Monday, October 14, 2013

What will happen next in the (artificially crafted) crisis in DC?

As we track events in Washington, so far, it seems that my prediction -- which few others shared and that many called "blue sky" -- appears to be unfolding almost precisely as it was 
laid out here
Shutdown-Showdown
…and here…

Details develop though, so let me elaborate.  After Senators Reid and McConnell finish their current dickering, both a Debt Limit Raise and a clean CR (government funding continuing resolution) will pass the Senate and will be sent to the House.  (The sticking points at present include how long to make the extensions last; the GOP wants a long CR and a brief debt ceiling raise and the Dems want the opposite, for reasons that are hard to summarize here.)

 Included will be sketched-outlines of a plan to recommence negotiations over a Grand Bargain on the budget that will include a replacement of the bludgeon Sequester slashes with deliberated alterations in entitlement programs to make them more efficient and adjusting them to longer life-spans. For the Democrats there must be provisions to also reduce deficits with some additional revenue to be derived from elimination of absurd, fat-cat tax subsidies (e.g. to rich oil companies.) These targeted tax-subsidies are as-yet unspecified, though it is clear what many of them should be, and those resisting their removal are blatantly corrupt persons... period.

Significantly, there will be no mention of Obamacare, at any level, way shape or form. 

All right, Obamacare may be mentioned in some tiny way. There is talk of including an adjustment in qualification rule enforcement for the ACA, a tweak of an actual flawed-loose end that the dems had agreed to already. But it will allow the GOP to have a face-saving "victory" to crow about.  Republicans will also attempt to put lipstick on this GOP disaster by claiming that their tactics "forced the Democrats to come to the bargaining table" on the budget, even though the House-Senate Budget Resolution Conference Committee (where these things have been resolved for 230 years) has invited the House side to meet on twenty occasions in the last ten months - that's twenty - with the GOP refusing every time.

Specifically, one version of a possible deal was on the table a year ago. See the Simpson Bowles Plan that was wrought by genuine statesmen who (alas) were under the mistaken illusion we still lived in an era of common-sense negotiation.  I do not know if the Senators who are now wrangling a deal will mention Simpson-Bowles, but any deal is likely to at least generally be based upon it.


== Okay ... and then what? ==

After the Senate acts, the locus of activity will move to the House of Representatives, where some of the adults in the room have started trying to lay the ground for an exit strategy from this wholly artificial and theatrical "crisis."  

On Monday, NPR's Melissa Block spoke with Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma about the state of the Republican party as the government shutdown continues and the debt ceiling looms closer. Rep. Cole is deputy House whip, in charge of counting and cajoling votes from his fellow Republicans. 

The interview is spectacularly revealing, in that Cole backpedals so hard I would worry about sonic booms. "Who me? Us? We never provoked a shutdown or debt limit crisis! Obamacare? Never heard of it!  Oh, you mean that law that's settled and we should offer some modest amendments later to help it work better?"  All right I am (accurately) paraphrasing. 

If only such pragmatic realists were influential. Alas...

== ... alas... ==

... alas, the Tea Party is all- powerful in the House of Representatives because cynical Red State gerrymandering had two main consequences, one planned and the other calamitously unexpected:

1 - Gerrymandered districts became safe so Congresscritters could ignore the general election and especially snub the national mood. (Last year, 55% of Americans voted for a Democratic House, but gerrymandering gave us a GOP dominated one. Congratulations on a theft well-played. It may not last.)

2 - Gerrymandered districts become dominated by one party's radicals. (And this applies too -- though less volcanically -- in Demo-gerried districts in Illinois and Maryland.) Even just 5% in a district - if fanatical enough - can swarm the party's primary and terrorize any representative who even hints at compromise with the hated Communists… I mean satanists… I mean Demoncrats.  

This radicalization has a solution!  This worst aspect of gerrymandering can be lessened considerably by a trick that citizens themselves can pull, en masse, without needing any court cases or changes in law!  I'll talk about this solution online, soon. But until then, we are stuck with a House of Representatives that, thanks to party discipline, is run by its 20% craziest members.

Till a year ago, the House GOP Caucus took its orders (obeyed with a discipline not seen in the republic since the 1860s) from Roger Ailes, daily parroting every talking point that he issued from on-high. For a year though, loyalties have swerved away from Fox, deeply worrying Ailes and Rupert Murdoch. The caucus has instead veered to Sen. Ted Cruz and to Grover Norquist. And neither of them want to see a Senate compromise pass.  
Cruz is gambling that both an extended shut-down and a full-tilt default will blow consequences his way and make him Master of the Right. Heir presumptive to the 2016 GOP nomination, and more. 
Norquist is Savanarola of the cult that is fast taking over the entire right in America. One that seeks only one goal...

