Crisis is Over, Forgive, Forget, and Don’t Repeat

White House spokesman Jay Carney said there were no winners in the shutdown feud.  That’s true from my point of view as well.  Oh, there is relief that it’s over but there’s also amazement that it lasted so long.  You almost feel grateful until you realize it’s like being happy that some mugger didn’t kill you.  

The President and John Boehner have said there are no hard feelings, and I’m sure they mean it.  Now that it’s over, I’m willing to forgive and forget too–I’ll forgive the politicians but I won’t forgive the shady PACs with their dark money.  I see them as the enemy at the gate.  

That’s why somewhere along the way it occurred to me that if I could do something to help, I should.  In the process, I took the chance of looking like the blogger with imaginary visitors.  If you had any idea how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to avoid that kind of situation, you’d know how worried I was about the default.  I really resent those who forced that fear on me and on the world.  

By the way, the idea that I could do something began with that article about the stock of a certain company.  When I wrote it, I was under the impression that I didn’t have enough visitors to influence a stock price.  Coincidence maybe… 

Anyway, now that the crisis is over it might feel like we’ve avoided a horrible fate when in reality we’ve spent two weeks dreading an economic collapse, worrying our friends and creditors and wasting time that we could have spent talking about something else.  We didn’t really avoid it at all.  We lived through everything but the actual default.   

President Obama has said the new bill would insure the government no longer operates in crisis mode.  If anything would make the last two weeks worthwhile, it would be that.   Congratulations to the President and all those who kept a cool head.  

 

 

It’s Time for an Executive Order

According to the Daily Kos, Fitch just put the U.S. on a downgrade watch. [ref name=”Fitch puts U.S. on Downgrade watch”]Clawson, Laura, Fitch puts U.S. on downgrade watch, Oct. 15, 2013. Available: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/15/1247581/-Fitch-Ratings-puts-U-S-on-downgrade-watch [/ref] That’s it. They have already waited too long. It’s time for the President to issue an executive order to avoid default, and I’m not the first to suggest it.

The House still has to vote on their new bill, and then the Senate. This won’t do. We have to seriously consider that this Republican faction intends to take us down.

The Republicans Really Are that Crazy

If it is true that the conversation about healthcare has focused too much on who pays for it, it’s also true that American business is right to be concerned. Healthcare legislation affects employers. However, the conversation gets messy when the recipients of healthcare dollars weigh in on the same side as industry and business. This has happened through campaign contributions. For example, insurance companies are among the top ten contributors to Republicans fighting Affordable Care, even though the same politicians have gladly accepted donations from business and industry. This conflict of interest was demonstrated when business lobbies failed to bring an end to the government shutdown. In fact, the Republicans have obviously chosen to turn against the country as a whole.

Because of the disconnection between the PACs and think tanks, and the voters’ ability to punish them, the threat of default is real. If you seriously considered the employee walkout I recommended yesterday, it looks like the mere threat would not have been enough to stop it anyway, and Thursday would have been too late. An employee walkout would have to begin immediately to make a difference. Again, employers who fire employees as a result would have to be boycotted. I leave it up to you.

If we survive this manufactured crisis, there is still a lot to talk about concerning healthcare. Consider the work Public Citizen is doing on a single-payer plan. This plan doesn’t involve a fight to repeal Affordable Care. States can already create their own healthcare system under the ACA.[ref name=”Single Payer Movement”]Sterrett, Dave. Public Citizen Reignites Single-payer Movement. Public Citizen News. September/October 2013. Available: http://www.citizen.org/pc_news_issues/2013/current/files/assets/basic-html/page1.html[/ref]

Will Business Leaders Take This Lying Down?

I have recommended that taxpayers cut off discretionary spending as a response to the government shutdown and looming default.  However in the last week there has been little Congressional response to the lobbying efforts of business groups.  There is a simple explanation for that: the shutdown is fueled by ideology rather than political and economic expediency.  It has come to the point where a radical group of Republicans feels free to ignore the money interests that helped get them elected.   Unfortunately, they are still listening to the biggest of these money interests, think tanks and PACS which are run by people who don’t have to worry about votes or balance sheets. 

