David Dayen: The U.S. Government Has Shut Down. Unfortunately, How the U.S. Governs Hasn’t.

By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen

Being ensconced here on the West Coast, I didn’t have to wait up all night wondering whether or not the government would shut down. You know things were over around dinnertime in California and points west, when House Republicans decided to pass a resolution to move to a conference committee on the continuing resolution to fund the government. The Senate has tried 18 times over the past six months, ever since they passed a budget, to move to conference, and were denied each time. So the clear obviousness of this stunt meant I could stop taking bets on the outcome.

And yet, it must be said that there is a very clear, however cruel, logic to this shutdown, logic employed by members of both parties for decades. Dylan Matthews did us the favor of researching past government shutdowns, which were extremely regular for about 20 years, until the media successfully convinced the GOP that the 1996 shutdown cost them the Presidency (and not, er, Bob Dole’s campaign). The truth is that there were 17 government shutdowns from the initiation of the modern Congressional budget process in 1976 until 1996. Even after 1980, when rulings by Carter’s Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti mandated that government agencies receiving appropriations close down if funding ran out, government shutdowns occurred with disturbing regularity, with nine throughout the Reagan-Bush years, and two under Clinton. In fact, every time there has been divided government since the Ford Administration, the government has shut down at some point, with only one exception: the tenure of George W. Bush in 2007-2008. I would argue the reasons for that are:

1) The memory of the Gingrich shutdown and its impact on electoral politics remained in the rear-view mirror;
2) Democrats had thin majorities (only 51 Senators, and 233 members of Congress, a mere 15-vote margin) and enough Blue Dogs that the mainstream Democratic position, at least on budgetary issues, didn’t have a working majority;
3) Bush was a lame duck;
4) There was a little thing called the financial crisis occupying Congress’ time in 2008.

Other than that, this form has held, though the sample size is admittedly rather small. But before you, like many Democratic partisans, say “but everything’s changed, Democrats would never hold the government hostage over gun control,” consider the various policy reasons for government shutdowns over the past 37 years. There were four shutdowns over abortion funding in the 1970s, a Democratic-led shutdown over funding for the notorious MX missile in 1982, a Democratic-led shutdown over a Supreme Court civil rights ruling in 1984, a Democratic-led shutdown over expanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children (that’s welfare) in 1986, and a Democratic-led shutdown over aid to the Contras and the Fairness Doctrine(!) in 1987. So shutdowns were for quite a while part of the normal business of government. And as I said, there’s a cruel logic to them. When Congress and the White House are held by different parties, Congress has no bigger chip at their disposal than the power of the purse. So they use that, over and over again, to extract often unrelated policy concessions from the executive branch. It may have stopped for a while for various reasons, but it’s back because it’s a very inviting way for a Congressional majority to assert their will.

The other complaint I hear is “but Republicans lost the election!” That may be true – it’s even sort of true in the House, where Democratic candidates actually yielded more votes than Republicans – but as Ian Milhiser points out, House Republicans certainly believe that they were elected too, and divine the popular will accordingly:

In a Monday interview with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Chaffetz how he can continue to fight to block the Affordable Care Act when President Obama so recently ran for reelection on his health plan and won. Chaffetz’s response was straight out of Juan Linz: “I too won an election. You want me to just disregard all of my voters and all of the promises that I made and how I got elected? . . . . There’s got to be some respect that we too were elected, and the majority of the people that serve in the House of Representatives are Republicans.”

The common thread here is the peculiar system of government we have in the United States, which allows for a divided government where each side can lay claim to a popular mandate, and each side can also veto the other’s work to act on that mandate. This is simply not a problem in Parliamentary democracies, where a disagreement over budget priorities would lead to an election, not sending federal workers home. And then one party wins that election, and gets to implement their agenda, and after a while the public can decide whether they liked it or not, and vote accordingly, and allow for implementation of the next agenda. It’s very novel: democratic accountability.

As Yale political scientist Juan Linz explained in 1990, the chief executive in a presidential system has a “strong claim to democratic, even plebiscitarian, legitimacy” as the only national official elected by the nation as a whole, but an opposition-controlled legislature can also claim democratic legitimacy as the winners of their own elections.

“Under such circumstances, who has the stronger claim to speak on behalf of the people: the president or the legislative majority that opposes his policies? Since both derive their power from the votes of the people in a free competition among well-defined alternatives, a conflict is always possible and at times may erupt dramatically. There is no democratic principle on the basis of which it can be resolved, and the mechanisms the constitution might provide are likely to prove too complicated and aridly legalistic to be of much force in the eyes of the electorate.”

When the president and the legislature reach a truly unresolveable impasse, Linz warned that the end result is often quite ugly. “It is therefore no accident that in some such situations in the past, the armed forces were often tempted to intervene as a mediating power.”

The problem, in short, is the nature of the Presidential system itself, and it’s one that serves elites quite nicely, by the way. Virtually all of the services that will go unfilled during this shutdown, for example, are services for the poor or near-poor. A sclerotic governing system empowers a status quo that is biased toward elites, who are often the only ones able to break the gridlock, when it suits them and their pocketbooks.

Consider also how the nature of the gridlock itself empowers elite goals in this case. Democratic pundits and allies have talked themselves blue about the doomed Speakership of John Boehner, the lunacy of Ted Cruz, and whether the Republican fever will break. Precious few words, by contrast, have been written about the fact that the SOLUTION here, the position that Democrats have been pushing, is a “clean” continuing resolution, which will enforce sequestration limits, a spending cap below societal need and economic demand, into Fiscal Year 2014. And while that would only hold for a couple months, anyone who thinks sequestration will somehow be cancelled (or even “replaced,” which does the economy next to no good from a macro standpoint) by the same people who just shut down the government over “defunding” Obamacare, which is by its nature mandatory spending and not defunded today, is nuts. But Democratic politicians benefit from the virtual silence about how the country is doomed to austerity spending caps for what could be an entire decade. And elites enjoy advantages from such a state of affairs as well.

So governing, not this government, is responsible for why your national parks are closed and your meat isn’t being inspected and the line is busy when you call the Social Security Administration today. It’s beyond time to transform this system of governing, which is completely unsuited to our political and policy of the moment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Macroeconomic policy, Politics on by .

About David Dayen

David is a contributing writer to Salon.com. He has been writing about politics since 2004. He spent three years writing for the FireDogLake News Desk; he’s also written for The New Republic, The American Prospect, The Guardian (UK), The Huffington Post, The Washington Monthly, Alternet, Democracy Journal and Pacific Standard, as well as multiple well-trafficked progressive blogs and websites. His has been a guest on MSNBC, CNN, Aljazeera, Russia Today, NPR, Pacifica Radio and Air America Radio. He has contributed to two anthology books, one about the Wisconsin labor uprising and another on the fight against the Stop Online Piracy Act in Congress. Prior to writing about politics he worked for two decades as a television producer and editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ddayen.


  1. reason

    but the two party duopoly will never reform the system. You need a party in the US committed just to democratic renewal, that promises to disband when the constitution and electoral procedures are reformed.

  2. Finster

    Prime Minister of Britain is he who has a Majority in Parliament to pass a budget and have backing on all matters of consequence.

    Chancellor of the Federal Republic is She who controls a majority in the Bundestag on all matters of consequence. She can only be replaced in a vote of no confidence through the successful election of a new Chancellor with majority.

    The President of the United States is responsible for bringing a budget to Congress, but is not required to have a majority for it. He does not even have the right of legislative initiative.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Here is the problem with that excuse. There is NO BUDGET PROPOSAL except continuing resolutions and the insanity of sequester proposed by Obama to bully Congress into cutting Social Security. They print them on very books and send them out, so the CBO, the media, and the general populace can read through. Obama is the first President since the 192? Budget Act when they realized 435 bosses plus 96 of the most vile people on the planet couldn’t create the modern Federal Budget.