... to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth."  

If you think I exaggerate, even a little, then you do not know the man or his cult, nor have you followed Tea Party postings, as I sometimes do. In this, the New Confederacy seems to have dropped all pretenses. It truly is re-fighting the Civil War.

== Where does all this leave us? ==

The Senate will act quickly, with plenty of GOP Senators joining to cloture any filibusters. They will pass the clean CR, the borrowing limit extension, and a resolution outlining a series of budget aims to be achieved before the CR expires in January or so.  

These will be sent to the House, where Speaker John Boehner will have to decide… will he break with the Tea Party Caucus and throw the whole thing open to all members in an open vote?  If so, he can step back and let the Democrats provide most of the votes, with just two dozen GOP members joining them, allowing the vast majority of Republicans to report to the Tea Party back home: "See? I fought to the bitter end! If that dag-nabbed Boehner hadn't caved..." 

If they are pragmatists, they will grab that face-saving way out and never mention that they could have bullied Boehner into hanging tough.

Crucial in this will be money. The Koch brothers will have to slip cash to those two dozen GOP sacrificial lambs and promise to help in their primaries to fend off Tea Party challenges.  They must give LOTS to Boehner, since he might lose his speakership. If they channel a lot more for him to personally dole out to members, he might even keep his job. At this rate, the Kochs will pass the BILLION dollar level in cash spent manipulating American elections, before the 2016 campaign even begins. We have entered the era of Crassus. Get used to it.

== And there you are ==

Of course the problem with predicting? It NEVER works well!  Even with my sterling track record and a wiki that fans maintain, listing dozens of right-on forecasts from EARTH and other novels and from The Transparent Society -- I am easily wrong as often as right. (Which is - actually - rather a brag!)  So no, I won't bet my house on any of this.

All I've done is lay down a sequence that was already described - in less detail - a week ago. A plausible near-future sci fi extrapolation.  So far, it seems to be unfolding this way.  

We had better hope so.  Because if it does, it will mean there are still some adults in Washington DC.

96 comments:

Ruchira said...

What about the rules change requiring Eric Cantor's consent for the legislation reopening the government to be brought to the floor? Is it true that it's not actually in Boehner's power to bring it up for a vote now, without Cantor's approval?

David Brin said...

The speaker can recognize anyone he wants and rule from the rostrum. The majority can over-rule him by parliamentary procedure, if Cantor can maintain the Hastert (discipline) agreement among the GOP members but it is officially at least a voluntary agreement.

If that happened, Boehner would be finished as speaker and Cantor would reap national fury. Read the linked interview with Rep. Cole... above. They want out of this mess.

Sam Trenholme said...

I hope you are right. I am seeing people I personally know being asked to pack their bags and go home because of this sequester nonsense.

Right now, all the Republicans can do is choose how quickly their party goes the way of the Whigs. They can last a few more election cycles by passing a clean CR and raising the debt ceiling right now. They can go the way of the Dodo in 2014 by having the US default and having us be in sequester for months.

One last thing: While I really would love to see Ted Cruz be the 2016 presidental nominee for the Republicans -- It would be like Regan - Mondale 1984 or Nixon - McGovern 1972, but in reverse -- that, alas, will not happen since Cruz was born in Canada.

Paul451 said...

Echo-chambering...

Re:What Comes Next

National Intelligence Council report on long-term global trends float the idea of the "non-state world", where traditional government roles are turned over to other entities. These other entities create "para-states", such as the many hundreds of special economic zones, operating under their own rules. This combines with another trend towards re-localisation and devolution of power to city/province level, away from the traditional administrative capitals. On the flip side, regional cooperatives, such as the East African Community, to coordinate trade/customs/defence across borders.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-the-nation-state.html

I seem to recall a certain SF author worrying about such things.

Doug S. said...

In general, gerrymandered seats aren't safe for the "majority"; to maximize the number of wasted votes for the opposition, you want to pack them into "safe seats" that they win by landslides and win all your seats by as narrow a margin as possible. This can be risky, however; if you make your margin too thin, you can actually lose seats when things go wrong.

Xammer said...

When I read the title, I thought it was referencing "Crisis" events in the DC Universe...

Anonymous said...

I always wonder at the characterization of "fat cat" oil subsidies? Who are the fat cats that own these oil companies? It's 43% mutual funds, 27% pension plans, and 14% IRAs, generally people who like their their dividends heavy and their basis predictable.