Take, for example, Ted Cruz.  He would not be a Senator today without the help of The Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.  Together, in the 2014 cycle, they gave him $1,021,648.  This is more than 55 percent of his total contributions.  His other top contributors are banks, lobbying firms, and of course Goldman Sachs.  You might expect Goldman’s input since his wife is a vice-president there, but the bank shows up as a contributor to other radicals as well.  Cruz wants to wipe out Affordable Care.  What he doesn’t say is that it won’t affect him either way; he has health insurance from Goldman Sachs through his wife.  Then there is the other disturbing contributor that keeps coming up when you look at the finances of Cruz and others in this radical group, Berkshire Hathaway.  

Before I get to the main point of this post, I would like to point out the irony of this situation.  Business has always thought it had an alliance with the Republican Party, and against the rest of us. That is, against employees.  Consumers they like.  They didn’t seem to object when women were being called sluts, maybe because they sort of liked the idea of not having to pay for employees’ birth control.  And of course, they’ve always been fine with holding down the minimum wage.  A weak labor union is a good labor union.  Affordable care?  Not if it means they have to pay.  And yet it never occurred to them that the stingy, mean, unjust spirit behind this thinking would turn on them.  What did they think would happen?

On second thought, my main point might backfire.  I was going to suggest that business use its clout to end this, but who would they be most likely to help?  We already know the answer to that question.

If the Congress hasn’t resolved this by Thursday I recommend the following: no one goes to work, no one drives, we buy only necessary food items. Employers who fire anyone at that time for any reason should be boycotted.  

[I don’t have positions in Goldman Sachs (GS-PC) or Bershire Hathaway (BRK-A).] 

Update:

I’ve been thinking about my recommendation.  I don’t think it was too extreme considering the seriousness of the threat, but because  I wouldn’t be risking as much as many of you I’ve decided it’s not a good idea.  Things seem to be looking up so it may never have come to that, but at least I can remove the stress of thinking about it.  

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

Forget About Saving Face: Open the Government and Extend the Debt Limit

After reading Eric Alterman’s article in The Nation, [ref name=”Saving Face: Falsely Balanced Accoutability is the New False Equivalence”]Alterman, Eric, Saving Face: Falsely Balanced Accoutability is the New False Equivalence. The Nation Magazine. October 11, 2013. Available: Saving Face: Falsely Balanced Accoutability is the New False Equivalence[/ref]I think I’ve been influenced by those calling for face-saving gestures from the Democrats.  Such gestures are necessary, they say, so the Republicans will let the government carry on its routine business.  

In any relationship, face-saving politeness is cause for concern–both for those who find themselves being excessively polite, as well as for those on the receiving end of the politeness.   Politeness toward those responsible for the government shutdown begins to look like the behavior reserved for an abusive spouse.  It’s based on fear.

If we want to discuss negative tendencies in government, we’d eventually have to include both parties.  However, theoretically, the government is us. Fear has no useful purpose in it. Still, it is increasingly difficult to police the government, mostly due to the role of corporate money.  And corporate money favors the Republican Party.  You would think they would be more worried when even large amounts of money are not enough, and hostage-taking becomes necessary.  

But let’s assume for a moment that the Republicans have a point when they say the President won’t negotiate with them any other way.  Ignoring the fact that Affordable Care is the law the next questions ought to be, do Republicans have a better answer to the medical crisis, and do they really care whether the poor have healthcare?  Apparently not, judging from their rhetoric and previous legislation.  

