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Susan Estrich - Dear John

Hey there, Mr. Speaker.

Good to hear that you've decided that the United States shouldn't default on its obligations, and that you're willing to violate the "Hastert Rule" — the informal rule that the Speaker shouldn't bring up a bill that doesn't have the support of a majority of Republicans, even if the bill does have the support of a majority of the members of Congress — to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.

But what about the full faith and credit of all the hardworking folks who aren't getting paid right now because your friends on the right are playing games with people's lives?

No one wants to see the United States default.

But what about all the folks who are facing default because they aren't getting paid anymore?

Maybe you can explain to us why, if a majority of members of Congress are willing to end this irresponsible shutdown, you won't bring that to a vote.

Oh, I know the answer. It's because that majority has too many Democrats and too few Republicans for your liking.

I can just imagine the dinner table conversation. Sorry, kids, we can't pay the mortgage; we're not going to Yosemite; the E-Verify system is down and so I can't get hired; we can't buy the house we've been saving for, can't get mortgage approval, can't get a loan for our business, can't sign up for a clinical trial — even though a majority of the members of Congress are against this shutdown — because of the Hastert Rule.

Yes, that's right: the Hastert Rule.

Now, my bet is that most Americans don't even know who Hastert is, much less why he has a rule that was never actually "passed" by anyone but is still more important than their getting a paycheck or buying a house or starting a business.

And if they do know who he is, they might ask — reasonably enough — why such an "informal" rule is more important than majority rule, and why a minority (the right wing) of the majority party (Republicans) should have more power than the majority of the whole House.

This is not the way they teach things in high school civics.
Truth be told, Mr. Speaker, no one can force you to follow the Hastert Rule. You do, except when you don't — for instance, when we were heading over the fiscal cliff, or when your right-wing members didn't want to provide help for the victims of Superstorm Sandy or pass the Violence Against Women Act. All three were passed by a coalition of sensible and moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Some of us actually think that's how Congress should work: the majority rules. The center holds. The lives of hardworking Americans don't get held hostage by an ideological minority that would rather play games. An "informal rule" shouldn't prevent you from getting paid or shut down the parks or leave first-time homebuyers unable to get approval for mortgage assistance.

And lest anybody has forgotten, all of this is happening because that minority of the majority wants to remind us (as if we didn't know) that they oppose Obamacare — which is taking effect anyway. No other reason. No other purpose. Pure symbolism.

Now, imagine this. Imagine that instead of throwing a temper tantrum and playing games, the people we elected to represent us took it upon themselves to try to fix some of the problems with Obamacare. Imagine that they said to themselves: We tried to stop it, but that didn't work, and then we lost the election. So now it's our job to make it work as well as possible, because that would be in the best interests of the people we represent. Instead of being sore losers, we should do our jobs.

I know. It's a fantasy, expecting these members of Congress to behave like grownups instead of spoiled brats.

Dear John: Enough is enough. Grow up or go.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Michael Barone - Blame James Madison for shutdown - 757

The problem was caused by James Madison. And by the 39 other men who signed the Constitution in 1787.

The problem, of course, is the government shutdown. It was caused because the Framers of the Constitution wisely provided for separation of powers among the three branches of government. The president would faithfully execute the laws and be commander in chief of the military, but both houses of Congress would have to approve of every penny the government could spend.

In the early republic, it was widely assumed that presidents could veto legislation only it was deemed unconstitutional. Disagreeing with policy was not enough. That changed after Andrew Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and was promptly re-elected. Jackson claimed to act on constitutional grounds, but it came to be understood that presidents could veto laws they disagreed with.

That understanding, together with the constitutional structure, imposes something like a duty of consultation between the president and members of Congress. Otherwise — and you may have heard about this — the government will have to shut down.

Barack Obama hasn't engaged in much consultation this summer and fall. He has announced he won't negotiate with House Speaker John Boehner. His defenders note that Boehner has stated publicly he won't negotiate with the president. Boehner believes Obama unfairly upped the ante in their "grand bargain" negotiations in August 2011.

As a practical matter, it's Obama's refusal to negotiate that matters. A member of Congress can't get time with the president or his top aides on demand. A president can always get through to a member of Congress — as Obama did, finally, Monday night for a conversation described as "less than 10 minutes."