Who pays for oil? Everyone. The costs are spread throughout agriculture, through transport of food and goods, through public and and private transportation, through electrical generation. A rise in the cost of oil is a highly regressive tax scheme.

Okay, but what about all those billions that oil companies are making? If you look at their annual reports, Exxon is making averagely two to three cents of profit on each gallon of gasoline sold, while are paying or collecting around fifty cents of taxation to various government entities, costs passed directly to consumers. Their profits are based on razor thin margins, but they realize massive economies of scale.

Okay, so what exactly _are_ these subsidies people are talking about? Is it the manufacturer's tax deduction that every manufacturer can take (the largest one)? Is it the accelerated asset depreciation that Big Oil companies are ineligible for intended to help small oil? Is it the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program? Is it the fuel tax exemption program available to farmers?

Almost every oil "subsidy" that still exists is 1)an across the board deduction not specifically applicable to the oil industry (see manufacturer's tax deduction and capital gains) 2) accelerated depreciation allowing smaller oil companies to expense their costs instead of amortization for a net tax impact of zero 3) subsidies for farmers and the poor

What profits that do exist on the razor thin margins are largely returned as dividends to shareholders, the plurality of which are America's retirees who look to dividends in this era where banks return negative real savings.

Tim H. said...

Anonymous, I hope you aren't expecting sympathy for big oil, who seem to be all grown up and able to face an open market. And, off-topic even more, but OGH may be amused, http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/10/why-microsoft-word-must-die.html

Robert said...

I hope "Demoncrats" was deliberate. Will you allow Fox News to use it?

Bob Pfeiffer.

Alex Tolley said...

Specifically, one version of a possible deal was on the table a year ago. See the Simpson Bowles Plan that was wrought by genuine statesmen who (alas) were under the mistaken illusion we still lived in an era of common-sense negotiation.

"genuine statesmen" - really? You are buying into the "government spends to much" meme, so entitlement spending must be cut.

Note their point 2 of the plan:

Put the Debt on a Clear Downward Path Relative to the Economy. Debt held by the public currently stands at 73 percent of GDP, about twice the historical average. We need to gradually reduce our debt relative to our economy. To be credible for the long-term, we believe that the debt must be brought to below 70 percent of GDP by early next decade, and kept on a downward trajectory thereafter.

Why exactly? Because deficit hawks say so? If debt reduction is the solution, why cut spending rather than raise taxes? Interesting how the statistic of debt is higher than in the past is used, rather than taxes paid (by corporations and the wealthiest) is lower than the past. There was a reason the Democrats did not buy this "bipartisan" plan.

David Brin said...

Robert only if they pay me! "Demoncrats" is trademarked.

Tim, My colleague Charles Stross channels my own hatred for Microsoft WORD, the default word processing program and clearly an instrument of medieval torture, designed specifically in order to impede an author's productivity. Using it is like having an evil imp on your shoulder, occasionally driving a spike into your temporal lobes. How I miss Word Perfect for Mac 1997, which was near ideal, helped me to be creative, and when something unpleasant happened I could simply click SHOW CODES, find the nasty hidden formatting error and eliminate it! Refusing to let us do that simple thing proves what the goal is, for the giggling, hand-rubbing makers of WORD.

Alex, you catch me in a conservative side. Indeed, entitlement reform is one place where I earn my contrarian and balanced chops.

In fact, I think the retirement age should be raised. We are hale and hearty LONG after the age when work became harsh (65) a hundred years ago. Retirement was originally to save the feeble from having to slave in factories, it was not a sinecure for 20 years of golf.

Please don't clip and quote that in isolation! Not all 70 year olds are able to work or have decades left. I am all in favor of generous disability and flexible phase in of retirement, with part time work - say in schools and hospitals - earning earlier qualification, for example. But demographically we'll need older workers and some work actually helps keep you healthy.

There. My inner Goldwater has spoken. Still, I dislike Simpson-Bowles ONY bringing in 1$ of revenue for 3$ of entitlement reform. It should be equal and top rates should be high enough to restore the gaping disparities.

There, my inner FDR got a word in.

Randy Winn said...

Small thought: if Boehner is worried about losing the Speakership, the Dems could pledge to support him through the end of the current Congress. Just because (AFAIK) we've never had a Coalition Speakership doesn't mean it's a bad idea ... especially if it helps Boehner overcome his fear of the crazies.

---

As for Anon's rant about oil companies: it's silly to measure profitability merely as a percentage of individual transactions. Businesses with low volumes of transactions may require high return on individual transactions (think aircraft) but businesses with high volumes of transactions do well at lower margins (think day trading, casinos, and selling gasoline).
The above is an assuredly futile attempt to reason with a neofeudalist, but I thank him or her for the exercise!