Alterman is right…we should forget about the face-saving.  New memo to the Republicans: Open the government and extend the debt limit.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

Memo to the House: Extend the Debt Limit and Open the Government

Recently, there are hopeful signs that retailers and manufacturers are pressuring Congress to end the impasse over the spending limit. [ref name=”NRF calls for Immediate End to Government Shutdown”]NRF”]NRF Call for Immediate End to Government Shutdown. October 9, 2013. Available: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/nrf-calls-immediate-end-government-160000729.html;_ylt=A2KJjagM3lZSjWoAC9zQtDMD[/ref]  [ref name=”GOP Lobbyist: Business Needs to ‘Step Up’ Against the Tea Party”]Fang, Lee, GOP Lobbyist: Business Needs to ‘Step Up’ Against the Tea Party, The Nation Magazine. October 9, 2013. Available: http://www.thenation.com/blog/176578/gop-lobbyist-business-needs-step-against-tea-party[/ref] Of course if the taxpayer walkout suggested by [intlink id=”1305″ type=”post”]General Honoré[/intlink] had anything to do with it, we’ll never hear it from John Boehner.  Sadly, we have yet to see evidence of his good intentions.  

According to an Associated Press article, [ref name=”House GOP leaders seek short-term debt extension”]Associated Press. House GOP leaders seek short-term debt extension. October 10, 2013. Available: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/10/house-gop-leaders-seek-short-term-debt-extension.html[/ref]  Boehner is offering to increase the debt limit, but only through November 22.  In addition, he intends to hold on to the bargaining chip of the government shutdown, meaning that the decision to reopen the government will remain in the hands of a few rogue politicians and we will go through this again before the end of the year.  

To be fair, the bit about the default came at the end of my last article. Depending on one’s level of cynicism, that post could be interpreted as a plea to avoid a default on the debt, never mind the government shutdown.  Obviously, nothing can be left to chance.  

I agree with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew who stated that the United States should not be put in this position.  He was referring to the Republicans’ determination to hinge their spending bill on deficit reduction and cuts in government programs.  Lew also objected to the attempts by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and other GOP senators to extend the debt limit for the shortest period they can get away with.  

“Our view is this economy would benefit from more certainty and less brinksmanship.  So the longer the period of time (for the debt extention) is, the better for the economy.”

In my opinion the Republicans’ proposals are doubly unacceptable because of the time constraint.  The House is not scheduled to pass this bill until Friday.  That pushes a resolution into next week, assuming the Senate approves the bill.  They should be made aware that if they continue to work on a bill that merely postpones this train wreck until a later time, they are wasting precious time. 

The outlines of a reasonable agreement are there:  Obama is willing to sign a short-term increase so that Boehner has more time to work with the Tea Party faction.  That would head off a default.  Even Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. has dropped his demands on ‘Obamacare’ and would extend the borrowing cap for four to six seeks to allow talks on a budget deal. Then, as Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. said, “We need to reopen the government and pay the nation’s bills, no strings attached.”  

I’m aware that when taxpayers forego discretionary spending it is a hardship on retailers and manufacturers, but the Republicans in the House, the Democrats in the Senate, and President Obama know how to remedy that. Our walk out should continue until Congress passes an acceptable bill as described above.  

When the crisis has passed, we should make changes in procedure to assure this can never happen again. [ref name=”How to Solve the Debt Ceiling Crisis Forever”]Green, Joshua. How to Solve the Debt Ceiling Crisis Forever. Businessweek. October 7, 2013. Available: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-07/how-to-solve-the-debt-ceiling-crisis-forever[/ref]

 

End the Government Shutdown: Fight Fire with Fire

In the government shutdown saga, righteous indignation is appropriate. However, it is also futile.  Some people out there think the extortionists in the Republican Party are making sense. To make matters worse, it’s not clear whose side John Boehner is on.

One of the weirdest parts of this drama is the refusal of the Speaker of the House to call a vote. Some say he could pass an emergency spending bill if he would only allow it to come to a vote.  He claims it wouldn’t work.

Recently I asked Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, U.S. Army, Retired, [ref name=”generalhonore.com”]Generalhonore.com[/ref] if there is some way to force a vote on a spending bill. In retrospect, his answer was painfully obvious: fight extortion with extortion.

General Honoré suggested that taxpayers do a walk out. Stop buying cars, TVs, clothing. Buy only essential food. Stay home and read to your kids. Those in charge ought to get the message…after four or five days.

Extreme maybe, but the stakes are high. They now include a default on U.S. debt.  It’s time to call their bluff and teach the Tea Party who’s boss.