      Ever since then, the President’s budget is the basic framework and is very close to the final product until Obama with Democratic majorities just decided to stop in 2010. Congress Teabagger X will go home to his district and say, “I fought hard. We made some tough choices. We only increased SPENDING PROGRAM Y by 50% which is 25% cut because of inflation, and we are going to employ dozens of young people while providing entertainment and important lessons about guns with the opening of this laser tag arena.” They can’t get the laser tag arena because the President has decided not to propose a budget.

      This is an Obama created mess, not Republican or Democratic.Republicans whined? They always do that. This babying of Obama is pathetic. He ran for President of the United States not the optimist club of Southeast of Hoboken. Whining and name calling is a pathetic excuse.

      1. LucyLulu

        What??? Obama has created a budget every year he’s been in office, and yes, it’s been published. The Senate did not do a budget, however, until this last year.

        The president always does his budget first. However his budget has no authority, technically, it’s merely a suggestion as to what he’d like. Congress is responsible for creating the budget and appropriating funds. Then, the House comes up with their budget followed by the Senate. Then the two Houses meet in conference to hash out the differences. The final budget is sent to the president who either signs it or vetoes it. That is how it’s supposed to work. With no budget, Congress passes Continuing Resolutions which maintains spending at levels from previous budget.

        This year all parties did their budgets. The House and Senate budgets had differences, of course. Boehner refused to appoint members to conference to work out the differences. The Senate made 18 requests since March, and was turned down 18 times. Hence no budget. And hence Reid’s reaction when the House sent over the bill requesting a conference committee last night 30 minutes prior to the shut-down deadline.

        There’s been plenty to blame Obama and Democrats for. This isn’t one of them though. The Tea Party folk, of whom I know some, were talking about shutting down government, before their candidates were even elected in 2010. This is shutting down government for the sake of shutting down government, not to further some ideological cause, other than wanting to destroy the government they deem evil. Their backers have thrown millions at Cruz and friends in tv ads and such in support of this shutdown. In the end, shutdowns cost more money than they save, so do nothing to further fiscal responsibility. They want to default for the same reason, but I predict their plutocrat backers will intervene to prevent that, as it will go against their interests.

        I disagree with the writer of the article about keeping sequestration in place. While it needs to be lifted, it doesn’t need to be debated in this context, but settled during the budget process. We have a do-nothing Congress who needs to be held accountable. If they can’t pass budgets and legislation people overwhelmingly support, they should be replaced. If they want to represent the interest of wealthy backers, let the wealthy vote for them. We will vote for those who represent us. We are the 99%.

    2. bh2

      Sort of imposing a (rare) triple-line whip, the PM does not enjoy inevitable support even from his own party. Witness the recent (wise) rejection by Parliament of Cameron’s decision to take the UK to war in Syria.

      While I admire the Parliamentary system for its many strengths, the Founders chose a different path to limit the powers (therefore the periodic excesses) of government.

      The author of this article closes by saying “It’s beyond time to transform this system of governing, which is completely unsuited to our political and policy of the moment.”

      He should be careful what he asks for fear he may get it.

      1. Nathanael

        The author of this article is completely right, unfortunately. The current system of government at the federal level does not work. It has already been corrupted to the point where the President is openly murdering people and getting away with it. It has *failed*.

        Before that, it failed in 1860.

        It’s well past time to replace it with a system which has some kind of record of working. Parliamentary systems appear to be inherently better. Proportional representation systems appear to be inherently better. Approval voting is definitely better.

        And nobody in the world wants to have anything like the US Senate, which, by preventing the majority from ruling for decades, is largely responsible for the Civil War.

      2. Nathanael

        ” the Founders chose a different path to limit the powers (therefore the periodic excesses) of government.”

        They failed. The “kill orders” are enough proof that they failed.

      3. Kelley

        Actually, they didn’t “choose a different path”, they were trail blazers into democratic government. The Parliamentary system wasn’t installed anywhere that didn’t include an overruling monarch until after the Constitution was written and installed. Since every election, at every level, is ‘first past the post’ and ‘Partys’ don’t exist in the US Constitution, there’re no parties to have certain percentages of legislative seats based on overall voting.

        Additionally, the idea of a Constitutional convention in the current political environment scares the shit out of me.

        Instead, I support the national movement to institute Instant Run-Off Voting, so that a third-party vote is not only a wasted vote, but a vote for the opposing party. Look it up. (http://www.fairvote.org/instant-runoff-voting)

        That and public financing may be our only hopes. At least I.R.V. hasn’t been held unconstitutional yet.

  3. H. Alexander Ivey

    “So governing, not this government, is responsible for why your national parks are closed and your meat isn’t being inspected and the line is busy when you call the Social Security Administration today. It’s beyond time to transform this system of governing, which is completely unsuited to our political and policy of the moment.”

    So you are saying the type of government is the problem, not the people in the government? I will argue about the “type” and quite disagree about the people. The people are always part of the problem, else one is saying no one is responsible.

    As for the type of government, the US suffers because the government is no longer operating as it was designed – a system of checks and balances. Now it is almost pure executive, the legislative branch is bought off and the courts are no longer practicing law based on the written word but based on the social class level. Your argument for a new type or style of government is not convincing when one examines the state of Great Britain, home of the parliamentary system you contrast the US with.

    In short, it IS the government, by how it governs, that is why your national parks are closed, etc.

    1. Carla

      The legislative branch is bought off, and the executive is not?


      To say the system is the problem is not to absolve the actors of responsibility; it is to focus on the actual problem.

      Persons — or Personalities– in the employ of big money, whether its specific source is the Koch Brothers, Warren Buffett, or Goldman Sachs, will never solve this.

      And certainly the funders have no impetus to do so. It serves them so well.

    2. Carol Sterritt

      I agree with you.
      And I also think that since this whole notion of “budget ceiings” etc is all so clearly invented with the Republicans insisting they have the right to sequester,while the Dmeocrats actually vote for the measures the RRW nutjobs propose, then I also think about the “looming shut down” historically, and realize that there has been almost an entire year long window apparent to the people in government. Everyone in Congress and the Beltway knew this was coming. I wonder how many of them figured out over the past year which stocks would be smart to “short” at the opening of Monday’s Sept 30th’s stock market, and what not.

  4. Aussie F

    “Since both derive their power from the votes of the people in a free competition among well-defined alternatives.”
    I don’t know what planet political scientists live on, but here on earth we can’t get a cigarette paper between the major parties.

    1. Banger

      I think the difference between the major parties was fairly small but I think there is a developing gap at this time. The Republican Party has become radicalized by a combination of religious fundamentalism (a Christianity that has no connection with the teachings of Jesus), radical selfishness and pure evil (seem my comment below), bits and pieces of honest libertarianism but above all it is the tool of a segment of the oligarchy that is bent on destroying civil society and changing the course of Western Civilization towards a neo-feudal future. Mind you, both parties are moving in that direction but the Democratic Party will give us a chance to prepare–the RP wants to move us there without giving us a chance to adapt. Democratic Party is sleazy but has some sense of decency–the Republican Party seems to have lost all sense of decency.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        “some sense of decency”

        The Democratic Party? Are you kidding? Perhaps, the local underlings do, but this was a party out to increase defense spending at the first opportunity for war. They spent three weeks arguing for this despite this budget deadline looming. Democrats weren’t arguing for increased domestic spending and cutting hideous wastes such as the NSA. They just have a different set of supporters to speak to, but the Democrats were trying to sell a war in Syria with PR men who voted for the Iraq War.

        They trotted out Republicans of yesteryear to lead Republicans to a war. These people have no sense of decency.

        1. Banger

          As I’ve said, the DP is sleazy and corrupt but the RP wants to destroy Western Civilization, at least if you take their ideas to their logical conclusions. The DP doesn’t go that far–they want the status quo, more or less.

          1. Malmo

            The RP want’s to destroy Western Civilization? Don’t think so. It does, however, want to accrue more and more power, just as does the DP. At base they are both corporate whores. I live in Chicago. Democrats are every bit as kleptocratic as their Republican counterparts. There is no better alternative between them. Just ask Ralph Nader. Just ask non establishment leftists, if you can find one that gets much air time. Both parties stink. Period.

