Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 15th, 2013

History 101

The Constitution prevented the Executive from Ruling Arbitrarily and becoming Judge, Jury and Executioner

There have been funding gaps.  And there have been government shutdowns.  But not always both.  For once upon a time the executive branch stayed open for business even when the House of Representatives did not approve their bills for payment.  But that all changed in 1980 thanks to Jimmy Carter’s attorney general.  Benjamin Civiletti.

Civiletti wrote two opinions as attorney general changing the way government spends money.  The first said the executive can’t spend any money without the House of Representatives’ approval.  A strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  His second opinion softened the first.  Giving the executive power to spend money the House of Representatives doesn’t approve of when necessary to protect life and property.  Such as funding the military.  And so grew the delineation between essential and nonessential spending.  Or what some would say essential spending and pork.

The Founding Fathers saw the damage absolute monarchies could do.  Even a constitutional monarchy with too much power.  So they separated powers.  They created three branches of government.  The executive, the legislative and the judiciary.  One branch to write the law (the legislature).  One branch to enforce the law (the executive).  And one branch to interpret questions in the law (the judiciary).  Thus preventing the executive from ruling arbitrarily and becoming judge, jury and executioner.  Like a king.

The Founding Fathers gave the Power of the Purse to the House to rein in Executive Spending

The Founding Fathers took the separation of powers further.  The House of Representatives was the people’s house.  Where the people voted in their representatives by popular vote.  But to keep a check on federal power the Senate was the states’ house (since changed by constitutional amendment, thus greatly increasing the power of the federal government over the states).  Each state in the union had an equal voice.  Thus requiring not only a majority of the people it also required a majority of the states to pass federal law.  To keep the larger urban populations from dictating policy to the lesser populated rural areas.

The Founding Fathers took the separation of powers even further.  Giving the power of the purse to the House of Representatives.  So the executive couldn’t wage costly wars.  Or expand bloated bureaucracies to reward campaign donors with patronage.  Or expand a welfare state to buy votes.  Especially since Alexander Hamilton opened Pandora’s Box with his interpretation of the necessary and proper clause.  Which expanded the scope of the federal government to include whatever it thought was necessary and proper.  Giving rise to the progressive/liberal state.  Something that would have horrified Alexander Hamilton if he were alive today to see the behemoth the federal government became.  And had he known then what would become of the federal government today he would have been a Jeffersonian.  Jefferson and Hamilton would probably still have hated each other but they would have agreed on keeping limited government limited.

Civiletti understood that the Founding Fathers meant to rein in the spending powers of the executive branch.  To meet the intent of the separation of powers they felt was essential for representative government.  A government of the people, by the people and for the people.  As Abraham Lincoln so eloquently said in the Gettysburg Address some 76 years later.  Hence his first opinion.  Which he softened with his second when it hurt his boss and the Democrat cause.  For Civiletti was a Democrat.

The Democrats want to Break the Republican Opposition and Govern Against the Intent of the Founding Fathers

Before Civiletti’s opinions there was little urgency to settle funding gaps between what the executive branch wanted and what the House would approve.  So at the end of a fiscal year the executive often continued to operate without spending authority.  Letting the durations of these funding gaps last for a week or more.  With no interruption of government services.  But after Civiletti’s opinions the government shut down nonessential services.  Which did speed up the closing of the funding gap.  For when the funding gap included a government shutdown resolving the funding gap went from a week or more to a few days.

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns

To date there have been 18 funding gaps that went unresolved into the new fiscal year.  One of which is still ongoing.  In the table you can see how much quicker the House and the executive branch resolved their differences with the threat of a government shutdown.  The exception to that being the longest shutdown during the Clinton administration.  Which ultimately led the way to welfare reform.  Which greatly dampened President Clinton’s costly liberal agenda.  And was the law of the land until President Obama used sweeping powers he does not have to roll back some of that legislation.

