Friday, December 16, 2011

10 of 11: Shutdown

As we start our "10 of 11" series and look back on the big stories of 2011, I want to start with the story that's already in the news again... And one that's likely to play a big role in 2012. Once upon a time, it would have been "unthinkable" to shut down the government over petty political disagreements. But now, it's become commonplace. This is really one scary instance of us becoming accustomed to dysfunctional government.

Really, think about it. When the G-O-TEA turned the debate on extending the payroll tax cut for middle class families into yet another high stakes death match, did anyone express shock? That may be the problem here: We've become too used to "brinksmanship/disaster governing".

Already, we've seen this happen at least three times. First we saw a budget battle royale in April, and total shutdown was threatened. Then in July, we saw not only a threat of shutdown, but of total explosion of the global economy, when the G-O-TEA threatened not to raise the debt ceiling and extend the full faith and credit of the USA. That episode led to the game of charades often referred to as "The Supercommittee"... And as we all should have expected, it failed, and it did just that thanks to the usual G-O-TEA brinksmanship games. But thankfully that time, there was an automatic fail-safe "trigger" built in to render that whole experiment as neutered navel gazing.

And now, there's this. When did it become so hard to simply fund our government? And by the way, it wasn't just happening on the federal level. This brutal reality started hitting home this year, as well as an interesting foreshadowing of the Occupy/99% Movement to sprout up later this year (which we'll tackle in a future diary). In 2011, we learned that not even Nevada is totally immune from this type of legislative breakdown.

So for now, I'll leave you with this diary I wrote back in April. It really summarizes how I started feeling about this whole shutdown madness.

It's been said that the hallmark of a good bipartisan compromise on legislation is that it irritates broad swaths of folks across the ideological spectrum. If that's the case, then we have a real winner in the budget deal President Obama made with Congressional Republicans... As well as the next deal about to be made on next year's budget and the debt ceiling! [...]

It really underscores Obama's challenge tonight in presenting a "balanced approach" to balancing the budget. Even as he faces huge challenges abroad with Middle East unrest [which became "The Arab Spring" and resulted in Obama's two great foreign policy achievements: killing Osama bin Laden and letting Libya get rid of Kaddafi] and continued fallout from Japan's huge earthquake and tsunami [substitute Europe's continuing economic earthquakes and political upheaval today], the key challenge now really looks to be domestic. The teabaggers on the extreme right will be pleased by nothing (other than perhaps Obama being impeached on fictitious charges, then replaced by "President [Newt Gingrich]"), and now the left is becoming more vociferous in drawing a line in the sand. Meanwhile, folks from across the blogosphere keep yelling and screaming and taunting Obama as "weak".

It's interesting to see all these complaints now, and to see the glories of our dysfunctional system at work. Congress has to agree on a budget, but hardly anyone wants to make the tough choices and tougher compromises. And as the debt ceiling quickly approaches, some Republicans in Congress are enjoying flirting with total annihilation. Still, we need to recognize good policy and fight for it... And hopefully, Obama will do just that tonight.

Still, let this be a lesson learned (so far) that no one can get everything one wants with a divided government.

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