Despite the fears expressed in news stories, federal worker furloughs do not seem to have caused major economic disruptions. While the National Parks were closed, most government workers that provide useful services to citizens are at the state and local level, not the federal level.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography indicates that the internal struggles in her Conservative Party in the 1980s were as intense as today’s struggles within the Republican Party.
You may remember the scene in Animal House where Kevin Bacon plays a fraternity pledge being hazed. Down on all fours getting paddled, Bacon says, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
The abuse and overspending in government disability programs is so bad that even National Public Radio and 60 Minutes have taken notice. On the heels of this excellent NPR examination of the “disability industrial complex,” the venerable CBS news show last night profiled Senator Tom Coburn’s efforts to uncover fraud in the two big federal disability programs.
Alexander Hamilton won in the end. As Treasury Secretary in the 1790s he championed an array of “internal” taxes to supplement federal revenues from import tariffs. Thomas Jefferson despised Hamilton’s internal taxes as assault on liberty, and when elected in 1800 he made sure that they were abolished.
A benefit of the government shutdown may be that it slows the stream of waste and bad behavior flowing from the federal bureaucracy. Catching up on my reading, I noticed these items in just the last few days of the Washington Post:
All eyes are on the government shutdown battle over Obamacare. Here are a few thoughts:
Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster was impressive. Naysayers claim that it was pointless because Obamacare won’t be defunded this year with a Senate and White House controlled by Democrats. But at a minimum, Cruz and supporting senators have highlighted the huge flaws in the health law and reminded everyone of its unpopularity. If Republicans actually want to repeal the law—as they all say they do—then they need to take every opportunity to hammer away at it.
Commenting on the federal budget the other day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “the cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make.”
As policymakers begin fighting over this year’s appropriations, the Congressional Budget Office has released a long-term projection that puts today’s budget battles in broader context. The federal government is in the most unique and dangerous fiscal situation that it has ever been in during peacetime.