            1. Banger

              RP seems to be opposed to reason, science, and morality other than arbitrary sexual restrictions. It is opposed to compassion and community. Seems like nihilism to me.

              1. Malmo

                That’s a silly caricature. I much prefer to skewer the DP media whores. For more on that topic Google Seymour Hersh.

                1. Banger

                  It is not a caricature–it is real. Today from Andrew Sullivan: “The American conservative is being revealed right now as the purest form of political vandalism known in the Western world.”

                2. Synopticist

                  I think you’re suffering from normalcy bias. Seen from the rest of planet earth, the republicans really do look f*ckin crazy, hellbent on pursuing an oligarchic agenda to the detriment of everyone else.

                  The democrats just seem like normal, corrupt centrists, shifting righwards as they follow the money.

                    1. Banger

                      Since Obama got elected. Obama was the perfect candidate to really roll out the right-wing’s version of the Mighty Wurlitzer and this version plays much more precise and crips notes. Once race was added to the dimension, along with Citizens United the extreme right was primed, fueled and ready to tear it up. The right-wing cadre that are really just victims of carefully crafted mind-control techniques are formidable as we can see–capable of bringing the state to its knees. In the end, I fear, it will backfire on the right and become a monstrous force that may get out of control.

                    2. James Levy

                      The Day they published the Contract with America and sent the 1994 nudniks into Congress. That was the period when some Republicans really were talking about limited government and ending corporate welfare. Well, they got bought out by the Oligarchy and now we have small government for everyone but FIRE sector, extractive industries, the military/intelligence complex, and agribusiness.

                      Democrats suck but Republicans revel in punishment and pain in a way most Dems just don’t.

                    3. Lambert Strether

                      @Banger IMSHO, you’re just wrong. Gingrich’s Republicans shut down the government, impeached Clinton over a *******, and then stole election 2000!!! And the Democrats, led by Obama, have been cutting deals with them all the way through the Obama administration.

                      If anybody’s to blame for this mess, it’s the Democrats who had their boots on the Republicans’ throats in 2009, then gave them a hand up and let them back in the game. Do you seriously believe the Democrats did that in good faith?

                    4. Synopticist

                      Yeah, they went strange in 94, mad in 2002, and moon batsh*t loopy in 2010.
                      And the dems shifted right every time, to fill the space in the “centre ground” the republicans had voluntarilly vacated.

                    5. Dan Kervick

                      The Republicans are executing a long-term strategy that they have been following for a few decades now, probably going in back in one form or other to the Powell memorandum, but kicking into high gear with the Gingrich Congress. That strategy is to dismantle every last bit of the New Deal, the Great Society and the bargaining position of working people and the poor, and to prevent any other such programs from ever passing.

                      SNAP? Just a tiny piece of the agenda. Medicare and Social Security are also in the firing lines. The Republicans sense Democrats are weak in the Macmillan sense. Their strategy is to make maintaining the government in the face of endless crises so much of a nuisance that the ever-appeasing Democrats will continue to trade away bits and pieces of their legacy just to buy another few months of legislative peace. Democrats last night already agreed to a continuing resolution that represents the permanent institutionalization of the sequester. Paul Ryan is winning; Newt Gingrich is winning; Boehner is winning; Norquist is winning. Democrats, as usual, will angle to the center to capture the short-term political advantage, because the party is run by spiritually empty postmodern headpieces who have no real commitment to anything other than their meaningless jobs producing poll numbers and election victories. As usual, Democrats will win the short-term political battle as measured by poll results, and convince themselves they won. But they will trade away another little piece of everything worth fighting for, and continue to lose the war.

                    6. Lambert Strether

                      @Dan Typo in your first sentence. For “Republicans” read “Republicans and Democrats.” The systematic demolition of the New Deal from the start of the neo-liberal* dispensation in the mid-70s was a thoroughly bipartisan affair. I don’t know why it seems so hard for you to recognize that the two legacy parties — even if they do hate each other — function as a single system. I mean, HeritageCare -> RomneyCare -> ObamaCare. Financial deregulation. Obama normalizing everything Bush ever did on surveillance. And on and on and on.

                      Adding… To put this more kindly, I do not accept narratives of Democratic weakness. See the three examples above. They do what they do because they believe it. The crocodile tears are for the rubes. It’s kayfabe.

                      NOTE * For want of a better word.

                    7. Dan Kervick

                      I have inveighed routinely in my writing against the neoliberal takeover of the Democratic Party during the past four decades, and gave that as my reason for finally leaving the Democratic Party after a lifetime of membership in it.

                      A difference between the parties, however, is that while the policy and funding elites of both of them are equally invested in corporate and financial dominance of the political system, and are thus equally responsible for the record of financial disaster and growing inequality, the party’s rank and file members are quite different. Almost all the Republicans I know are fiercely opposed to almost every kind of government spending, regulation and participation in the economy. They want only a tiny watchdog state, and fly into rages about everything that smells like socialism. But most rank and file Democrats I know are supportive of activist government and social welfare and safety net programs, and are quite open to proposals to expand the government role in retirement, education, health care and employment. Unfortunately, they are often afflicted by denial, hero-worship and double-think when it comes to grasping who runs their party.

                      And the fact is that right now the battle in Washington is between one group that is trying to defend a new government program that, while riddled with flaws and doing nothing to challenge economic privileges and greed of the health-industrial complex, does nevertheless use government subsidies and regulation to bring it about that a few months from now millions of people who have no health insurance protection will at least have some, and another group that is furiously bent on stopping this program. And it is quite obvious to anyone but the most blind observer that the latter opponents are not opposing this program because they wish to substitute for it a better and more progressive program, but because they want nothing along these lines whatsoever.

                      You seemed to admit as much in your recent post, although you buried the admission in the tiny final paragraph after many paragraphs of well-rehearsed denunciations.

                      I think you are terrified that events sometimes evolve in ways that require you to make a moral choice between competing groups that, while they are filled with loathsome and corrupt characters on each side and are each defending a variety of backward and oppressive policy regimes, and not at all 100% equivalent. Your recent attempt to display for me a couple of pro-single payer Republican needles in the haystack of Republican Bircher madness seems very desperate.

                    8. Lambert Strether

                      Thanks for your lengthy response. Some are OK with a system that cements rentier control over the health care system in place forever, as long as it provides concrete material benefits to some. Others are not OK with that system, and are striving to replace it with a better one, not only to avoid thousands of excess deaths, but to benefit all, equally.

                      Since you seem to spend most of your time vehemently asserting your OK-ness with that rentier-friendly system, and denouncing those who critique it, I can only assume you fall into the former category; the cognitive dissonance must be considerable. You have my condolences, but please do not project your own sense of desperation at the ethical and political contradictions of your position onto me.

                      Adding… I’m accustomed to working with — gasp!!!!! — conservatives at the state and local level to get things done; both preventing a huge landfill expansion and stopping a hideous privatized corridor across the state. So my thinking on these points is not, er, “desperate.” Or academic either, I might add.

            2. LucyLulu

              Chicago Democrats are a caricature of the party, of any party. They’ve been the epitome of corruption for 100 years at least. Holding them up as representative of the Democratic Party is akin to holding up Al Qaeda as representative of Muslims.

              I agree with Banger. Both parties have long-standing problems and serve the interests of corporate and wealthy donors. However, there’s a new faction in the Republican party who is grossly antisocial, devoid of compassion or empathy. They don’t want to reform government, make it more efficient or put to better purpose, they want to destroy it. As a Republican most of my life, this faction bears no resemblance to the party I was a member of. It’s an attempt to create a Randian (Ayn) “society”. Society is in quotes because it normally implies bonds and obligations between individual members, and these members feel individuals only have obligations to self. Taxation beyond level required to serve self-interests is considered theft.

              1. Malmo

                LucyLulu, then please don’t hold the so called Tea Party faction as representative of the Republican Party if Chicago isn’t the epitome of the Democrats.

