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Bogus Government Shutdown, Real Anti-Government Senility

| April 8, 2011

john beohner and barack obama

Faking it. (White House photo)

FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam’s weekly commentaries are broadcast on WNZF on Fridays just after 9 a.m. Here’s this week’s.

For weeks we’ve been hearing talk of a federal government shutdown if Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on a budget for the next 6 months. Two shutdowns took place 15 years ago, when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House and Bill Clinton was president. Toxic waste cleanup stopped at hundreds of sites, 368 national parks closed, all those offices that produce government data, like unemployment and inflation figures, the Census Bureau or the Commerce Department, stopped functioning. Even the IRS closed, at least the division that chugged out refund checks, and most of 3.5 million veterans couldn’t get checked up at VA hospitals.

A shut-down might be terrible for the economy and the convenience of millions of people, not to mention 800,000 federal workers who’d be temporarily laid off. A shut-down might also be a very good thing, if it were a real shutdown. After all the government-bashing of the last many years, inconvenience on a mass scale might just be the sort of corrective to millions of people who live in a parallel universe. I’m talking about people who vilify government but couldn’t live without it for a day, particularly the tea party types who spend half their time secreting bile at government while spending the other half taking advantage of Medicare, spending their Social Security check and enjoying a ripe old age made possible by safe water, safe food, clean air, and relatively safe streets. Senility isn’t just physiological. It’s political, too. We’re living its consequences: The budget follies these days are being driven by a minority of 87 new Republican House members, most of them elected on tea party platforms, who are holding Congress and the rest of the nation hostage to their double-faced fanaticism.

But all this talk of shutdown is also a misnomer. A government shut down should mean that government, all government, shuts down. That’s not actually what happened in 1995, or what would happen today at midnight if Republicans and Democrats don’t reach a deal. Every federal agency gets to decide who’s essential and who’s not essential, at least in the short term. For example, air traffic controllers, who are federal employees, would not stop working, which is too bad. In a real shut down, air traffic controllers would go home, airlines would be grounded, and many more millions of people would discover that something as basic as flying from Jacksonville to Atlanta would be impossible without government.

Federal prisons would not shut down. Prisoners would still be fed, guarded, locked up and executed. The FBI would continue to snoop on your Internet activity, the CIA would continue to bungle every spying operation it lays its hands on, and for some strange reason, Social Security checks would keep going to millions of beneficiaries, because Washington discovered in 1995 that too many people were upset when they stopped receiving them during the first shutdown. The post office would continue to deliver mail, and food stamps would still be issued.

And, of course, military operations on four fronts—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and that continuing burlesque called the war on terror—would continue, because there’s nothing more essential to American identity and deficit-feeding than fighting unwinnable wars on as many fronts as possible to bankrupt us as quickly as possible so we can find ourselves fighting back home over government shut-downs compelled by those very deficits. Political senility is indeed the new quintessential American disease.

If 1995 is any guide, even some of the nation’s great attractions, like the Grand Canyon, will remain open because states jump in with their own money to keep them going, thus hiding the true effects of the federal government’s absence. So there is no such thing as a shutdown. And from the looks of it, there won’t even be a partial shutdown, because Democrats and Republicans aren’t really in disagreement over dollar figures. Barely a few billion dollars separate them in a budget of $3.5 trillion. They’re haggling over ideological bumper-sticker issues like whether Planned Parenthood should get a few million dollars. They’re playing a game of chicken over chickenfeed. They’ll resolve it all after plenty of theatrics, which is what this has been about all along, and the bashers will go back to bashing the government they can’t live without, knowing very well that a true shutdown would have hurt them where they live, literally, and shut them up.

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37 Responses for “Bogus Government Shutdown, Real Anti-Government Senility”

  1. Outsider says:

    Fascinating article, considering you don’t even mention WHY the government is on the verge of a shutdown. It is because the Democrats, who controlled all three branches of government LAST YEAR never completed their constitutionally required duty to create a budget. Just as the Dems ran away from their posts in Wisconsin, they ran away from THEMSELVES in 2010 because they didn’t want to deal with the consequences of what certainly would have been a pork-laden, bloated, deficit-creating monster on election day. They wanted someone to blame it on, so they simply didn’t do their jobs. What they really did was admit to themselves that whatever they came up with, the majority of the country would disapprove, tacitly admitting that they know they don’t represent America.

  2. slyfox says:

    Very interesting article! So much drams in politics, it’s like a REALLY bad soap opera. So much drama, I can’t even stand to watch the news anymore. But, at the end of the day, it will be saved & things will continue to go on…one way or the other. It’s all just so exhausting….