Astonishingly, Obama said in a prepared statement that no president had negotiated ancillary issues with Congress when a shutdown was threatened. Four Pinocchios, said Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler. The Post's Wonkblog helpfully listed 17 government shutdowns since the late 1970s. Almost all involved legislative-executive disagreement over ancillary issues.

The bulk of pundit opinion, on the Right as well as the Left, holds that House Republicans blundered by attaching Sen. Ted Cruz's defund Obamacare amendment to the continuing resolution funding the government. Democrats would never accept that, they say. And voters will blame Republicans for shutting down government.
Many pundits also say House Republicans' amendment delaying Obamacare was foolish for the same reason, although "delay" polls much better than "defund."

Cruz argues that once people receive Obamacare subsidies, they will be hooked and support the program. It's an argument akin to Mitt Romney's 47 percent. But beneficiaries of government don't necessarily vote Democratic. The state with the highest percentage of residents who receive disability insurance, West Virginia, voted 62 percent for Romney. Moreover, it's not clear that Obamacare subsidies will be that generous or visible. On Tuesday, the day the health exchanges were supposed to open, many Obamacare websites were giving error messages.

Divided government is not exactly a novel thing. We've had a White House controlled by one party and at least one house of Congress held by the other for 32 of the last 45 years — 70 percent of the time. It's the default mode, not an exception.

The current divisions result from what I call volitional migration in my just-published book, "Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Have Transformed America and Its Politics." Americans have been moving to places they consider culturally congenial.

Democratic voters — blacks, Hispanics, gentry liberals — are heavily clustered in certain central cities. They give Democrats an advantage in the Electoral College.

Republican voters are more evenly spread around beyond these Democratic bastions. That gives Republicans an advantage in the House of Representatives.

So both sides have a legitimate mandate — but not an unlimited one.

Republicans are furious that their members can't defund or delay Obamacare. They want to see politicians stand up yelling, "No!" Theater has a function in politics. But in fact, they've had a partial victory this year, a win that didn't seem likely last December. By accepting the sequester despite its defense cuts, Republicans have actually dialed down domestic discretionary spending. Democrats' position now is essentially the sequester. They're swallowing something they hate. No wonder Obama seems sullen.

So both sides will have frustratingly partial victories and not get everything they want. That's how James Madison's system is supposed to work in a closely divided country.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

 

Last Updated on Friday, 04 October 2013 11:50

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Susan Estrich - As a Democrat, I should be pleased

Here's a big news alert: House Republicans oppose Obamacare. That's why they've shut the government down.

No, doing so won't actually stop Obamacare. To a great extent, the program is on autopilot. The Republicans shut down the government, but the exchanges are open for business.

The last time the Republicans shut down the government, they at least had the fig leaf that they were doing so to protest the size of government.

Not this time. This time, it's not about the size of government. It's not about the deficit. The Senate already has gone along with the House's insistence that agencies cut their spending in the coming weeks.

This is pure symbolism — on the Republican side — at the expense of people who depend on the government and work for the government.

Maybe you or a loved one is trying to sign up for a potentially lifesaving clinical trial. Sorry. You can't.

Maybe you work as an air traffic controller or a prison guard. The "good news" is you're still working. The "bad news" is you don't get paid.

It's not right.

Make no mistake. This is not going to help Republicans in the long run. Playing games with people's lives is not smart politics. The fact that many well-known Republican senators have made clear that this is not an appropriate way to protest Obamacare underscores the ideological extremism that holds sway in the House.

Just the other day, a lifelong Republican sought me out to express his immense frustration. Why are they doing this, he kept asking me. Don't they understand that however unpopular Obamacare is, closing down the government as a symbolic protest is going to be seen as irresponsible? It's even more unpopular than Obamacare.

I have no answer. Or rather, I have no answer other than the obvious one: that the House is under the control of extremists who are throwing a political temper tantrum, and responsibility be damned.

As a Democrat, I should be pleased. As an American, I am deeply troubled.

We're used to having extremists hold sway on cable television. But that's entertainment. You can vote with your clicker. You don't have to watch. At the end of the day, no one gets hurt.