                On the other hand, Obama is a Chicago politico. There’s much more than guilt by assocation there.

                1. LucyLulu

                  Whether or not the TP is representative of the GOP (and I agree they hold a minority position), they are controlling the actions of the House, and even those of mainstream GOP. With districts heavily gerrymandered, and a fervent TP faction, mainstream GOP members face primaries from their right if they take more centrist positions or engage in the compromises required by a two-party system. Few Republicans (but some do, e.g. Tom Coburn, Peter King) feel secure enough to speak out publicly against TP tactics. Paul Ryan? Eric Cantor? Missing in action.

              2. Lambert Strether

                “Chicago Democrats are a caricature of the party.” So that would explain why both Obama and his wife (who is the daughter of a precinct captain for the Democratic machine) are from Chicago, his chief of staff is now Mayor there, and Commerce secretary (a squillionaire, and IIRC a bundler) is from there.

                By “caricature” are you sure you don’t mean “completely accurate representation”?

                1. LucyLulu

                  No, I meant caricature.

                  Chicago was the home of Bugs Moran, Al Capone, and Sidney Korshak (lawyer who laundered Teamster pension funds into Vegas). The term “Mickey Finn” was derived from a bar owned by Michael Finn over 100 years ago, who used to drug patrons’ drinks and then rob them. The ‘Chicago Outfit’ syndicated crime organization has its roots back in Depression era days and still exists. It has been implicated in the deaths of JFK and Helen Brach, candy heiress whose body was never found, in the late 1970’s (Brach and mob were both into horses).

                  There are many, many cases of government officials over the years accepting bribes from the Outfit, working for the Outfit, leaking info, and other sorts of collusion between judiciary, law enforcement, and mayoral and alderman staff and the Outfit. In the late 90’s, a member was retried for capital murder for the first time in history, Double Jeopardy found not to apply, when it was discovered the judge had been bribed in the first trial. Several high ranking members received life sentences about 5 years ago in a case where jurors were sequestered and remained anonymous for their safety and to prevent bribery. When I lived in Chicago, certain areas were well-known to be inhabited by the Outfit (River Forest). Richard Daley, Sr. was long-time mayor and infamous for his nepotism. Not mentioned are all the bodies found in trunks of cars, floating in bodies of water, cut into pieces, and those shot down in broad daylight and public places.

                  A culture has developed and become accepted (qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire?) in Chicago that is unique among places I’ve lived (moved away in 1985). Yes, corruption exists in politics everywhere but no place else has it been so rampant, overt, and even violently enforced. As to Obama’s or involvement of the African-American community, I don’t recall seeing African-Americans in Outfit-related news. The Outfit hung out in white neighborhoods, west and northwest suburbs mostly. U of Chicago is on the south side, predominantly African American (outside small upscale Hyde Park neighborhood with UC campus). Geographically Chicago is, or was when I lived there, segregated. The Outfit members themselves were of Italian ethnicity, Sicilian I believe. They had a reputation for being racist.

                  I wouldn’t doubt Obama would have at least picked up on the quid pro quo way of business during his time there. That however would hardly make him unique in politics, where principles and integrity seem to be the exception rather than the rule….. even required to raise the necessary funds needed for a competitive presidential bid. Large donors aren’t making charitable donations, or because they want to improve the lot of mankind. They expect returns on their “investments”, specifically improving their own lots.

                  1. Nathanael

                    The thing about Chicago corruption is that *stuff gets done*. The snow is cleared from the sidewalks, the garbage is collected, the buses keep running.

                    People will tolerate that sort of corruption. They’ll tolerate a huge amount of it, forever.

                    We are now seeing a different sort of corruption at the federal level — the sort where *stuff doesn’t get done*. People eventually stop tolerating that.

            3. Nathanael

              No, it’s pretty accurate. The Democratic Party is corrupt and sleazy. The Republican Party is an apocalyptic death cult. They want to destroy *everything*. They think the Book of Revelation is an *instruction manual*.

    2. cerebral enema

      Right, it takes a Phd political scientist to say something so amazingly stupid. The parties are centrally-directed organs of the state, and their raison d’etre is silencing or crushing unauthorized opinions. Ask Kucinich. Ask Bill Bradley. Ask Ralph Nader. Ask the biggest piece of RFK’s skull.

      Furthermore, power may issue from competition among restricted alternatives, but contra Linz, victory in a forced-choice election does not give you democratic legitimacy. By law, you get democratic legitimacy only if you win an election that guarantees free expression of the will of the electors. That has nothing to do with voting in the USA.

      So Obama’s legitimacy is equal to Bush’s legitimacy and is equal to this circle I am making with my finger and my thumb. The little potus in my pants has more legitimacy. Zzzzip! Hail to the Chief!

  5. 12312399

    the US has had a “broken system” of government since the ratification of the Constitution…..it’s designed that way…..disproportionate power to one particular form of political minority—the small sates, hard to amend constitution, very powerful, removed judicial branch and disproportionately powerful Senate.

    i’d argue that the flaws of the constitution were covered up by the fact that any form of government would have created a powerful America when you have two oceans to protect you and an unspoiled, richly endowed continent sparsely occupied by weak natives, a bankrupt empire (France) and another ossified one on the decline (Spain).

    but liberals (or conservatives) shouldn’t complain….depending on the tide of current events the “flaws” in the Constitution are a boon to their side….other times, not so much.

    1. Eureka Springs

      Hear hear! The constitution was crafted and passed by the same types of people under much the same manner as TPP is being handled today.

      And OWS was put down much the same way, for the same reasons as Shays Rebellion.

      We are not now, nor were we ever a democracy. Just try to find the word ‘democracy’ in the constitution. It’s not there! We the people never ratified the constitution. And perhaps even more importantly as mentioned above, the people cannot change it without the very corrupt owners agreeing to it.


  6. Banger

    I think this post makes some good points but falls far short at the end–I was left stranded on a desert island with no shore or ship in sight–kind of a non sequitor.

    Anyway I think we can must about the shutdown here and I look forward to what people say here which is always interesting and intellectually stimulating and often amusing.

    This time it’s different. This shutdown is part of a pattern and comes at a sensitive time. Both parties are, as Dayen points out, serving the same class more or less but the situation also involves a deeply split public and ruling class also. The question before us is whether or not we will, in the USA, continue Western Civilization or not. Not that either side would put it that way but basically that’s the larger question here.

    The ACA is deeply flawed as we’ve all said and, perhaps, it is better to trash it and come to a rational solution to our disaster of a health-care system. But the opposition to the ACA has nothing to do with whether the bill is good or bad. The RP objects to the bill not because it is wasteful and a kind of Rube Goldberg device but because it could help poor people have a better life. The agenda of the RP and the right is to initiate a turn towards something Scrooge would approve of (before his epiphany). While some woolly-headed libertarian intellectuals might say that a freer market would blah-blah, most of the objection to the ACA is based on pure mean-spiritedness and hatred. To put it more bluntly, out of pure evil. Evil is the “religion” of pure selfishness advocated by Ayn Rand–why do I say that? Because, for me, (see if you agree here), good and evil are defined by moving towards connection or moving away from connection. Good comes from compassion of feeling connected to others and the ultimate good is connection with all things. Evil is the opposite–it is radical alienation–others are rivals to be destroyed if they get in the way and to be manipulated if they are useful. In my view there are very few if any who are pure evil or good–all of the people I’ve known are a mix of the two. To move in the direction to favor the idea that we are all separate (there is no such thing as society as Thatcher said) is to follow evil.

    I don’t like the Democratic Party it is, as an institution, sleazy, opportunistic, filled with hustlers, war-mongers and frauds but most leaders in that party do believe that civilization is a good thing–that the welfare of the public counts for something, nor much, mind you, but something. But the Republican Party, with this Congress, is moving in the direction of evil and, as such, needs to be opposed and condemned for what it is doing now. They seek to wreck the system so that we will live in a neofeudal system where the most evil can turn us into serfs and rule our minds, our bodies and our souls. I hate to put it in such a corny way but that’s how I see it. Now there are individual Republicans I’m sure that are dupes, or stupid, or true-believers in the fairy-tales spouted by the PR firms that formulate their propaganda but the party as a whole is what it is and that is a movement towards evil based on the will of major oligarchs like the Koch brothers and the Walton family.

