“Here’s a simple question,” courtesy of Stacy McCain in the American Spectator. “Why are we currently funding the federal government through a series of short-term measures known as ‘continuing resolutions?'”
The answer is that the budgeting process has completely broken down in recent years, and the two men most responsible for that breakdown are President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. For three consecutive years — 2010, 2011, and 2012 — the Democrat-controlled Senate did not pass a budget bill because Reid knew that it would be a political liability to do so. Passing a budget that detailed the Democrats’ plans for spending and revenue as official policy would have exposed the “something for nothing” swindle that Reid and his colleagues are perpetrating on the American people. Republican challengers campaigning against Democrat senators could have cited their votes for the budget bill, saying that the incumbent voted for this, that, or the other unpopular component of the measure.
Reid and the Democrats knew this. They knew very well that the federal deficit was spiraling out of control, that there was not enough tax revenue to pay the mushrooming cost of entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment, et cetera), and certainly there wasn’t enough revenue to pay for all the boondoggles and giveaways the Democrats voted for in the name of “stimulus.” Adding to this, there was not enough revenue to pay the cost of Obamacare, which Democrats rammed through Congress in March 2010 on a party-line vote. Passing an actual budget would have made clear the unsustainable fiscal nightmare into which Democrat policies have plunged the nation during the Obama Age, and so Harry Reid simply didn’t pass a budget for three years.
Inevitably, there will be serious fiscal and economic consequences for what has been done in Washington since 2009. Democrats, however, cared less about such real-world matters than they did about the short-term political gain to be had by promoting the pleasant fiction that liberal “generosity” with taxpayer money (including trillions of dollars in deficit spending) had no real cost.
Which is one reason why trust in the government is so low, Glenn Reynolds writes in his latest USA Today column on the IRS scandal, which occurred after Mr. Obama “joked” about auditing his enemies in 2009:
(In another Rasmussen poll, 70% think that government and big business often work together against consumers and investors. According to Gallup, trust in government is lower than during Watergate.) But it’s worse than that.
Believing that government officials break the law is one thing; believing that they face no consequences when they’re caught and it becomes public is another. Not only is this a sort of “broken windows” signal to other bureaucrats — hey, you can break the law and get away with it — but it’s particularly damaging where the IRS is concerned.
America’s tax system, despite the feared IRS audit, is fundamentally based on voluntary compliance. If everyone starts cheating, there aren’t enough IRS agents to make a dent. Beyond taxes, that’s true regarding compliance with the law in general. Moral legitimacy is what makes honest people obey the law even when they can get away with breaking it. Undermine that and you get a country like, say, Italy, where tax evasion is a national sport.
Meanwhile, there’s another bit of bad news buried in that poll, this time for Democrats. The bad news is that a majority of Americans thinks the IRS broke the law even though the news media have consistently downplayed the scandal. But as the scandal has dragged on for months, word has filtered out anyway. Come 2014, the government’s damaged brand will reflect poorly on members of the president’s party, regardless of media efforts to protect them.
Beyond that, the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto has begun calling President Obama “President Asterisk,” saying that IRS efforts to weaken his opposition in the run-up to the 2012 election devalue Obama’s victory the way illegal steroid use devalues an athlete’s record-book standing. Taranto writes that this puts Obama in a situation that is in some ways worse than Nixon after Watergate: “We now know that government corruption — namely IRS persecution of dissenters — was a factor in Obama’s re-election.
With all of that as the backstory, “I’m really scared of what will happen if the government shuts down, you guys,” mock-quivers Jim Treacher:
Have you geniuses thought about what could happen? I mean, really thought about it?
If the government shuts down, who’s going to monitor your phone calls and texts and e-mails and Instagrams and whatever else they feel like, and suffer no consequences for it?
If the government shuts down, who’s going to subject you to a tax audit if you’ve ever attended a Tea Party event?
If the government shuts down, who’s going to tell you what to eat and drink, and which light bulbs to use, and which opinions to hold, and how to make every single “decision” in your day?
If the government shuts down, who’s going to tell you whatever lies they need to tell in order to inexorably expand their power?
Don’t worry, funding of the media wing of the Democrat party will continue non-interrupted no matter what else happens this week. And they’re taking the likelihood of a government shutdown about as well as you might expect.