  3. William says:

    Outsider, you’re living in a dream world. Bloated, deficit creating monster? One of your heroes, Raygun, tripled the national debt. Then Dumbya doubled it again. Yet you insist on projecting fiscal irresponsibility on the dims. If you truly believe the horseshit you’re spewing, then you are one of the stupidest people on the planet.

  4. lawabidingcitizen says:

    … many more millions of people would discover that something as basic as flying from Jacksonville to Atlanta would be impossible without government.

    Correction: many more people would discover that government is the problem, not the solution.

    We don’t need the government to run an airlines or airports anymore than we need it to run anything else in our lives.

    This is the perfect time to outlaw all public service unions. That alone would go very far in cleaning up our economy.

    Medicare and Social Security were foisted on us by lefties. Instead of allowing us to plan for our own retirement and health care insurance, the government outlawed private insurance for those over 65 and confiscated wages from every American worker to pay for these bloated bureaucratic blackholes.

    We didn’t want them then and we still don’t want them. Unfortunately undoing them will be much harder than doing them.

    Planned Parenthood is nothing but a cash cow money making machine trading dead babies for cash. Only the lunatic left could equate killing unborn babies with women’s “health.”

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      lawabiding you’d be great fun to debate with if on occasion what you said had at least a vague attachment to evidence instead of the day’s ideological talking points. Medicare and Social Security foisted on us by lefties: ah, how I miss those days in 1965 and 1935 when the United States of Marxism was all the rage. Just for fun, here are the roll call votes of the Senate’s 68-21 vote passing medicare in July 1965 (the House passed it 313-115) and the Senate’s roll call vote for Social Security in June 1935 (76-6 for in the Senate, 372-33 in the House), as reported in that Commie rag of course, The Times. And yes, of course, public service unions are the reason we’re in the mess we’re in–not banks, not deregulation, not the last 30 years’ culture of tax-cut-plunder-and-borrow, not those splendid little wars that have cost us $1.2 trillion in the last nine years and counting–oh, no. None of that. It’s the unions. Of course it’s the fucking unions. What were we thinking? It’s not cool to go after Jews and blacks anymore as scapegoats for all that ails us. Arabs or Muslims and gays are still fair game in a pinch, but there’s not enough of them. So who best to go after but unions? Outlawing them is too kind. Let’s have them shot and bill their family for the bullets, so as not to add to the deficit. Imagine the Social Security and Medicare savings with them out of the way, not to mention all those babies they’d have aborted if they were left to their vile devices, union members being naturally more depraved than, say, pedophile priests and our own American nobility–the white-collar criminal with the Warren Buffets and Jack Welches and Michael Milkens of the world as heroes. We could start with the Air Traffic Controllers’ union. Oh no, wait: Reagan busted those right out of the gate in 1981, his little Fort Sumter that carries on to this day with good foot soldiers like you. I’d feel all red white and blue reading you if it weren’t leaving me so black and blue.

  5. Dorothea says:

    lawabidingcitizen, I don’t know who the “we” is in your comment. So speak for yourself, not an imaginery “we.”

    Planned Parenthood does NOT use government money to fund abortions. PP provides women with birth control in order to avoid unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions. They also provide medical screening for cancer and other medical tests to provide medical wellness for women. I see you are still part of the lunatic and uninformed right.

  6. William says:

    “We must close Union offices, confiscate their money, and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce worker’s salaries, and take away their right to strike.”

    Adolph Hitler
    2 May, 1933

  7. notasenior says:

    Let me see if I got this right – 65% of all Teabagger/Republican budget cuts are aimed at the poor, they want to stop funding NPR at $5million but defeated a bill to cut NASCAR sponsorship of $29million, and they would rather shutdown the government at a cost of almost $8billion per week rather than give $60million to Planned Parenthood. I hope people are paying attention!
    For all you union bashers – a CEO, a worker, and a union rep were all in a room together. The secretary brought in a dozen cookies and the CEO took 11 cookies and said to the worker, “Careful, that union rep is going to try and take 1/2 your cookie.”

  8. Yes they do says:


    Go to PP’s site. They even say they provide abortions at some of their clinics. They do say they receive government money. Put two and two together.

  9. Liz McLaughlin says:

    OMG Pierre! I am a fan for life!

  10. Rob says:

    This is like big time “wrasling”.

    The big show is for the benefit of the audience I mean citizens.

    The two sides push, tug, and make pompous speeches demeaning one and other.

    When it is all over they go out and have a drink or dinner together.

  11. William says:

    Facts that are never discussed….

    Planned Parenthood was a creation of the Nixon administration, with the support of Representative George Herbert Walker Bush. Rumor has it that they were conservatives, before conservatism was defined as batshit crazy.