    1. Waking Up

      Your comment is an extension of the “lesser evil”. The leader of the Democratic Party wanted to declare War on Syria, has a “kill list”, knowingly expanded NSA spying on U.S. citizens, has stated he wants to make cuts in Social Security and Medicare, pushed and passed the ACA which mandates we purchase private insurance (guess who wins big there), is strongly pushing the TPP, and the list goes on. The majority of Democratic party “leaders” are in agreement with those policies, so, I completely disagree with you that they believe “civilization is a good thing”.

      The politicians in Washington D.C. and the future “wannabes” know there is a lot of money to be made. It is the wealthiest community in the United States…stop and think about that for a moment. Politicians no longer go to Congress (or become President for that matter) to “do the right thing” for their congressional representatives. They are networking to increase their future wealth….. whether to get a job as a college Dean, on the board of citigroup, as a lobbyist, etc. Some simply want to keep that government position and all the power associated with it.

      All this “game playing” by the two parties just brings in additional money from lobbyists among many others. The longer they drag out the “game playing”, the more money they bring in. It also provides pundits the narrative that there is a difference between the parties when in reality both parties have become the party of the wealthy. But, they can’t maintain the illusion if the American people finally wise up to the fact that they have NO representatives in government. BOTH the Republican and Democratic parties are highly complicit in this. So, to say one party is somehow a lesser evil, well….

      1. Banger

        I’m getting tired of this kind of critique. Yes, on major issues both parties favor their clients, the people who pay their way, who give jobs to friends and relatives. But one party has become the party of vandals who want to tear down civilization itself. All kinds of rich-friendly regimes have been present in the world but a political movement that favors destruction for the sake of destruction to appease the most radical and, frankly, evil forces in society is what the Republican Party is today.

        In the Weimar Republic the government of Heinrich Brüning was pretty bad–favored the rich and imposed austerity and, frankly, prepared the way for Hitler. But he was not the same as Hitler. These guys, and surely you must realize this by now, are much more dangerous than the corrupt Democrats. I don’t see how you can deny this. I have always been for a dialogue with the libertarian right particularly on matters of Empire and civil liberties–I believe they are acting in good faith, for the most part, but the mouth-breathers that Koch and his other pals have created through sophisticated mind-control techniques are as monstrous in their own way as Hitler’s followers though with very different goals. This bunch doesn’t want to create a powerful state to benefit the people and crush minorities like Hitler–they are nihilists pure and simple–they hate modern society and want to go back to feudalism and/or the wild west. In short, they want to destroy the country: I have already posted this quote from Andrew Sullivan:

        I regard this development as one of the more insidious and anti-constitutional acts of racist vandalism against the American republic in my adult lifetime. Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.

        I don’t like the Obama administration or the ACA. I think it has betrayed the base and working America–it claimed that it would initiate a change agenda and that has, largely, been a false claim Obama never had an intention of implementing. He is a conservative, a real conservative. The Republican Party is a party of various shades of racist, fascist, and feudal forces who want to destroy this country. Their efforts, at best, may leave the field open for the real left but the real left has shown itself to be ideologically opposed to politics–we prefer sermons and complaining.

        1. Waking Up

          I’m not making the case that many of the representatives of the Republican party (and their enablers) aren’t dangerous..they are. I’m saying that most of the representatives in the Democratic party are just as dangerous. NSA spying, TPP trade agreements, bank bailouts without consequences, endless wars… all being pushed by the Democratic party.

          We can go back and forth on who is the “lesser evil”, but my final criteria is who is looking out for the citizens of the United States? Neither majority party. As a result, I find both parties “dangerous” to the citizens of this country.

          1. Banger

            As I said below somewhere take your pick the horrible idiots at the end of the Weimar period or Hitler?

            The DP sucks but it is merely corrupt and stupid and yes it caters to the national security state but it has to because they have the fist and the gun and what they want goes end of story. All sides have to cater to certain interests or they will die politically and/or physically (this is very rare of course).

            The RP wasn’t much different from the DP for many years but today it is much more dangerous because the TP movement is a result of sophisticated mind-control techniques they are, in a sense, like the mindless zombies that are populating many entertainment features only guided by experts in Washington and NYC.

          2. LucyLulu

            “NSA spying, TPP trade agreements, bank bailouts without consequences, endless wars… all being pushed by the Democratic party.”

            And also being pushed by the Republican party.

            Banger isn’t saying there aren’t serious problem with both parties, nor am I. I’m not even saying the Republican party as a whole is the problem. That doesn’t mean that certain acts or practices by either party shouldn’t be able to called out as especially egregious, without being subject to criticisms of falling victim to “lesser of two evils”. Is our thinking really that simplistic? It’s almost become a religious-type indoctrination: “one shalt not appear partisan”

            But take heart, those in the “equally evil” camp. The MSM is right there with you as far as assigning blame equally, following an increasing trend to appear to provide unbiased and balanced coverage. Apparently, they don’t want to be criticized as falling prey to the “lesser of two evils” mentality either.


            And the enabler is responsible for the drinking???? Yeah, so says the drunk, but doesn’t make it true. Puhleeeze.

            1. LucyLulu

              I withdraw my comment about the drunk. I misread the comment I was responding to. My sincere apologies.

        2. lambert strether

          I’m getting tired of the critique that sees the problems we experience in our political economy as caused by one party, as opposed to the two legacy parties considered as a system. I see the real source of our problems as the “neo-liberal” (let’s call it) dispensation at seems to have taken over in the mid-70s (the “Washington consensus,” the “great moderation,” etc.) and rules the country to this day.

          Consider: The nature of today’s Republican Party has been obvious at least since 90s, when Gingrich’s version shut down the Government, impeached Clinton over a *******, and then stole election 2000 from Gore. (Yes, Gore — who gave Joe Lieberman his first exposure on the national stage — ran a rotten campaign and butchered the election challenges, but that’s another story.) The national Democrats, moreover, are the only people who have intimate knowledge of the national Republicans — racist, feudalist, whatever — because they work with them on a daily level on Capitol Hill.

          So, faced with that, what do the Democrats do? They nominate a candidate who promises to conciliate the Republicans, do not defang them by eliminating the filibuster when they had the chance, and adopt Republican ideas both health care reform (HeritageCare -> RomneyCare -> ObamaCare) and education (charters).

          So what that shows you is that the Republicans have the power they do because of choices made by Democrats. Conscious choices.

          Your comment makes me think of a person who blames the bad cop in a “Good cop, bad cop” scenario, or the person who blames only the drunk in a marriage betweem a drunk and an enabler. In fact, both parties are players in an evil system, and cannot be separated from each other as you propose can be done.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            Hear, hear, Lambert. Banger missed the nail entirely on this one, uncharacteristically. It’s truly a team effort, but in this case, the more effective evil triumphs. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli are eclipsed by the new, kinder-gentler face of evil.

          2. Banger

            Lambert, I have been constant in my critique of the DP and its minions in the blogosphere. Yes, you’ve got the good cop/bad cop thing right and it is that method that gets the left to the polls to vote for the DP. And it is the left that is partially responsible for the rightward drift of the the extreme right into the land of cuckoo++ by voting based on fear. I still don’t think that we ought to vote for the DP.

            However, I don’t believe, at this point, that the RP is faking it–much of their rhetoric is pure BS to fool the rubes but this bunch is different. They are advocating for revolution and destruction for its own sake and that is, for me, beyond the pale. At some point we need to call them out–I still don’t support the DP and we ought not be stampeded by fear but we still have to attack these guys.

            1. Lambert Strether

              There are plenty of people handling the assault on the Rs. There aren’t many who are handling an assault on the Ds — from the left. Why should I sing in chorus?

