Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Kabuki Dance of Government Shutdowns

'You Know We Will Re-Open Government; We Know We Will Re-Open Government'
(first published in North State Journal 1/15/19)
After World War II, Japanese diplomats wanted to change the image of Japan from one of being murderous war mongers to being one of creative world leaders.

To cultivate goodwill among the American public during years of tedious treaty negotiations, troupes of Japanese kabuki dancers were sent to the US for entertainment purposes. The hope was that Americans would learn to appreciate the ancient Japanese culture through the intricate, slow motions of kabuki with its stories of deception and intrigue which always ended in a resolution that the protagonists clearly knew would happen from the outset.

The effort failed miserably. Returning GIs were too busy buying tract homes and fathering and raising Baby Boomers in a bustling post-war economy to want to learn about the culture of a nation that attacked Pearl Harbor, caused 426,000 American casualties and ended in atomic warfare.

In 1961, Henry Taylor of the Los Angeles Times called a political maneuver by President Kennedy to fire undersecretary of State Chester Bowles a ‘left-wing kabuki’ dance and political machinations on both sides have been labeled ‘kabuki theatre’ ever since.

The Current Government Shutdown Is A Kabuki Dance Masterpiece.

Government shutdowns are bad policy. They hardly ever achieve their stated goal, which, in this case, would be the construction of The Wall between the US and Mexico.

Everyone knows we are going to re-open the federal government 100% sometime. The actors on stage, President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are going through the same long drawn-out and very slow motions of deception and intrigue seen in every other government shutdown that failed as well.

What is the ‘pressure point’ that makes a shutdown seem like a good political tactic to employ in the first place?

No money is ever saved during any federal shutdown.

85% of the federal government is operational today under the ‘partial shutdown’ scenario established after past shutdowns.

2/3rds of the $4 trillion federal budget is spent on mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ALL of those checks flow because they are ‘mandated’ by government to be paid at all times which would include during nuclear warfare.
850,000 furloughed federal workers will be paid in full once they return to work after the shutdown ends. Some single-earners may find it difficult to pay the bills unless a federal credit union will float them a short-term loan but essentially, shutdowns become ‘paid vacations’ for federal workers.

Net interest costs continue to accrue on $21 trillion of national debt already on the books. With interest rates rising from the near-zero levels under 8 years of President Obama to more ‘normal’ rates of 3-4%, the total net cost of interest paid will roughly double in 2019 over 2016 levels.

Most of the 300,000 currently furloughed federal workers live in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland metro area. Those areas never vote for a Republican President anyway so President Trump won’t be punished at the polls in 2020 in those areas for his role in the shutdown.

What is a better way to get The Wall done?

Cut a deal.

$5 billion is ‘decimal dust’ in federal budget terms. $5 billion is 0.125% of annual spending.

We incur additional debt of $5 billion per day.

Find 10 states with heavy Democratic representation that need 1 bridge built for $500 million each.

Get those Democrats to support The Wall in exchange for a bridge in their states, $5 billion for $5 billion.

A second option would be to grant permanent work status for 700,000 DACA recipients in return for the entire $25 billion to complete The Wall, be it physical, electronic or an Invisible Fence along the Rio Grande border.

There’s a deal to be made. Make it and end this senseless kabuki dance once and for all and forever.

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