Congress should be different. It's not a TV show. It's not a tryout for the next round of "Crossfire," or at least it shouldn't be. This is real life. This is about parents not getting paid, people who need loans for their businesses not getting help, people who are sick having to wait for the ideologues to stop playing games.

"I'm always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better," the president said. "But one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election."

Except that they did.

Obamacare was a central issue in the last election. By the time he won his party's nomination, Mitt Romney had effectively turned his back on his own (similar) program in Massachusetts and was urging voters who opposed Obamacare to vote for him. If you wanted to get rid of Obamacare, the way to do it was to elect Romney and give Republicans a majority in the Senate.

It didn't happen. Romney lost. The Senate remains in Democratic hands. That's how it works in a democracy. You win some, and you lose some. The tea party lost. Better luck next time.

Or not. There may be some new contestants for Newt Gingrich's slot on "Crossfire." Better there than in Congress.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 12:10

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Bob Meade - Some get it backwards

A few months back, President Obama, during a political speech, somewhat smugly commented to businesses, "You didn't build that.", and he went on to say that it was the government that built the roads and bridges and provided the education to workers, and so on. It may have been smooth political talk but it lost sight of the fact that none of those government "contributions" would have been possible had it not been for the tax revenues that emanated from the businesses he was trying to disparage. As an aside, the current administration has only 8 percent of its advisors with backgrounds in the business community. The historical average, Democrat or Republican, is around 50 percent. Perhaps that was a factor in the president undervaluing those people, those entrepreneurs, who risked all because they believed there was a market need they could fill. It was they who built this country, not the government. They took the risks, they competed, and the strong survived, and filled the market needs of the people. Their achievements are what led this country to become the most prosperous nation in the world.

Using Henry Ford as an example, we find an entrepreneur who literally changed the world. He took the risk, and all that that entailed, to build an automobile . . . before there were (government built) roads and bridges and super highways. Mind you, when Ford began, there were only 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads in the entire country. It wasn't the government largesse that made Ford a success, it was Ford and others like him that spurred growth that provided the tax revenues that allowed the government to build those roads and bridges that the president talked about.

Ford's innovation of the assembly line was a manufacturing breakthrough that spurred heretofore unknown mass production. Even today, that process is a marvel as every single component that goes into an automobile arrives at its appropriate work station at precisely the right time. Each worker has been trained and has become skilled at performing the function necessary to install that component in the automobile.

In 1903, when Ford Motor Car started in business, the average U.S. worker earned between $200 and $400 per year; $4 to $8 per week. In 1913, Ford's offer to pay every worker a minimum of $5 a day, and reduce the work day from nine to eight hours, resulted in men lining up as far as the eye could see, all in hopes of getting hired by Ford. At that time, the average wage for workers in the auto industry was $2.36 for a nine hour shift; $0.26 an hour

Ford's concept of "Let the worker buy what he can produce." was a world changing idea. He understood that if the automobile market was to be expanded and grown, the average person would need to make enough money to buy the products they were producing. In 1909, the cost of the Model T automobile was $220. But Henry Ford understood the "Laffer Curve", even before Economist Art Laffer was born. Ford continued to lower the price of the Model T automobile and by 1914, they were being sold for $99. During that period, the company's net income rose from $3 million to $25 million and market share grew dramatically from 9.8 percent all the way up to 48 percent, dominating the world market for automobiles. (That same principle, now called the "Laffer Curve", shows that lowering tax rates actually increases tax revenues.)

As great as those achievements were, Henry Ford was not done. When World War II broke out, automobile production was suspended and manufacturers turned to producing military vehicles, armored vehicles, aircraft engines and airplanes. In 1942, Ford received a government contract to build aircraft engines. During the first year, it took Ford workers a little over 2,300 hours to build a Pratt and Whitney engine. True to form though, by 1944 Ford was able to produce the same engine in less than half that time; 1,028 hours. All told, by the end of 1944, Ford's Rouge plant had produced almost 58,000 aircraft engines for the war effort.

As great as was the Rouge Plant achievement, Ford's shining star was its plant at Willow Run where they manufactured the B-24 Liberator Bomber. In a three year period, Willow Run produced almost 7,000 of the B-24's and had manufactured and sent the parts for an additional 1,900 bombers to be assembled at Douglas Aircraft and Consolidated Aircraft plants in Oklahoma and Texas.