  12. pennyfraser says:

    My dad told me about “Penny Health Insurance” or something which helped him to find a lower priced health insurance (with ALMOST similar benefits) he is recommending this to me. Any suggestion? What do you think of them?

  13. Dorothea says:

    @ yes they do, Planned Parenthood does not comingle government funding with their abortion services monies. The Hyde Amendment, passed in the 1970s, prohibits government funding of abortions. Your adding of 2 +2 is like adding 2 apples and 2 oranges and going 4 bananas over something you obviously know little about.

  14. DLF says:

    We won, reduced spending great job by the new comers to Washington. Some times you win and some times you loose, you tell me which one this line of BS is.

  15. Kyle Russell says:

    The sad thing is that “only” cutting ~$35 billion is considered a victory. There are still 13.5 million unemployed ( What happened to the Republican big talk about creating jobs?

  16. Outsider says:

    William: Did the Democrats have the ability and obligation to create and pass a budget last year? Did they do it? Could they not have passed a budget with ten billion dollars in it for Planned Parenthood? Now, without any name-calling, explain to me how their failure to create one is “bullshit,” and my statement is evidence of me being stupid. Anyone??? Beuller???

  17. William says:

    “Planned Parenthood receives about a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($349.6 million in the 2008 fiscal year).”

    Haven’t looked at the numbers for the current budget, but $10 billion? Really? On what planet?

    And by the way, one of the big reasons the deficit looms large is that Obummer had the balls to include the costs of AfPak/Iraq in the budget, something Chimpy McCokespoon hid from the public. Compare the cost of all the ordnance we just lobbed into Libya against the funding needs of social programs. It makes absolutely no sense to fix a leaky faucet and ignoring the broken pipe.

    Shows quite clearly where our country’s priorities lie, when we spend trillions killing people all over the planet, and are willing to sacrifice a few million (both in dollar amounts and human toll) to help pay for it all.

    Excuse me, have to go puke now…..

  18. Dorothea says:

    Outsider, I’ll explain to you why there was no 2010 budget passed in Congress. When the budget bill went to the Senate, after it passed in the House, the Republicans filibustered the budget billt. The Senate could not get 60 votes to override the filibuster.

  19. Outsider says:

    But the Dems had the votes to overcome a filibuster; I guess even some Dems couldn’t stomach it.

  20. Kyle Russell says:

    Have you ever heard of a Blue Dog Democrat? Unlike Republicans, the Democrats actually represent a broad range of the political spectrum.

  21. William says:

    In the event that anyone still has illusions about who really runs the country there’s this:

    “Banks are off the hook again”

    Isn’t it long past time that we stop bickering amongst ourselves over pennies, when we are being forcibly gang-raped for everything we own?

  22. BW says:

    What is becoming very apparent in the political field is the real (and extensive) damage this ridiculous attitude of “my way or the highway” and the clear lines of division. Compromise has become lost amongst the firm stance one side or the other being able to say they were “right”. It’s become a joke and truly absurd.

    Both sides on their own are worthless, BUT both sides working together respectful and open to opposing views is what has made our country great. The Tea Party to me is the personification of the worst of society. Their closed-mindedness, futile scare-tactic propaganda, and truly radical ideas are extremely misguided and dangerous. Those following seriously are allowing themselves to be used as pawns and need to wake up in my opinion. The constant spewing of the same tired out lines of “liberal” this or that with the arrogance that they hold all the answers is a joke. The question always comes back to simply asking where were they when all of these problems were culminating over the years? It was on their watch that government practices got to the point they are today, and they sat back and did nothing until they lost an election with two of the worst candidates they could have ever put forth.

    One thing I will say is that I was somewhat impressed with Rand Paul during the news interviews. I typically have not agreed with much of what he (or his father) have ever said. But as a freshman in front of the cameras at a very difficult point, I thought he did very well especially compared many other seasoned politicians. I didn’t however agree at his seemingly whining over his proposal not being accepted as the plan to go with. It’s about compromise, Rand and all the tea people.

  23. Outsider says:

    Yes Kyle, I have; however, I lost all respect for them when they allowed themselves to be bribed into voting for Obamacare. BW, you don’t even recognize the contradiction in your own words; you want everyone to come together and agree at the same time you refer to one side as “the worst of society.” The tea party folks, whom I strongly agree with and would happily sign on the dotted line of the membership application, simply recognize that if a few hundred billion dollar deficit is bad, then multi-trillion dollar deficits are catastrophic. Not only does his brilliance in the White House not understand that, he is burning the candle of our destruction at both ends by creating humongous deficits while destroying the dollar’s position as the world reserve currency, which actually enables us to finance MODEST deficits. The Tea Party followers don’t need to wake up; they already recognize the danger in borrowing more than you can ever hope of paying back. Of course, you did qualify your statement with “in my opinion.”

