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This time the advantage would be with the Republicans — one would think.
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As of March 2010, nearly one-third of Recovery Act projects were facing cost or schedule difficulties or both — despite DOE’s efforts to choose low-risk, straightforward, shovel-ready projects for funding and to increase oversight — and overall spending was somewhat slower than expected.… Officials attributed these difficulties to technical, regulatory, safety, and contracting problems — some of the same issues that have challenged DOE’s project management in the past.
With evidence like this — which Americans understand is the rule rather than the exception — it’s hard to see Democrats offering a compelling reason for us to fear a temporary shutdown of the federal government. Indeed, a shutdown could be just what the economic doctor ordered, offering bureaucrats and Democrat politicians that many fewer hours to commit generational theft in the interest of spreading the wealth around or fundamentally transforming the nation, two of Obama’s most notorious stated goals.
A shutdown showdown would be led by likely Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), a very different character from Newt Gingrich. Although Gingrich was and remains a man of big ideas, his political style was coarse and aggressive, whereas Boehner is more polished and more willing to “play the game”; Speaker Gingrich was easier to demonize than the relatively soft-spoken Representative from southwestern Ohio will be. Given Boehner’s lack of name recognition, Barack Obama’s going out of his way to attack him a speech in Boehner’s home state several weeks ago seemed like another rookie mistake by the Spirit-of-Saul-Alinsky-guided president, boosting the notoriety and perceived gravitas of his primary legislative rival.
If we do get to a shutdown showdown, what will be talked about — in stark contrast to 1995 — is how government is bankrupting our futures in a Quixotic pursuit of disproven Keynesian faith-based economics. Even the average inattentive American does or will see how Obama’s economic policies are little more than an excuse to grow the size and scope of government. (A remarkable Rasmussen Reports survey last month showed that 67% of the “political class” believe the country is on the right track whereas 84% of “mainstream Americans” disagree.)
A Republican decision to force a shutdown will ultimately be an extremely difficult question of perceived tactical advantage. Will Republicans try to accept responsibility for a shutdown, calling it a pro-active step to curb the cost and intrusiveness of government? If so, they put themselves at risk of “being demagogued” with ads showing Grandma Mabel not receiving her Social Security check on time and being driven to the ICU in an ambulance because she couldn’t afford her blood pressure medicine.
Republicans must blame the showdown on Obama and Pelosi, but they’ll need to be clever to make that responsibility stick to the Democrats in the eyes of the public. The GOP will want to try to shut down government in a way that doesn’t stop Grandma Mabel’s check and emphasizes how much money is being saved with every day the Nanny State takes a furlough day. While that may be theoretically possible, it will not only require near-unanimity among the Republican caucus (more likely than usual but still not something to rely on) but might need a GOP majority Senate to pass a bill funding only those parts of government that should not and must not stop operating for both “real” and political reasons.
The Democrats will do everything they can to make the shutdown look like a heartless attack on average (and hoping-to-be-average Americans). I’d also bet lunch that they will try to characterize the shutdown as somehow increasing the risk to American soldiers in Afghanistan. Indeed, Pelosi would like intentionally stop Grandma’s check and the shipment of some body armor to Kandahar simply to score political points.
In addition to these tactical considerations, any shutdown brought on by the GOP must be done with a well-articulated goal. It can’t be just “we’re going to gum up the works for a few weeks to save a few million [or even a few billion] dollars.” Instead, they’ll have to show the shutdown as a necessary ingredient in a bigger recipe for good, or at least better, government, and hope the broth isn’t already too bitter for the American public to swallow.
The value of a successfully orchestrated shutdown could be as big as any political shift in this nation’s modern history, showing “moderates” of both political parties that they will have the support of the voters if they stand up for limited, low-cost government. It could be a stake through the heart of the Keynesian “economics,” which is little more than an excuse to grow government or, to mix metaphors, a critical nail in the coffin of Progressivism, a coffin that in the past has never been nailed shut tightly enough to keep that mindless zombie from re-emerging.
Dick Armey’s words remain true that a Republican Congress, rather than a Democrat president, will be at least initially assumed responsible if there is a shutdown of the federal government. Unlike 1995, however, when that responsibility took the form of blame, in 2011 Republicans could be taking credit — or at least assigning blame — unless they mismanage the message, something Republicans have shown themselves particularly capable of doing.
If I were a betting man (and I am) I’d wager that a time will come when a shutdown, or at least a showdown over one, would have political advantage for the GOP and long-term benefit for the nation. But I’d bet more that the Republicans won’t have the courage to do it. It’s a bet I’d hope to lose.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?