Tuesday, 8 October 2013

It’s what’s *not* shut down that really matters

Robert Tracinksi has both good news, bad news and laughable news about the US government “shutdown.”

The good news is that the US government has shut down.  The laughable news is that most of the “shutdowns” are absurd: “closing” the Grand Canyon for example (“Now there's a statement of the warped metaphysics of “shutdown theatre”: the conceit that even the existence of nature is dependent on federal funding. Without it, the Grand Canyon will close up”); or hiring federal workers to erect barriers around monuments that require no federal workers to remain open.

Bill Clinton long ago perfected [this] art of "shutdown theatre," also known as the Washington Monument Strategy, in which a government shutdown is designed to hit the tourists first—for example, by shutting down the Washington Monument—in order to maximize its visible impact and stampede the public into demanding that House Republicans surrender.
    This time, history is repeating itself as farce, with the Obama administration ordering the "shutdown" of public facilities where there is nothing to shut down. Shutdown theatre has become shutdown theatre of the absurd…

It’s like the an amateur conjurer’s trick, waving his right about to attract your attention while his left hand is picking your pocket. Because

    this shutdown theatre is all just a colourful distraction from the real issue: the fact that the overwhelming majority of government is not shut down by the shutdown.

That’s the bad news.

By [one] calculation, at most 13% of government spending is affected by the "shutdown."

But you want to hear something worse?

The vast majority of that remaining 87% of government spending that can’t be shut down is not spending on core government services; the overwhelming majority—around eighty cents in every dollar of regular spending, is simply “a transfer from taxpayer to recipient.” And these “entitlement transfers” happen whether Congress approves them or not.

In other words, what the non-shutdown has exposed (as of you weren’t sure of it already)  is that modern government is no longer an agency whose job it is to protect your individual rights. Modern government is a beast whose primary job is income redistribution.

This sheds light on the specific issue behind the current shutdown. House Republicans refused to pass a funding bill unless it included a delay in the implementation of ObamaCare. That explains why Democrats are willing to let government get shut down. If they refuse the Republican bill, funding for ObamaCare goes ahead anyway, because it's part of the permanent welfare state that keeps going on autopilot…

Maybe you just call that ironic news. It would surely not impress the framers of America’s constitution, who

required that revenue bills originate in the House, [intending] to keep taxes and spending under control by making them dependent on annual approval by the branch of government that was most dependent on popular support.
    What we are seeing right now is that the vast mechanism of the welfare state has been constructed outside of this process… What this implies is that the size and scope of government is now largely on autopilot and is not actually affected by regular congressional votes.
    So all of the current conflict over whether Congress will pass a budget or a funding resolution masks the fact that Congress and its budget have been made largely irrelevant to the question of the size and power of government. That is the real absurdity behind the shutdown theatre of the absurd.

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