Ford also produced a large number of tanks, almost 15 percent of all military vehicles, over 27,000 tank engines, and various other items necessary for the war effort. Historians have noted that American businesses were able to significantly out produce the AXIS powers in providing weaponry and its associated equipment. That ability contributed significantly to the Allies successful war effort.

The facts are, Mr. President, that for the most part, the government has been the beneficiary of the largesse of businesses . . . not the other way around.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Obamacare's bodyguard of lies and liars

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies," said Winston Churchill.

What is the truth behind the Beltway lies about these crazy Republicans crashing our government?

Twice in the last week House Republicans have voted unanimously to fund the U.S. government. If national polls are to be believed, those House Republicans are doing exactly what America wants. A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown. And a majority oppose Obamacare.

Who, then, is preventing the government from being funded?

Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Neither will accept any continuing resolution that does not contain Obamacare. Both will shut down this city rather than accept any such CR. It is Harry and Barry who are saying: If we don't get full funding of Obamacare now, we shutdown Washington until the House delivers.

The battle, then, is over this question: Will the next great liberal entitlement program, Obamacare, with its manifest failings and flaws, be imposed upon the nation — against its will? The House says no. The Beltway says yes.

Few disagree that, in any national plebiscite, Obamacare would be buried in a landslide. Few disagree that if Obamacare were put to a vote of the Congress today, it would fail in both houses. Why, then, is it radical for the House to use its power of the purse to defund a program America does not want?

Why is it statesmanship for Obama to say he will shut down the entire government if any resolution to keep it running contains even the slightest tweak to his cherished program?

What these questions suggest is that this is at root a political and ideological war, and the Beltway has assembled its usual bodyguard of lies and liars to conceal that truth. Consider this keening from the Washington Post yesterday about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown: "[W]e would hope that Mr. Boehner would have compassion for thousands of moderately paid breadwinners who would find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We would hope he would be troubled by how a shutdown would disrupt research at the National Institute of Health and safety inspections at the Food and Drug Administration."

About this lugubrious passage, several questions: Since Reid and Obama have both said they will block any CR that does not contain Obamacare in its pristine form, why are they not charged with some responsibility for a shutdown? Answer: The Post is not interested in conveying the truth about this conflict, because in this battle it is as much a political ally of Obama as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But it is a more effective ally, since some still presume it is being truthful and objective.
Assume that today John Boehner came out and said at a press conference: "I have taken note of the Post's concerns about an interruption of service at NIH and the FDA. I share those concerns. Therefore, at my direction, the House will vote this afternoon to fully fund both agencies." Anyone think the Washington Post would celebrate Boehner's compassion and statesmanship the next morning?

Of course not. All this weeping and gnashing of teeth about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown is designed to whip up political animosity, direct it at House Republicans, and break John Boehner. Failing that, it is to foist upon the House Republicans full responsibility for a shutdown that the House has voted twice to avoid.

What this battle confirms is that, on major national issues that pit social and populist conservatives against Big Government liberals, the Beltway press corps invariably acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

More problematic, there is a slice of the Beltway right — the contributions bundlers and kennel-fed conservatives, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, the George McClellans — that prefers prancing, parading and posturing to the actual fighting.

With them the excuses are always the same. We can't win. We have been beaten on this terrain before. The press will kill us. The White House has a microphone we can't match. We will only hurt ourselves in the polls and throw away our great opportunity in the coming election. Besides, our corporate contributors don't want this fight.

Some "conservatives" even cynically suggest that the GOP let Obamacare take effect, as it will prove such a disaster there will be a backlash against it in 2014 — and from that we can benefit.

With Reid's refusal to accept the House CR with the one-year suspension of Obamacare, a shutdown became certain.

Every Republican should be out front, on TV, radio and in print this week with a simple message: "We have twice voted to fund every agency and program of the U.S. government (save Obamacare) in a single CR. We will proceed now to pass CRs for each department and agency of the U.S. government, separately and individually. And if Harry Reid's Senate refuses to pass a single one of those CRs, who then is shutting down NIH and the FDA?"

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 271

 
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