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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

What Does the Right Gain from a Government Shutdown?



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Coming Government Shutdown: A Dumb, Dumb, Dumb Idea

So . . . what do we on the Right get with a government shutdown?

Because here are some of the things that happen in a government shutdown:

  1. Death benefits to military families won’t get mailed out.
  2. About 1.4 million active-duty military personnel remain on the job but won’t get paid until a new deal is signed into law — or unless the Senate passes and the president signs a separate military pay bill the House passed 423-0. Active National Guard units also must continue to work. About half the Pentagon’s civilian workforce (roughly 400,000 workers) are furloughed — temporary unpaid leave until further notice.
  3. All Smithsonian Museums and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo close to the public. All National Parks close.
  4. Most workers at the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs are furloughed as “nonessential” and won’t be around to process visa and passport applications. If you don’t have a passport, you won’t be getting a passport.
  5. Most of the federal law-enforcement personnel stay on the job, but not all: At the FBI, 30,208 of 35,267 employees are deemed essential and stay on the job. At the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): 7,437 of 8,842 employees are excepted, and at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): 4,206 of 5,117 employees are excepted.
  6. Regarding illegal immigration, “Citizens and U.S. businesses will not be able to access E-Verify, the Internet- based system that allows employers to voluntarily determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States. Over 404,000 employers are enrolled, with more than 21 million queries run through the system during FY 2012.”
  7. No official has discussed how a shutdown would impact the intelligence community, but they are impacted, and back in 2011 there was some general discussion:

“The IC (intelligence community) has been looking very carefully at this,” one official said.

The key question, the official said, is what do agency managers believe are “essential” intelligence operations.

Intelligence agencies plan to furlough employees deemed engaged in “nonessential” work. The spy units have already made extensive plans outlining which workers are considered essential and which are not.

“Employees whose work is critical to national security will continue to work during a funding lapse,” said one senior intelligence official.

Workers assigned to cases examining long-term threats, or broad strategic problems, might face involuntary furloughs, while officials assigned to track down urgent threats would stay on the job.

The good (or bad, depending on your perspective) is that Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and unemployment benefit checks still go out. (If you’re applying to get Social Security benefits, you’re in trouble, because the workers won’t be there to process the request.) The U.S. Postal Service will be unaffected. The shutdown will interrupt IRS audits.

And the exchanges for Obamacare open October 1, even with a shutdown. (Presuming software glitches don’t crash the system anyway.)

For a significant number of Americans — most notably military families, if that separate military pay bill doesn’t move quickly — this is a lot of grief and aggravation. And for what? What’s the upside?

We on the right can, and will, correctly argue that the shutdown is largely the fault of Senate majority leader Harry Reid and President Obama, for refusing to accept a one-year delay in Obamacare’s individual mandate, or for refusing to compromise on anything else about the program. Obama, Reid, and all of their allies insist that the administration can unilaterally decide which parts of the bill to postpone or suspend. Many in the media will insist it’s all the fault of those Republican bogeymen. It’s possible that a shutdown will hurt Obama as much as it hurts Republicans. But even if the public reaction is “a pox on both your houses,” that doesn’t necessarily improve fortunes for the Right as a whole.

Let’s say the government shutdown goes on for a week. Then what? Is the Republican leverage strengthened? Is the Obama administration’s position weakened? Is the calculation that Obama will accept a delay in the individual mandate after some period of tear-jerking coverage of military families? Two weeks? A month? How does the means (the shutdown) get us to the ends (stopping Obamacare)?

Is it that a shutdown is good strategy because ‘it shows the Tea Party that Congressional Republicans are willing to stand and fight’? How much are you willing to bet on 218 House Republicans sticking together as the shutdown goes on? What’s the point of going into a fight if one of your flanks is likely to collapse?

Senator Tom Coburn (Alleged RINO-Oklahoma) said, “You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot. And we will not for sure shoot this hostage.” But as I read the conservative blogosphere, I increasingly suspect that there are quite a few folks on the Right who are perfectly willing to shoot the hostage. Perhaps it’s a reflection of increasing distrust of government at all levels:

A new poll from the George Washington University out this week shows that 35 percent of registered voters said they have “little or no confidence” in federal workers, up sharply from 23 percent just two years ago. Just one in five Americans say they have “lot of confidence” in government employees.

Adams said that the heightened wariness about federal workers included steep increases among independents and even Democrats – who have traditionally been more supportive of civil servants than conservatives.

However, the “little or no confidence” sentiment is still strongest among self-identified conservative Republicans — 45 percent of them. The rest of the public feels more mixed: 19 percent of voters said they have “a lot of confidence” in federal workers, while 41 percent indicated “some confidence” and 5 percent were unsure.

Shutting down the government to “punish” Obama and federal workers may feel cathartic at the moment, but it is likely to weaken the leverage of the House GOP and with it, the cause of limited government.

Ultimately, nothing may persuade the public about the undesirability of Obamacare more than living under it.


Tags: Government Shutdown , Barack Obama , Obamacare , Harry Reid


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