              Adding… I dunno about this “mind control” thing you’re on about, but from where I sit the Democratic strategic hate management and kayfabe on this is mind-boggling. Start with the history in the post: There’s nothing unique about this shutdown, and the Democrats themselves have done it many times. So why the frothing and stamping? It’s no more attractive coming from one party than the other.

              1. Synopticist

                Well, that’s fair enough, but the irony is you’re echoing the MSM, with their “both sides are equally to blame” and “everyone is acting in good faith” rhetoric. (Although in your case the faith is always bad)

                1. Lambert Strether

                  No, it isn’t. I don’t say the two parties are the same. I say they’re part of a single system. And where the msm narrative is find the sensible center and compromise, i say the legacy party system should be destroyed and the Democrats should go the way if the Whigs, though I don’t really care which one splits first. There is no irony in your misreading.

          3. Crazy Horse

            Lambert, Banger et al.

            In the spirit of compromise can we agree not to call elections between the Elephant and Ass parties choices between the lesser of two evils?

            I much prefer to call a spade a spade and describe the choice as between insanely evil and monstrously cynical evil.

    2. Harold Quinn

      I’ve never seen my beliefs about humanity and how they are represented by the ruling and governing classes (and there IS a difference) so eloquently. Bravo!

      1. Harold Quinn

        ^PUT so eloquently. Damn no-edit function…

        And @Waking Up: I read Banger’s post as the Republican Party must be stopped at all costs, the Democratic Party is not quite as bad but not to be trusted, and a third option is absolutely required as soon as possible.

        1. Waking Up

          Banger did not suggest a third party solution. Bangers last paragraph states, “I don’t like the Democratic Party it is, as an institution, sleazy, opportunistic, filled with hustlers, war-mongers and frauds but most leaders in that party do believe that civilization is a good thing…”. Then, “But the Republican Party, with this Congress, is moving in the direction of evil and, as such, needs to be opposed and condemned for what it is doing now.” Once again, Banger is stating the Democratic party is the “lesser evil”.

          Solutions to issues which effect and help the majority of Americans will NOT come from the two majority parties. If we as a country continue to believe that one party is somehow “less evil” than the other, and thereby continue supporting either of these parties, this downward spiral will continue.

    3. LucyLulu

      Interesting that I wrote my above post about Rand and anti-society Republicans before reading this post of yours.

    4. Lambert Strether

      Unfortunately, (many members of) The Party Against Western Civilization: (1) got it right on the bailouts, (2) are getting it right on the Fourth Amendment, and (3) got it right on America’s imperial project generally, which (many) liberal interventionists, career “progressives,” and Democrats, whether apparatchiks or tribalists, have not.

      For somebody who looks at policy not party, the situation is far more nuanced. And I’m not all that sure that drone strikes everyhere, total surveillance, and kill lists are much of an advance in civilizational terms either.’

      I do agree, however, that the Democrats are doing a brilliant job of strategic hate management and kayfabe. They are far better at that than governing, as the ObamaCare Exchange rollout shows, among many other examples.

  7. phil

    Mr. Dayen: It’s a matter of public record, so I’m sure your account of the history of government shutdowns is pretty easy to verify, but could you please provide some citations? I’d like to be able to use that information in conversations with others and be able to point to primary sources, but I don’t really have the time to duplicate your research.

    Thanks much.

  8. clarence swinney

    Not since the robber-baron era have income and wealth been as concentrated as they are today. This doesn’t threaten shareholders; after all, most shares are held by the wealthy. It threatens democracy, as the wealthy uses their fortunes to bankroll politicians who tilt public policies in the direction of the wealthy — by, say, reducing their taxes and cutting public services for everyone else. It also threatens our economy, as more and more investment decisions are made by fewer and fewer people, and as the middle class loses its capacity to pay for the goods and services the economy produces.” — Robert B. Reich, The American Prospect, April 2007

    1. LucyLulu

      Long before Reich, Marx wrote about this as a late stage of the natural progression of capitalism.

  9. Jackrabbit

    This post makes the assumption that the President represents the interests of the people of the nation because he is elected in a national contest. This is a myth. By all accounts the vast sums of private money that finance Presidential elections have altered the nature of the Presidency.

    OPUS (Office of the President of the United States) seems to have devolved into one of fixer and figurehead.

    Fixer to powerful interests when things go wrong (as they often will given the rapacious greed of the interests that hold sway).

    Figurehead that has a grip on the public “mindshare” in concert with corporate media.

    Some might say that OPUS is also a ‘gate-keeper’ in choosing cabinet secretaries and other positions. But this as a minor role with minimal effect because the only ‘serious candidates’ for these offices are pre-selected by the powerful interests that they serve.


    Money in politics has overwhelmed the Constitutional checks and balances that the Founding Fathers took care to incorporate into the US system of government.

    So the key problem is NOT what public official or public body can claim legitimacy but whether our democracy has been so corrupted by money that the “consent of the governed” has been lost.

    Former President Jimmy Carter has said that the US no longer has a functioning Democracy. Most people seem to be distracted and confused about what this might mean for them. This is partly due to propaganda (like ‘exceptionalism’) and partly due to normalcy bias.

    It is disheartening to see materialism (greed) and control (fear) gaining ground when the wisdom of history calls for more enlightened policy choices. Sadly, materialism and control feed on each other and, if unchecked, will drive us to the abyss.

    1. Waking Up

      Excellent comment Jackrabbit. I just want to highlight part of your comment.

      “So the key problem is NOT what public official or public body can claim legitimacy but whether our democracy has been so corrupted by money that the “consent of the governed” has been lost.”

      That the President and Congress ignore the “consent of the governed” on a regular basis proves former President Jimmy Carter correct when he stated we no longer live in a democracy.

      1. bh2

        Citizens must comply, of course, to even the most secret laws, secretly enforced by secret agencies, with approval by secret courts. The appearance of accountibility is no more than a Potemkin village of dead institutions occupied by ravens in the rafters and vipers underfoot.

        Compliance of the governed is not the same as consent of the governed. Compliance can be demanded by corrupt governments. Consent cannot.

  10. Lune

    Be careful what you wish for. You list the disadvantages of a presidential system well, but you don’t list its benefits (hard to see right now, sure, but… :-).

    A Presidential system with checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches forces people to compromise or else they can’t get anything done. The fact that our current politicians have chosen the latter option doesn’t mean the system is bad. The Founders, having been essentially persecuted minorities in England, were keen to ensure that minority views / opinions wouldn’t simply be squashed by a majority but that they would have to be considered. This is not a bad thing.

    The bright side of this is that while it is very difficult to get large policies passed, once they’re passed, they aren’t easily undone. Witness the Republican’s struggle for 50 years to undo the New Deal, or Civil Rights. Heck, the Republicans are hellbent on reversing the ACA, which passed by a whisker, and they’re willing to riski the destruction of the global economy and their own party’s survival, and yet they’ll almost certainly still lose.

    This ensures that the fractious debates, the nasty battles, and the horsetrading occurs *before* a policy is implemented, rather than afterwards. Again, a good thing for the country (IMHO).

    In contrast, parliamentary systems certainly allow for rapid change, but this works both ways. A government that rapidly hands out conflicting dictates every few years is no better really than one that hands out none. If we had a parliamentary system, we *might* have had Medicare for all passed in 2008, but this would have been promptly reversed in 2010 (and medicare privatized to boot, which will be promptly reversed by the democrats the next time they’re in power). Is this really a better way of governing?

    And IMHO, parliamentary systems end up enabling even higher levels of corruption than presidential ones since structurally the minority has very little power (I think it’s fitting that the majority’s frontbench in the UK’s parliament is called the treasury bench… ;-).

    Either way, the proof is in the pudding: I’m not sure that the American government has been serving its citizens any worse than European parliaments have during this past 5 years of financial crises. Do you think the German or UK parliaments are less beholden to their financial elites than the American Congress? Or how about the Spanish or Greek, who have willingly subjected their citizens to far greater austerity and pain than American politicians have, in service of their neoliberal masters?

