Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shutdown? It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The partial shutdown of the “non-essential” parts of the America’s Federal Government (and if they are truly non-essential then maybe they should be phased out completely) has flushed out a whole firestorm of misunderstanding about the constitutional safeguards originally put in place by the American Founding Fathers, some of it in evidence here over at Russell Brown's place.

The fact is, whatever gamesmanship the Republican Congressreptiles are playing in trading off the Budget over ObamaCare, the reason that there is a partial shutdown and these particular Congressreptiles have been granted the whip hand because of that is because a Budget can’t actually be passed as is where is—and a Budget can’t be passed as it where is because the US Government’s Debt Ceiling is about to breached yet again—and the US Government’s Debt Ceiling is about to be breached again because the US Government is overspending again—and the government  is overspending again and again and again because it has increasingly and dangerously and with malice aforethought taken upon itself the mantle of activist government. 

It has gone far, far past what any of the Founding Fathers would have considered the truly essential services of government.

Which is why, in fact, they put constitutional restraints on government in the first place--in word, in deed, and in the way the American Government is ordered. To constrain their government constitutionally, or try to, to doing only what their government was set up to do, i.e., to protect individual rights.  This was, in fact, one of their primary accomplishments.

The fact to grasp here is that the American constitutional trinity of legislature, executive and judiciary, which is what the Democrat Congressreptiles are whimpering is holding back their latest incursion of non-essential activism-in-government, was not set up to encourage activist government, but explicitly to make it more difficult.  As difficult as it was possible to make it.

Which, given the exponential growth of non-essential activist government in the US since its founding, was clearly not difficult enough. The fact remains however that the difficulties the overspenders now face was constituted intentionally, and with some serious and inspired forethought.

In other words: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

And the reason the Republican Congressreptiles can’t point that out themselves? Because they’re almost as bad at the activist overspending lark as their putative opponents.


  1. Yup. Good point. Those of us accustomed to the Westminster model can easily not get how the US system works & was designed to work, and why.

  2. Actually the problem is the US government was modelled on the UK circa 1780, and most other legislatures have moved on from there.

    The basic problem is that the constitution isn't strong enough about giving the power of the purse to the House. In the UK that was fixed early last century via the Parliament Act; in Oz, Tony Abbott is preparing to pull a double-dissolution trigger.

    Either via an amendment - or more likely through precedent (remember even judicial review is not in the US constitution, only there via precedent) - things need to change so that one way or another.

    The simplest option would be to make clear that:
    - the House is responsible for preparing the budget
    - the Senate cannot endlessly delay or amend a budget
    - a President who cannot sign a budget must resign

    This doesn't change the checks and balances - but it does reinforce the "power of the purse".

    In the current situation, Boehner & Ryan have a budget in surplus (which repeals Osamacare, defunds ACORN, and reduces funding on Medicaid & Social Security, so requires no more borrowing). That budget has passed the house, the Senate would be unable to delay or amend, and the President could choose between signing or resigning.


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