  24. Kyle Russell says:

    Outsider, you understand that the deficit under Obama is mostly caused by the fall in revenues, yes? It’s called countercyclical fiscal policy for a reason. Oh, and as for your comment on “Obamacare”:

  25. Outsider says:

    Yes, whick makes it all the more bewildering to start a massive government program at the current time. In light of the fact we’re broke, it might make more sense to call it “counter-intuitive” fiscal policy.

  26. Kyle Russell says:

    But we’re not broke. Short term interest rates are up against the zero lower bound – meaning that investors have so much faith in our bonds that they’ve driven prices up, and therefore yields have gone down. Compared to historic rates, the government is practically borrowing for free (actually, it’s making a profit, because real rates are occasionally going negative). It’s times like now that you WANT a deficit.

  27. William says:

    Here are some of Matt Taibbi’s thoughts on Paul Ryan’s “counter-intuitive” fiscal policy:

  28. Outsider says:

    Ohhhhhhh, I get it; borrow as much as you can while the rates are low, and then, pay it BACK when rates go up! Awesome! But, wait a minute; Obama is promising trillion plus dollar deficits far into the future, so doesn’t that mean we’ll be borrowing at those higher rates???? I’m so confused. Where does it all end?

  29. Kyle Russell says:

    That’s why stimulative efforts should include policies that balance budgets in the medium-term, i.e. through PAYGO, where Congress pays for the current stimulus by building future tax increases and spending cuts into the bills. And I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the debt system works. Any money we borrow now, we pay off at the low interest rates. If we build in the budget balancers, when rates go up we’ll be borrowing less anyways.

  30. Sherrrrry says:


    I must say I’m quite happy to see educated, intelligent comments coming from what has often before been the inexplicably silent majority. May I respectfully request that “notasenior”, “Pierre Tristam”, “William”, “Dorothea”, “Kyle Russell” and “BW” also put your fantastic energy and support into such organizations as and, as well as making your will known to your representatives at all levels of government. Thank you so much for injecting actual factual information, reason and truth into this debate.

  31. Outsider says:

    Yes Kyle, I understand that, but if, as Obama promises, we have trillion plus dollar deficits for the foreseeable future, then won’t we have to borrow, at the coming higher rates to pay for those promised budget shortfalls? And when will we ever pay back the prinicipal, regardless of the rate of interest paid on it? I don’t see anything in Obama’s plans to pay this money back. All I see is an ever increasing amount of money being paid to service the debt. Can that go on forever, kind of like everyone thought the housing prices would increase indefinitely?

  32. Kyle Russell says:

    Theoretically, it CAN go on forever. What matters isn’t the nominal size of the debt, it’s the size of the debt in relation to GDP. For instance, take a look at this:

    If we can keep the economy growing as fast as or faster than the debt, there is no debt problem.

  33. Outsider says:

    Not very likely, since we have anemic growth and the prospect for robust growth is limited. QE2 is basically a last ditch effort to get the economy moving, as traditional monetary policy (low interest rates) has had little effect. Frankly, I’d rather have a plan that reduces spending and the debt; inflating the dollar is not a real solution.

  34. Kyle Russell says:

    Actually, there is evidence that QE2 has been effective:

    Plus, deflating the dollar would reduce the real value of the debt while increasing exports. Win-win in the short-term.

  35. Outsider says:

    When it comes to the future of my country, I prefer to think LONG term. Sure, the value of the debt would be reduced, but so would the value of the investment of those who bought it. This would obviously lead to a cessation of the purchase of our debt, and ultimately a new world reserve currency. Regardless, all this bogus manipulation of our monetary system is hocus-pocus that doesn’t deal with the real issue: we have to have sound fiscal policy and tax policy that encourages American businesses to invest in America, and restores the world’s confidence in the dollar as a stable investment. The answer is quite simple; we simply roll back spending to 2007 levels, and slow the rate of growth of entitlements. Rand Paul has a plan that would balance the budget in 5 years, but when many Dems scream bloody murder over a few billion dollars in cuts, nothing will happen until they’re thrown out.

  36. Kyle Russell says:

    If Congress simply let current law go into effect without doing anything to increase the deficit, there would be no deficit in 8 years:

    So, think about the short-term, while letting the reforms of ACA deal with the long term. There’s no need to drastically cut back on benefits to the poor, Pell Grants, or anything else Republicans are proposing.

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