    1. Banger

      Europe is going in the direction of the USA but is a couple of decades behind it. I don’t think Europeans or most Americans understand the depth of systemic corruption in the USA at all levels both in public and private institutions. The work of David Cay Johnston is illuminating on this subject.

    2. Synopticist

      The trouble with the US system is that it’s predicated on compromise and deal making. If you have a party which is unwilling to play ball then you get debillitating gridlock.

  11. kevinearick

    Borg Propaganda Assimilation

    “…just as there was a glimmer of economic recovery war exploded…They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers…They became part of the greatest investment in higher education any society ever made…” The war babies bring you war as an economy, observers prism, what a surprise. Government putting a gin to its own head as a prelude to war is no crisis for labor.

    So, government’s argument is that it knows things you do not because it is printing money to pay everyone to spy on each other, so you should do whatever it says, or it will bankrupt you with laws, and should that fail it will send you to prison, on the basis of majority peer pressure to confer the necessary powers and a trial of government fact, and if that should fail it will simply declare war with no due process. How f-ing stupid is that?

    And riddle me this Batman: is smoking tobacco is so bad for your health, why is government dependent upon it for tax revenue, why does it ensure that corporate cigs are embedded with bullsh- chemicals, and why is it legalizing similar low-quality pot with bullsh- chemicals embedded in it? You have the Internet. Why can’t you get a $500 rolling machine and order tobacco straight from the farmer for $500/yr?

    On the basis of what market theory does a pack of smokes cost $10, an hour’s work for many, given the tobacco market price, which is subsidized? Blaming everything on the bankers, or the top 1%, is just damn ignorant, and whose fault is that?

    Capital peddles ignorance as the solution to ignorance. Bliss for everyone. Of course the Fed is going to print just as fast as the ignorant mass will demand stupid. The Internet is widely distributed. What is everyone’s excuse for participating now?

    Money is a capital perpetuation system. That’s it. The amount of gravity you want depends upon the timing requirements of your development. Capital breeds the middle class to assume that money has value in and of itself, that it is the good to be chased with services rendered, exactly backwards (shift half cycle back, recursively). In the first round, capital ‘pays’ the middle class a good return, high wage and low rent. In each subsequent round, rent is increased relative to wage, with the result measured as GDP growth for positive feedback.

    Over generations, the assumption and proliferating associated assumptions are embedded in middle class DNA, event horizon to event horizon, in a ponzi of promises capital never intends to pay, with anything other than more complex notes to defer the perception of reckoning until the last moment.

    The empire may only be a ponzi because capital cannot adapt itself and middle class wouldn’t render the service if expected to be responsible for the outcome. Current generations win and future generations lose, until they don’t, when a generation of kids says FU, we’ll just short the nothing for nothing empire.

    Money ensures a relatively quick return to the churn pool for middle class DNA, and some, relatively inconsequential, delay for most of capital. War is about growing, killing and rebooting the middle class ponzi, as is all tools employed by the bank – artificial interest rates, corporate business cycles, market rotation, the lot, hence Pearl Harbor and all the other irrational WWII social engineering, which simply extended the day of reckoning for a few capitalists by killing off part of the global middle class, temporarily reducing rent, and centering economic activity on promises of future pensions.

    Money does not begin to convey the information necessary to transact profitable business. It produces artificial scarcity to ensure capital control over growing populations of robots, impulse reactors with ever shrinking event horizons and the patience of knats. It tells you that nature is the enemy, to hide in your buildings, lay pavement, put on an inch of make-up, buy a Porsche, and then bases rents on the resulting artificial scarcity of nature. The critters want to live by the beach, but are afraid of water, buy bottled water, divert water to Las Vegas, and buy fruit from South America. Brilliant.

    Bob’s dollar bill is not worth as much as Fred’s dollar bill, due to the difference between accounting and real community multiplier effects, but go chase Bob for less value at greater cost because your ‘inner voice’ tells you that you want to be like Bob and drive a Porsche. Money buys power and influence, from people granting money to themselves, which will not exist if you do not sell off your privacy because a ponzi cannot withstand leakage.

    You must accept the programming or the TBTF-WMD collapses, and then what do you have, the Dark Ages, simpletons seeking ignorance as bliss and surprised when it bows up? Everyone did not commit suicide or stand in a soup line during the Great Depression.

    The middle class cannot adapt in real time so it must herd up and employ peer pressure to steal your product. Legacy capital is only too happy to accept the blame, monetizing the tax base to provide increasing misdirection in consideration of its own existence, in a positive feedback loop of loops.

    The hoard competes to weaken marriage and you cooperate to strengthen it. That’s the battery. The middle class and capital are collapsing, and current is flowing back to labor. Rent is falling in a sporadic trickle now, through rapidly growing cracks in the RE peer pressure dam. Yes, membranes exist for a reason.

    Contrary to popular assumption, humanity sub-automation is not the beginning, middle and end. It’s not the price at the pump you care about; it’s the embedded price of oil multiplied across all your inputs. And it’s not really the multiplier effect of oil you care about. You care about fertile soil, good seed and water, an embedded false assumption. Your body generates electricity, with zero requirement for Exxon, GE, or Silicon Valley.

    Space is the problem and the solution. If you want to go from A to B, eliminate space, through C. Sooner or later, most accept assimilation, when individual logic is overwhelmed by mass hysteria. You have the universe; employ it.

    Family is private, small business is private and public, corporate is public whether it is legally defined as public, private or non-profit. An empire may only resort to peer pressure to establish habit, law to confirm the habit, and war to protect the habit. Law follows behavior, not the other way around, and war quickly follows.

    You cannot choose your children and you cannot stop them from accepting assimilation at the least empire cost. You can provide them with skills in an environment built for the purpose, by showing them love as exploration, rather than control. You are not going to learn anything from books or speeches, from critters with no clue, and no one with a clue is going to share private products for public consumption.

    If you didn’t learn anything from an admiral, you didn’t earn the required confidence. Admirals are fashioned in war, not in Virginia, and not in games of shock and awe for public consumption under a false flag, where “personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith” are nowhere to be found.

    Depressions are about replacing the root kernel. The names change simply to put new dresses on the revolving eunuchs. There is nothing wrong with playing dolls as a child, but it is not life. Current depends upon the path from second to first derivative, on to the integral. Always be two bridges ahead because the empire hoard collapses every bridge it occupies, owning the past on the way back to the churn pool.

    OK, so, you have a circle, separating inferential and differential torque…set your distance to perception. If the robots are rerouting water to their own end of real estate and public work bubbles, what do you suppose is going on inside and beyond the planet?

    The empire has no vision unless you give it one. Let the middle class chase its own tail, until you don’t. If you have capital, it’s pretty damn easy; set labor to rent at 4.0 to find the labor that can profitably rework your capital. The only real union is marriage resulting in labor. Your job is to propagate, intelligently.

    DuPont was not mad at FDR; he laughed all the way back to the bank every time, ‘profiting’ from both sides of the war. The Democrats brought you ‘free trade’ as a solution to ‘international tensions’ created by the Republicans. Prohibition does no work, but it creates lots of money with nowhere to go.

    Shocking’ ‘round up the usual suspects and take them over the hill, pump and dump.

  12. Hugh

    We live in a kleptocracy. The problem is that we have the classes of the rich and elites bent on looting the rest of us into the ground.

    The Constitution was written by the propertied classes of the time to protect themselves and their property. The Bill of Rights defending the rights of ordinary Americans was an add-on, an afterthought, the necessary cost to get the protections and poweres of that era’s wealthy ratified. As such, the American Revolution was not completed, and remains incomplete. The real meaning and power of We the People enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution has never come to pass. However powerful and evocative that phrase “We the People” is, We did not write the Constitution and it does not reflect our interests so much as those who did write it.

    The haphazard nature of how states were added and the aristocratic nature of the Senate have led to a Congress which no longer even gives the appearance of democracy. Why should Rhode Island have as many Senators as New York? or Wyoming as many as California?

    But even as the Congress has become less and less democratic, it has also become less powerful. Throughout the 20th century with its Great Depression, wars, and vast bureaucracies they spawned, the power of the Executive has increased exponentially. We have now what amounts to a Presidential dictatorship, of the monied classes by the monied classes for the monied classes.

    Put simply, we need a revolution. We need to go back and complete the Revolution begun more than 200 years ago.

    1. Malmo

      According to a horde of prominant Democrats and MSM pudits alike, as long as the Imperial President is a Democrat, it’s all good. Arthur Schlesinger is surely rolling over in his grave in disgust.

    2. Banger

      Certainly the U.S. from the beginning reflected the cultural character of the nation as formed. But the fact is that, by world standards, we did pretty well as a society until the late 70s.

      Yes, SD or ND or RI or all those small states should not have two Senators it creates terrific imbalances and I would favor a new Constitutional Convention mainly because the old one has been gamed and largely dissolved.

    3. Jackrabbit


      I don’t see the President as having the personal power of a dictator or emperor. Instead, if you listen closely, you find that Presidents (like Obama) talk a lot about governing responsibly. While a cynic may see this as purely propaganda, It seems to me that this actually parrots what they hear from advisors, campaign contributors, and ‘minders’ (for lack of a better word). The people that surround the president constantly and consistently influence the President and thereby set the agenda, policy options, and values of the Administration.

      Think about it, TPTB don’t want a powerful President that could grow a conscience and turn on them. Thus, in many respects, the President himself has little power except as fixer (e.g. approving settlements with BP and Wall Street) and figurehead (media icon that sets the terms of the debate). And if you look at how Obama engages with the public and his Administration, you find that he is often making excuses or following up on things that have been driven by others (especially the political or policy arms of this Administration).

      Any President that wanted to make any real changes would face a dozen smart, experienced, well-connected people arguing that such changes can’t be done, are irresponsible, will have unintended consequences, and/or will be fodder for political opponents. And the President will generally side with pro-establishment positions because he has been carefully vetted as someone who is establishment friendly, open to influence, and not very principled.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Some would say that whether a single person or an Office/Administration, the effect is the same. But I think it is important to understand HOW power is welded, not just the effects.

        And I’m not trying to absolve Obama or any President of responsibility for the policies of their Administration.

        And lastly, this is my own understand from observation as an outsider.

  13. Jim

    Hugh stated above: “We have now what amounts to a Presidential dictatorship of the monied classes by the monied classes for the monied classes.”

    “Put simply we need a revolution.”

    Banger stated above:

    “…good and evil are defined by moving towards connection or moving away from connection. Good comes from the compassion of feeling connected to other and the ultimate good is connection with all things”

    From my perspective both Banger and Hugh appear to have similar political goals but Hugh is implicitly endorsing the, by now, traditional political critique of modernity called radicalism (the necessity of some type of class struggle) which became a formally normalized part of politics back in 1789—with disastrous consequences in the 20th century.

    Banger, on the other hand appears to be struggling to articulate a new form of resistance to the corrupt status quo through perhaps a type of individual self-government achieved through ethical practice.

    Would it be possible to somehow blend these two approaches (taking important insights from each while discarding much of the neo-Marxist rhetoric)– to create new schemas of politicization?

    Could it be possible to articulate a politics of individual self-transformation that does not deteriorate into narcissism but instead becomes a strategy for denormalizing our traditional habits of passivity?

    1. Banger

      Interesting assessment. I’ll have to think about that a bit. But here’s my position in a simple form. Ethics and philosophy comes first then political action. This is, it seems to me, just common sense.

    2. Crazy Horse

      Of course if you consider a slightly longer time frame than the next election circus it is fairly irrelevant which of the two national football teams masquerading as political parties triumphs.

      Humans will continue to burn hydrocarbons to try to create economic growth until they find themselves on the rapid descending slope of the energy resource availability curve. There is no political or economic force that has evolved in human society that can bring this to a stop before it radically alters the ecosystem.

      Burning those hydrocarbons will result in an ice free Arctic Ocean and accelerated loss of the Greenland icecap, creating not just flooding of coastal cities but radical alteration of weather patterns upon which agriculture depends..

      Climatic and ecosystem change along with an acceleration of the human-caused species extinction event already underway will accelerate until humans join the many other species they have exterminated in a mass die-off.

      The survivors of that die-off will pull together the pieces of the former human society and improvise a new kind of social organization based upon the surviving ecosystem resources. Or not.

      History books or I-pads, if they exist, will not even mention that there was once a political party symbolized by the Ass and another with a very long nose.

  14. marcos

    There would not have been a Republican House had Obama not passed the ACA with an individual mandate and no public option. The Democrat base stayed home dismayed at being kicked in the groin, the Republican base was mobilized against the black president.

    The electoral math was clear in 2009 to anyone who cared to look, this is Obama’s self inflicted wound. And Obama’s wound will keep on confounding the Democrats as the sharp moving parts of this compendium of corporate welfare gets whirring up to speed.

    Both parties are increasingly hostile to and contemptuous of Americans and are using the apparatus of state at the behest of the elites to demonstrate that. Note that the military and Federal Reserve are still operating at full tilt, all of the bad functions of government while anything remotely useful has been shuttered.

  15. Meredith

    “The truth is that there were 17 government shutdowns from the initiation of the modern Congressional budget process in 1976 until 1996.”

    We need to understand more about the 1976 (1974?) changes in the budget process before we jump to concluding that the fundamentals of the U.S. form of government be scrapped. Might things be improved mightily by legislative reforms (as well as procedurals reforms within each chamber of Congress)?

    We need to learn more about what a parliamentary system in a nation of our size, with its 50 states, might actually look like. (I believe some thoughtful political scientists have tried.) But a vague “we need to go parliamentary” isn’t helpful. (Personally, I imagine the U.S, given our cultural ways. would end up looking more like Italy than the UK. An improvement? “Parliamentary” does not equal “panacea.”)

    More useful right now, I think, to focus on the issues in my first paragraph, since those raised in the second are beyond anyone’s reach. (Not that it’s not good and valuable to dream.)

  16. Dan Kervick

    Since you seem to spend most of your time vehemently asserting your OK-ness with that rentier-friendly system.

    Thank you for your willful misrepresentation of my views. Your comments are very important to me.

  17. Kelley

    Went back and looked at the good work done by Dylan Matthews, and at Tammy Frisby’s chart of same from the Hoover Institute (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2013/09/frisby-030411.jpg).

    Weirdly, Frisby’s chart’s years are one later than the years listed in Matthews article, but the lengths match, so I’ll assume he’s working calendar, she’s working fiscal years.
    It seems that shutdowns up to and including the 11 days in 1980 don’t count because there were no consequences to the operation of government, and everyone knew it going into these ‘shutdowns.’ In fact, ‘shutdown’ probably isn’t an appropriate term, since nothing shut.

    Once Civiletti handed down his ruling, and created consequences, notice two things: First, no subsequent shutdown until the Gingrich/Clinton showdown of 1995(fiscal ’96) lasted more than two workdays. And second, notice the red asterisks on Frisby’s chart. Almost every shutdown included a weekend. They appear planned to minimize the operational consequences.

    So saying that shutdowns, at least ones where anything actually shuts down, are usual, or somehow normal, isn’t supported by the history.

    And while attributing the re-election of Clinton to the Gingrich shutdown is definitely stretching things, showing the American electorate which party was so ideological and/or incompetent that government services actually did shut down for the first time in modern memory (since 1929, say,) probably had a measurable effect on the election. How to measure that is left up to Nate Silver and his ilk.

    Making sure to emphasize that the same party, the same political ideology, learned nothing from the last time it did this is the job of good Americans. Allow me.

    Only the Republican Party has been provably responsible for shutting down the national government of the USA in over one hundred years. Germany couldn’t do it. Japan couldn’t do it. 19 bozos with box cutters couldn’t do it. But Cruz, Rand, Cantor, and their fellow travellers pulled it off, following in the footsteps of Newt Gingrich.

    All Republicans. None giving a damn about America.

Comments are closed.