!!! just won't fly. Nothing in DC ever happens overnight, those wheels just don't turn that fast....except a phone call from the OVAL Office, to stop anything VISABLE, starting with Republican pets, like WWII memorial, etc. The President's choice. Cruel and petty.

Last week the verbal bartering I kept hearing about was Obamacare income "verification"...to receive SUBSIDIES !!! Should have been written in Ms PELOSI's 2,700 pages of freebies. Subsidies go up to $94,000.oo incomes !!, Shouldn't 'verification' be demanded by all taxpayers, who will be picking up the tab for this grand giveaway, and passing costs on to our grandchildren!!!
Cruz FISCAL principles were accurate. Obamacare is an expensive nightmare. Cruz is 'politically' naïve, not down on the Rio Grande any longer. He should have ask, listened to, and obeyed party leaders. BIG mistake. He damaged the Republican party that he loves to trash. Except, this time the blowback is on him!! Tea party should never have attached itself to the Republican party, when they primarily just run AGAINST INCUMBENT Republicans. This would be a perfect time for them to start their own party, but that would require real courage.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for your comment, OT -- I'm afraid that the system reposted it several times, but that's been handled by the gnomes in the basement. They spend the rest of their time goosing the click count, so not much was lost.

I think there's a difference between wanting the shutdown, as in causing it, and being willing to endure it in an "okay, well, bring it on" kind of way. I do not think the Prez caused it or sought it, but I'm guessing our news sources are different. He did make it pretty clear from the outset that he wouldn't dignify it, having finally learned the lesson of "If you give a mouse a cookie." Frankly, I wish he'd shown that kind of resolve in his first term -- then this failed adventure might not have happened.

As to subsidies, I think they're available only up to $46K, not twice that number. Verification is a good thing -- we didn't need to shut down the government to achieve that. It was just a spare bone tossed to the TeaPers to give them SOMEthing was probably going to happen anyway.

I agree with you about Sen Cruz negative impact on, well, everything he touches. ObamaCare's costs have been subjected to a terrific level of demagoguery -- depending on where you look, you can find just about any number that suits your predilections. Per the non-partisan CBO, it's designed to be neutral, but probably won't make it. That said, the sky simply will.not.fall, as some will want you to believe in their most fevered partisan dreams. Your grandkids will benefit from it, and wonder about the dark ages of a country that didn't have such a system.

I think that whether the TeaPers stay or split from the GOP will be a fascinating process with much bloggable material. Either way, though, it's likely that they will split the votes that lean to the right, making it easier for Lefties to continue to get elected.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by TL Nelson, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Mr Cushing:
On your feedback to my comments:
(1) Regardless of the vote tally, the House of Representatives is still the voice of the people by definition. I will always question the validity of any election results in the country until we have a system in place to verify citizenship and identity of voters. How many people who voted for Democrat candidates were actually not citizens? We will never know.
(2) The President was not re-elected on any platform that included Obamacare or any other program past or future. His entire campaign was to unfairly demonize his opponent. Obamacare was never mentioned because he knew how unpopular it is with the people.
(3) Most people who support the Affordable Care Act have never read it (I have read it). The ACA hurts 95% of Americans in order to help 5%. There are simpler, market based ways to accomplish the same objectives without the harmful downsides of this law. Americans are opposed to this law because it effectively puts the government in charge of the health care industry, it limits freedom of choice by forcing people to purchase a product they neither need nor want, it dictates the type of insurance they can and cannot buy, and it was never properly funded. Do you really think the "rob Peter to pay Paul" funding scheme where most of the funding for Obamacare comes out of the Medicare program will actually work? The ACA is the absolute height of fiscal irresponsibility. Obama has lied to the American people about the fiscal impact of this law.

Finally, I am deeply offended by your thinly veiled attempt to call me a racist. As a person whose ancestors originally came from Africa and who has been in an interracial marriage for over 37 years, I am not a racist, but simply an American who strongly opposes Obama\'s political agenda.

I donated to Obama\'s primary campaign in 2007, but after reading his books, I became very concerned about Obama\'s true intentions. He lost my support almost immediately after taking office with the passage of the partisan 2009 stimulus package. He earned my steadfast opposition with when he ramrodded the ACA through a reluctant Congress against the wishes of the American people.

It is time to go back to square one on health care reform, scrap the Affordable Care Act and draft new legislation that has broad bi-partisan support.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I never claimed to have any original thoughts. I'm a tax lawyer for cripes sakes!! I lift opinions all the time. That's my M.O. If I read an opinion and it makes sense to me, it's mine. I'm not going to give credit to some nameless schmoe who happened to type his opinion in the comments section of the NYT's. I stole it. So what? It's not like it's some priceless platitude I'm putting on T-shirts to sell. That guy just happened to type something that made sense, so I reposted it, much like you might re-post something like, "the best things in life are furry." Who made that up? Not you. From now on, feel free to assume anything I write is stolen. Ha ha.

I added the bit about Obama not being there "as usual" with the hope that it might annoy you. I hope I was successful.

At least I get my facts right--unlike you. You say Obamacare is "cost neutral." You even cite the CBO. But here's a direct quote from CBO's website that says, "CBO and JCT's current projection of the budgetary impact of the ACA's coverage provisions is $1,363 billion over the 2014–2023 period."

Tom, $1.3 trillion is NOT cost neutral.

You say, "But Obamacare raises taxes on the rich to pay for itself." So what? The federal budget is short $1 trillion per year. Cuts will be made somewhere. Every tax dollar spent on Obamacare is a dollar that can't be spent on making Medicare solvent. Obama's budget calls for cutting Medicare and Social Security spending by $200 - $380 billion during the same period. Web Link

And you're way off about the Obamacare subsidies. You say, "As to subsidies, I think they're available only up to $46K." Wrong!! The subsidies are available for people earning up to $94,200 per year. Here's a link to the IRS website (See income limits on Question #6). Web Link

So, Obamacare imposes a special income tax on "the rich" who make over $200,000 per year (a.k.a. "millionaires and billionaires" in Obamaspeak), and gives that money to people making $94,200 per year to help them buy health insurance. Never mind that most people who make $200,000 per year live in high cost areas, like the Bay Area, where $200,000 isn't all that much. Meanwhile, millions of people who make $94,200 per year live in low cost areas, like Iowa or New Hampshire, where $94,200 is a decent living.



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