A Coming Government Shutdown?

As detailed in my previous column, despite appearances to the contrary, the federal government's spending on its regular operations is wildly out of control, tax collections are flat, and the fiscal year 2010 out-of-pocket deficit was much higher than it was in fiscal 2009.

So what are the chances of meaningfully turning this around? Even with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, the task ahead is Herculean.

Nothing illustrates the difficulty ahead more than an October 28 item in the Associated Press by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, with help from Laurie Kellman. The AP reporters' write-up makes it clear, just days before the midterm elections, that the presumed GOP congressional majority and the party's somewhat likely Senate majority will be spending much of the next two years in a knock-down, drag-out fiscal fight with President Obama, his party, and his press apparatchiks. With the battle lines already being drawn, it becomes difficult to imagine how this gets resolved without a repeat of the federal government shutdown the country experienced in 1995. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but if it happens, the outcome needs to be different from 15 years ago.

AP's reporters are clearly gearing up for the battle (key scare words bolded):

Republican leaders, ever more confident of their chances of winning control of the House and possibly even the Senate, have begun plotting a 2011 agenda topped by a push for more than $100 billion in spending cuts, tax reductions and attempts to undo key parts of President Barack Obama's health care and financial regulation laws.

... Most agree a marquee item on a new GOP majority's agenda would be an aggressive package of spending cuts, on the order of $100 billion or more, that could also be paired with steps to block implementation of key parts of Obama's health care law and new financial regulations.

... What's less clear is how Obama would respond, and whether a turbocharged Republican majority could muster a bipartisan compromise, especially when its freshman class will probably have little appetite for following any established party position or leader.

... On health care, there's little doubt that a Republican majority would quickly set a vote to ax the overhaul law -- a symbolic move that has no chance of succeeding given Obama's veto pen. The GOP would then follow up with attempts to block key elements of the measure by denying the money to implement it.

Let's first deal with the pathetic reportage from the AP's Davis and Kellman. Then I'll look at the bigger problem.

"Plotting"? After two years of unaccountable czars, union intimidation of and violence against private citizens, congressional non-transparency (remember "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"?), and legislators skipping town without even passing a budget, it's Republicans who are "plotting"? The rest of us would refer to what the Republicans are doing as "planning."

"Tax reductions"? Since the reporters don't reference anything else, one has to assume that they are writing about keeping the tax increases scheduled for next year (popularly referred to as "letting the Bush tax cuts expire") in place. Folks, if the increases are cancelled or postponed, taxes won't be reduced. They'll stay the same.

"Bipartisan compromise"? Given that the president has justified his consistent refusal to retreat from his positions by saying, "That's what elections are for" (as if anyone besides a small cadre of progressives in the know and of others who researched him and knew the truth had any idea of what was really coming), here's my one-word response: Why?

"Ax the overhaul law"? That's a really clever allusion to violence, Julie and Laurie, but the rest of us know it as "repeal." The reason what we refer to as ObamaCare needs to be repealed is because it isn't an "overhaul law" at all -- it's a statist takeover of about one-sixth of the economy.

Finally, there are the supposedly "aggressive" spending "cuts" of $100 billion or more.