FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Shutting Down the US Government

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Libertarians might well wonder why government should continue existing given the latest congressional antics in the United States. With metaphors likening it to a grocery store, we are being told that the U.S. government will cease to be funded this coming week, a massive “shutdown” the like of which has not been seen since speaker Newt Gingrich ran with the idea in 1996. Non-essential services will cease to operate. Museums and national parks will close.

The problem remains how this could happen to begin with. In Congress it is money, not knowledge, that is power, and tightening the strings in the manner of a serial killing strangler is something that some members of that body are intent on doing.

For some years now, the government has been funded by “continuing resolutions”, which makes the U.S. almost singular in the way it functions in its powerful reach. Obama may have the power to order an extra-judicial strike on a human target in Pakistan, or preside over surveillance central and a state hostile to whistleblowing. (Those “services” will continue to operate, shut down or otherwise.) But he can barely convince the Tea Party about whether money should come through for the operations of day to day government.

One such man intent on having maximum impact is Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose “filibuster” last week lasted 21 hours and 19 minutes – the fourth longest in Senate history. With disgruntled industry, Cruz and his supporters have set to attack Obamacare with fanatical grit. Defund it with immediacy, claim the noisy ideologues of the Tea Party. Not only was it not working, it was serving to be “the biggest job killer in this country”. Not that Cruz was making much sense at stages – that would be asking too much. “By any measure Obamacare is a far less intimidating foe than those I have discussed (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, etc.) with the possible exception of the Moon. The Moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare.”

Of course, Cruz found populist imagery appealing. “We do not work for the intelligentsia in the big cities who write newspaper editorials.” Nor the cocktail-party set. Cruz draws from that rhetorical arsenal heavy with inferences as to who the “people” are, though never actually says what they are.

The GOP is in a muddle over the Cruz problem. Senator John McCain has used the not so endearing term of “wacko bird” to describe Cruz. Rand Paul, on the other hand, sees value in how to use Cruz. “Paul,” argues Sam Youngman of The Daily Beast (Sep 29), “is running to win the nomination, and he doesn’t mind using Cruz as a comedic foil to help him do it.” Let the poorly disguised fringe do the work of the more moderate centre.

More broadly speaking, patient and doctor are indistinguishable in the political stable of the right, and the ones to go down with the ship will be the likes of McCain and others who would rather survive the electoral slaughter that might visit them. The legacy of Bill Clinton’s triumph after the shutdown antics of 1996 remain fresh in the minds of senior republicans. But this is the season for ballyhoo extremism, notably in one of the most polarised Congresses in history.

U.S. voters are truly disaffected creatures, but however alienated or disgusted, they can still turn up and cast a ballot in the hope it might be counted. The Democrats have no reason to gloat, but the GOP brand label is in trouble enough as it is, trapped in a reactionary time warp that doesn’t threaten to abate just yet. The Tea Party crew, while not entirely unreasonable in their objection to bloated government programs, find themselves short in the political stakes but long in effect. Indeed, House Republicans approved a spending plan on Sunday morning that would have the effect of delaying Obamacare for a year and repeal its tax on medical devices.

At this point, come midnight on Monday, the funds will dry up if another continuing resolution is not negotiated. The continuing resolution for the current term is set at $984 billion. Other countries will be keeping an eye on the situation, including China, whose assets may well be parked elsewhere given the promise of instability. In a political system which tends to operate on the premise of business parties and even bigger business parties, this will be a poor result. If not business, then what?

As Eamon Fingleton explained in Forbes (Sep 29), “If the creditor nations were to sell just a small proportion of their American assets, they could send Wall Street into a tailspin, with unpleasant implications for many Republicans.” But Tea Party populism was never designed to be worldly, whatever the consequences of its wielding.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He ran for the Australian Senate with Julian Assange for the WikiLeaks Party.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail