The Government Shutdown
Friday, October 4, 2013

    Two thought-provoking articles regarding the current government shutdown are: What does the tea party want from shutdown?, by Rex Nutting, and Shutdown poses same threat as Whiskey Rebellion by Darrell Delamaide. In Mr. Nutting's article, he observes how successful the tea party minority within the Republican Party has been in moving President Obama to the right. In his pre-political career, President Obama was a mediator, a compromiser. The doyens within the Republican Party saw this as a weakness, a way to carrot-and-stick President Obama to accept policies that were farther and farther to the right. For example, the emphasis on deficit reduction led President Obama to accept budget cuts that have slowed the economy and now are threatening to reverse the recovery. (It would be advantageous to the party out of power to sabotage the economy to discredit the party in power... not that they would ever do such a thing, of course.) The tea partiers have learned to keep moving the goal posts, says Mr. Nutting.
    Mr. Delamaide's article likens the current situation to the 1797 whiskey rebellion in which farming communities in western Pennsylvania tested the resolve of the new federal government by defying a tax on whiskey. President Washington confronted the western Pennsylvanians with an army of 13,000 soldiers. Thus challenged, the rebellion melted away without incident. Mr. Delamaide's point is that Obamacare has been confirmed as the law of the land after surviving a Supreme Court challenge, that the government shutdown is simple, open defiance to the federal government, and that the government must not back down in the face of open rebellion. ("Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.)
    One ominous fact that has emerged is that over the past few decades, Congressional Districts have been gerrymandered so expertly that most Representatives don't need to worry about re-election. Their Districts have been crafted so that they will always vote along party lines. Only about 10% of Congressional Districts are up for grabs. That gives incumbents little to worry about, since their electorates support their Representatives' political stances. This means that Representatives represent the folks back home but not the rest of the nation. (The danger that Senators will support only their own states' wants and needs, and not the wants and the needs of the rest of the country, has, I guess, always existed, but somehow, our Congressional representatives have historically balanced their local agendas against the needs of the country as a whole.)
    The general consensus in the stock market, at least so far, seems to be that this is a tempest in a teapot, and that if push comes to shove, President Obama can override Congressional approval of the ceiling on the national debt, and that he will not permit a U. S. default.