Currently Working without Pay: Border Patrol, FBI, etc.

© Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

USA Today is reporting that many of the federal workers who specifically work to protect our country, and our borders, are working without pay due to the government shutdown. That’s right, Border Patrol, the FBI, and the Coast Guard are working without pay. (Also included: the TSA, but I think the security they add to our nation may be more up for debate).

The author, a Republican, has a lot to offer in terms of why Trump is doing this and how the GOP can let this fight go down in flames while still letting Trump say he did everything he could.

There is not a single person who actually thinks that forcing Border Patrol agents work without pay, or driving them to find new jobs, will somehow increase border security. So why has Trump painted himself into this corner?

I’m afraid that the answer is Trump actually does not care about border security at all. It has been obvious for quite some time that the main thing Donald Trump likes about being president is holding rallies. What he cares about is his “base” — specifically, the people who are willing to show up and cheer for him.

Chris Truax

Finally, if Congressional Republicans “betray” Trump, the stalemate could end, agents could be paid, and the fight for the wall could be taken up another day (if anyone currently in a position to fight for the wall actually wants it).

The kindest thing Republicans can do is to let Trump go down fighting. They should back the Democrats’ efforts to reopen the government and, if necessary, vote to override Trump’s veto. This will straighten out the shutdown mess while allowing Trump to claim he did everything he possibly could to keep faith with his fans but was stabbed in the back by “traitorous” Republicans.

This is a small price to pay for getting cash flowing once again into agencies such as the FBI and the Border Patrol that really do protect America. And being a “traitor” to Donald Trump is far preferable to being a traitor to common sense and the public good. 

Chris Truax

Paul Ryan to the Rescue?

2013-10-11 Paul Ryan

According to the NYT, Paul Ryan is back at the forefront, riding over the horizon to (maybe?) rescue the GOP from the GOP:

Mr. Ryan, 43, has immense credibility with conservatives for his “Path to Prosperity” budget, which proposed politically risky Medicare changes and deep tax cuts. Moderates see Mr. Ryan, who has broken with some conservatives over immigration, as a lawmaker with some flexibility. In many respects, his standing exceeds that of the party’s titular leader, Speaker John A. Boehner. Perhaps most important, Democrats believe that when Mr. Ryan drafts a plan, he can actually deliver the votes. They hold no such confidence in Mr. Boehner.

Apparently his plan, which he originally outlined in the WSJ, has managed to become the plan of the GOP. Among other things, it completely abandons any attempt to defund Obamacare, which means it does have a snowball’s chance in Hell of actually getting somewhere.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a serious but sane conservative managed to come out on top after all these shenanigans from the rowdy freshman Tea Partiers?

Nate Silver: Political Ramification of the Gov’t Shutdown

2013-10-11 shut down

Nate Silver is in the process of moving from the NYT to ESPN, but he’s got an interim website up and today he has weighed in on the political ramifications of the gov’t shutdown. It’s a fairly long, informative piece and does a really good job at providing an expert, level-headed assessment of what we know.

Which is: not that much. Nate’s main points seem to be first: that we don’t really know if there will be any long-term consequences of the shut down (and, as a corollary, that Democrats still face stiff headwinds in 2014) and second: that the uncertainty that does exist is primarily about the future of the GOP. Washington DC is, according to many sources, more polarized than at any other time in our nation’s history and a lot of the reason for that is the GOP shift to the right (not a corresponding move by Democrats to the left). This means we’re in fairly unprecedented times, and the future may largely depend on what shakes out internally within the Republican Party.

The Tea Party Fights The Man

2013-10-08 Rand Paul

The Tea Party does not have a lot of friends in Washington. Conventional wisdom–the sort of thing you hear on NPR, for example–is that the GOP has redistricted itself to death. By creating solid red districts, they’ve turned over power to the loonies on the fringe. Complementary theories include the notion that the Tea Party consists of a bunch of delusional fools who are shoveling their hard earned life-savings to snake oil selling PACs who have no interest in making real changes, but just want to make a buck off of gullible fools.

Both of these narratives tap into deep political stereotypes, but neither actually make much sense. The problem with the gerrymandering explanation is that it’s the opposite of how gerrymandering actually works. Not that I’m defending redistricting games, but the essence of gerrymandering is called “packing and cracking“, and it means you pack your opposition into dense, homogeneous districts but you crack (spread out) your own supporters as much as possible. Think about it for a minute, if you’ve got 5 districts and the overall population is basically 50/50 Democrat and Republican, do you (as a Republican) want to put all of your voters in one dark red district and leave the Democrats to have 4 very slightly blue districts? No: that’s how you lose an election, not how you win it. The idea that the GOP created a bunch of ultra-conservative districts doesn’t make any sense.

Meanwhile, the idea of the huckster political operative taking grandma and grandpa’s money to go off on a doomed crusade to end Obamacare taps nicely into images of televangelist faith healers (i.e. negative stereotypes of the religious right) and the influential What’s the Matter With Kansas?, but all it really does is expose liberal arrogance. The idea is that conservatives are just too darn stupid to know what’s good for them (i.e. liberal policies) when the reality is that conservatives have different values than liberals. For example, conservatives believe that passing on staggering amounts of debt to their children is morally reprehensible and are willing to sacrifice their own interests to stop it.

But is this just spin? Nope, it turns out there are some pretty hard numbers behind this. I got tipped off to that fact when a Facebook friend posted this Washington Times opinion piece: Tea Party Loosens K Street’s Stranglehold on the GOP. The thesis of the article is pretty simple: before the Tea Party, Republican candidates depended on cash from big business and lobbyists to run their campaigns. But a proliferation of ideological PACs provided an alternative source of funds separate from the interests of big business. Carney, who wrote the piece, concludes that Tea Party candidates are therefore getting their money from small business owners and retirees: individuals.

I don’t think the article backs this up solidly, but the same friend who posted it followed it up with this: 

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Perverse Incentives: Government Shutdown Edition

2013-10-04 ParksShutdownAP

A friend on Facebook posted this quote from Thomas Sowell:

Back in my teaching days, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

He didn’t specify, but he didn’t have to: he’s talking about the political efforts to make the government shut down as painful as possible in order to score points for Democrats. Look: I can’t get all outraged about politicians playing politics. It’s what they do, and we’d be kidding ourselves to think otherwise. But I do think it’s important to try and keep a level head and track what’s really going on.

And here’s the story: in prior government shut downs the parks and memorial services have not been forcibly barred against visitors. Now? They are. The Obama administration is spending more money than would be spent on regular operations to add additional law enforcement and barricades to do things like preventing World War II vets from visiting their own memorial in the hopes that everyone will blame the Republicans. Well: the Republicans sure helped the shutdown along. But during Clinton-era shutdowns the Democratic President didn’t feel the need to spend supposedly non-existent federal dollars to prevent World War II vets from, for example, continuing to give tours at Pearl Harbor. (Daily Caller

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Historical Context: Every Previous Gov’t Shutdown in One Article

2013-10-01 Govt Shutdown

The Washington Post has a rundown of all the past government shutdowns, starting in September of 1976. For each shutdown, the WaPo gives you dates, duration, the President, and which parties controlled each of the House and Senate, along with a basic overview of what caused the shutdown and what resolved it. There have been 17, if you’re curious. My quick breakdown of responsibility is based on looking at who controlled the House and Senate during each shutdown. If both were controlled by one party, I blamed them, otherwise I blamed both.

Democrats: 8, Republicans: 2, Both: 7

I wouldn’t take that too seriously or anything, I’m just pathologically incapable of not doing at least a teensy bit of analysis whenever I see numbers.