President Obama and the Democrats have called the House Republicans about every derogatory name in the book for dare trying to enforce the Founding Fathers’ separation of powers.  Saying that never before has a radical fringe held a gun to the head of the executive, took hostages, demanded ransom, etc.  But that’s not true.  Of the 18 funding gaps where the House of Representatives did not give the president all the money he wanted that president was a Republican 55.6% of the time.  So Republican presidents got their way fewer times than Democrat presidents.  And as far as hostage takers, the Democrats held the power of the purse 15 of those 18 funding gaps/shutdowns.  Or 83.3%.  So the president and the Democrats aren’t telling the truth when it comes to the historical record.  Who seem to be more interested in swinging public opinion to their side.  So they can break the Republican opposition.  And govern against the intent of the Founding Fathers.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Government Shutdown over the Budget Debate would be Transparent, unlike this Current White House

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2011

It is interesting the doom and gloom the White House is warning us about a potential government shutdown.  But as they make their case, it seems less doom and gloom and more of a good thing.  The truth is most of us wouldn’t even notice it.  And we’d save a lot of money we don’t even need to spend (see White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops by Richard Lardner and Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press, posted 4/7/2011 on Yahoo! News).

The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.

No worries here.  There is no recovery.  At least nothing worth saving.  We’ll pay the troops.  This is more of a scare tactic to scare the military wives.  Some of us may have to wait longer to write a check to the IRS for our income tax.  Those who do I’m sure will manage.  Small business loans?  Government shouldn’t be making loans.  That’s why we have banks.  And government-backed mortgages?  Really?  Come on, it was the government-backed loans that got us in the mess we’re in.  The subprime mortgage crisis wouldn’t have happened if the government wasn’t backing loans in the first place.

The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise.

To jolt the Republicans?  Compromise is a two-way street.  Why is always the Republicans who are stubborn?  Why isn’t the other side, the stubborn side, stubborn?  What happened to President Obama’s debt commission?  The Republican budget isn’t asking more than Obama’s highly esteemed debt commission that Obama has filed away in the round file.  For he never had any intentions of making any cuts.  Because Democrats don’t make cuts.  They just talk about them.  So people can see that they’re serious.  And when people lost interest, bang went the debt commission’s report into the trash.

As the talks continued, the White House sought to put the prospect of a shutdown in terms people would care about, warning even that the beloved National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation’s capital would be wiped out. The Smithsonian Institution and national parks around the country would also be closed.

Life’s hard.  People are dying in genocide in Libya (according to the Obama administration).  If it’s not quite genocide then let’s call it civil war.  And there’s a lot of that going around.  In the grand scheme of things, missing the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade just doesn’t seem as great a disaster as wholesale death and destruction.

Under long-standing federal rules, agencies would not be affected that provide for U.S. national security, dispense most types of federal benefit payments, offer inpatient medical care or outpatient emergency care, ensure the safe use of food and drugs, manage air traffic, protect and monitor borders and coastlines, guard prisoners, conduct criminal investigations and law enforcement, oversee power distribution and oversee banks.

That sure sounds like we’ll be paying our soldiers.  They’re providing national security.  And if Libya is a vital national security interest, so are the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If we don’t pay our military it is nothing more than a cheap partisan trick to scare people into hating Republicans.  No, it seems like we’ll pay most of the ‘important’ things in the event of a shutdown.  Other than parks and Cherry Blossom Festivals.

Mail deliveries would continue in the event of a shutdown. U.S. postal operations are not subsidized by tax dollars.

Really?  Our tax dollars don’t subsidize the U.S. Postal Service?  That same postal service that hasn’t shown an operating profit since I don’t know when?  Really?  Since when?  But I digress.  The important thing is that the mail will keep coming during a shutdown.

According to the shutdown scenario described by the administration, the government would have to significantly cut staffing across the executive branch, including workers at the White House and civilian employees at the Defense Department; close to 800,000 workers would be affected. Congress and the federal court system will also be subject to a shutdown.

Good.  Make Thomas Jefferson happy.  Well, make his spirit happy.  Cut the executive branch.  It has grown way beyond what any of the Founding Fathers ever envisioned.  I doubt if Alexander Hamilton would even approve of its size today.  Though he would be pretty impressed with the power of the military, though.  But that’s a different story.  Let’s slash the executive branch for awhile and see if anyone notices.  If not, here’s a chance for some real budget cutting.  Let’s make these cuts permanent.

At the Pentagon, defense officials were finalizing plans that would lay out how the department would deal with a shutdown. But they already have acknowledged that U.S. military troops — including those in war zones — would receive one week’s pay instead of two in their next paycheck if the government were to close.

Military personnel at home and abroad would continue to earn pay, but they wouldn’t get paychecks until there was a budget agreement and government operations resumed.

Cheap partisan scare tactics.  Whenever a government can’t get the tax increases they want, they threaten the teachers, cops, firemen and, now, the military, in a childish tantrum.  Gimme want I want or I will cut the things that are important to you.  Those things that, if cut, puts you into peril.  How do you like that, hmmm?

What makes this worse is that they’ll enjoy not paying the military.  They don’t like them.  Never have.  In fact, they almost regret repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because it took away their go-to excuse to keep these people off of their Ivy League campuses.

Key national security responsibilities, including operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and earthquake assistance to Japan, would not be interrupted by a shutdown, the Pentagon said.

So are they paying them?  Or just making them work without a paycheck?  Maybe our soldiers should go on strike.  Like the teachers.  To prevent unfair treatment.  You have to admit being forced into combat operations without pay is worse than being asked to contribute another fewer percentage points to your own health care.  Of course, these aren’t the same.  The Obama administration would not stand by and allow teachers to suffer an outrage like paying for their own health care.  Soldiers in combat?  The hell with them.

Social Security payments would continue to be delivered, and applications for benefits would continue to be processed, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said.

Yes, they will sacrifice the soldiers.  And why not?  Most of them vote Republican.  But senior citizens?  Dependent on Social Security?  That’s another story.  Anyone dependent on the federal government votes to keep federal government big, i.e., they vote Democrat.  So the seniors get paid.  Always.  Unless the Republicans can be blamed.

Medicare would still pay medical claims for its 48 million recipients, who are mainly seniors but also several million younger people who are permanently disabled or have kidney failure. Payments to doctors, hospitals and other service providers could be delayed, however, should a shutdown continue for several months.

Sacrifice the soldiers (many of who vote Republicans).  Protect the seniors (many of who vote Democrat).

The Obama administration said the impact on the housing market would be more severe than in 1995, the last time there was a government shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration accounts for 30 percent of the mortgage market, nearly three times the amount 16 years ago.

And the greatest financial crisis ever (the subprime mortgage crisis) to hit the United States happened after the government backed three times as many mortgages than they did in 1995.  Having the government stop backing mortgages is a good thing.

The nation’s 15,700 air traffic controllers would keep working, as would many of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 6,100 technicians who install and maintain the equipment for the nation’s air traffic control system.

The planes will still fly in the event of a shutdown.

Operation of the International Space Station would be unaffected. NASA’s Mission Control in Houston would continue to work around the clock to keep watch.

Soldiers, no.  Astronauts, yes.  Even though the International Space Station is international.  With other nations ‘watching’ the station.  And our astronauts often catch a ride with the Russians on their Soyuz rockets.  So the space coalition could survive a few months easily without us.

Among other consequences cited by the administration:

_The Environmental Protection Agency would cease issuing permits and stop reviewing environmental impact statements, which would slow the approval of projects.

_Most government websites would not be updated, unless they were deemed essential.

_Federal courts would be unable to hear cases as clerks, stenographers, bailiffs, security guards and other employees would not be at work.

At most these are inconveniences.  Unlike the out of control spending that can “herald the end of the republic.”  As Benjamin Franklin warned us about when people learned they can vote themselves money.  And that’s where we are.  They’ve learned.  And have.  Franklin’s prophetic warning is about to play out if we don’t stop spending.  This is the choice.  Keep spending and end the republic.  Or make some serious cuts.

The Democrats have not presented a budget as called for in the Constitution since before the last election season.  Why?  It wouldn’t help them win any elections.  Further out of control spending would show them as irresponsible.  Responsible spending cuts would anger their voting base.  So they abdicated their constitutional responsibility.  They punted.  Now they’re trying to run out the clock with the Republicans on offense.  Positioning them to look like the bad guys.  No matter what happens.  Pain now (cuts).  Or greater pain later (no cuts).  It will be the Republicans’ fault.  Because they’re acting like the grownups here.  While the Democrats play their childish, partisan games.  And when the Democrats break the nation with their spending, like a child they’ll say it wasn’t them.   It was the big elephant in the room.  The big GOP elephant.

But what will the Democrats do if they win this showdown?  What will become of our country?  For if they don’t cut spending they will have to raise taxes.  But not by a little bit.  For the spending cuts proffered by the Republicans still aren’t large enough to solve the impending entitlement crisis.  So if there are no spending cuts the increase in taxes will have to be huge.  Bigger than the dollars in the current debate.  So big that they will truly undermine the anemic economic recovery underway.  Pulling the nation into a deeper recession.  So deep that we may never pull out without even more ‘draconian’ spending cuts.

In the grand scheme of things, a government shutdown is the least of our worries.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,