LarryHart said...

Sam Trenholme:

I hope you are right. I am seeing people I personally know being asked to pack their bags and go home because of this sequester nonsense.


Unfortunately, to the right-wingers and their supporters, the fact that government is spending less money, especially on "left-friendly" programs, is a feature, not a bug. After all, the army isn't shut down, but the EPA and the FDA and assistance to pregnant women and stuff like that are. The GOP would have done exactly that legislatively if they could have.

When you and I point out how much these organizations (and the people who work for them) are suffering under sequester and shutdown, we expect it to be self-evident that we're describing a problem which needs addressing. That's not what THEY hear. They hear "Too little, but a good start."


Right now, all the Republicans can do is choose how quickly their party goes the way of the Whigs. They can last a few more election cycles by passing a clean CR and raising the debt ceiling right now. They can go the way of the Dodo in 2014 by having the US default and having us be in sequester for months.


From your lips to God's ear. You have no idea how much I hope you're right. But the Republican Party (and Supply-Side as a theory) were supposed to be dead after Katrina, Terry Schaivo, and the crash of aught-eight. Someone forgot to cut off the head and bury the parts at separate crossroads.


One last thing: While I really would love to see Ted Cruz be the 2016 presidental nominee for the Republicans -- It would be like Regan - Mondale 1984 or Nixon - McGovern 1972, but in reverse --


Much as I'd also love to see Ted Cruz as Republican nomine in 2016, I can't help but be terrified that he'd be like Reagan in 1980. He also was supposed to be incapeable of winning a general election.


that, alas, will not happen since Cruz was born in Canada.


If they seriously want to run Cruz in '16, they'll just claim (truthfully, as far as I know) that he was a natural-born citizen because his mother (or was it his father? One parent, in any case) was a US citizen. All of which I'd agree with, but it will still be amusing to watch the "principled" attacks on Obama's credentials suddenly evaporate. Not only that, they'll be calling US hypocrites by saying "You didn't mind when a Kenyan Muslim was president, but now you won't accept a Canadian", ignoring the fact that it will be their own side, not ours, bringing up both objections.

Alex Tolley said...

I see today's news has the "bipartisan deal" collapsing as the House GOP refuses to play ball with the Senate offer. Obamacare provision changes (not minor either) were demanded. 2 days left to see who blinks, or if the US may join the country club of sovereign debt defaulters.

To channel Rogoff and Reinhart - "This time it is different"!

LarryHart said...

Xammer:

When I read the title, I thought it was referencing "Crisis" events in the DC Universe...


LOL!

I don't know how many regulars here will get the reference, but that was friggin' hilarious.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Please don't clip and quote that in isolation! Not all 70 year olds are able to work or have decades left. I am all in favor of generous disability and flexible phase in of retirement, with part time work - say in schools and hospitals - earning earlier qualification, for example. But demographically we'll need older workers and some work actually helps keep you healthy.


I may be biased, but I work in Information Technology, and in the sort of support work which requires a certain amount of attention 24x7x365, even on vacations and Christmas and the like.

I can't wait until I retire because it's the only way to get the benefit of true down-time from work. If I was able to take an actual three-week vacation with my wife and kid, I'd happily work until I'm 90. But since I can't, I want that time on the back end. Not as a gift--I've more than earned it.


There. My inner Goldwater has spoken. Still, I dislike Simpson-Bowles ONY bringing in 1$ of revenue for 3$ of entitlement reform. It should be equal and top rates should be high enough to restore the gaping disparities.


To me, Simpson-Bowles is (perhaps) the right idea but at the very wrong time, as much so as Edith Keeler's notion of pacifism was the right idea, but not before Hitler was defeated (in that episode of Star Trek).

I was all for deficit reduction in the Clinton years, but it's the exact wrong thing to be doing during a recession/depression. In this, Paul Krugman is spot on.

Jonathan S. said...

It is reminiscent of a DC Comics Crisis, however - it's kind of pointless, the reasoning behind it is silly, and when it's all over there probably won't be any lasting changes.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

2 days left to see who blinks, or if the US may join the country club of sovereign debt defaulters.


Does the administration have any say in WHO gets paid and who does NOT get paid in the event that payments have to be prioritized? Because I'd be all for the president declaring that programs in Texas, North Carolina, and Alabama (for exapmle) will be cut immediately, while those in Illinois, New York, and California will continue to receive funding.

David Brin said...

LarryHart the extreme birther sites now claim you are "natural born" if you were EITHER born in the US or had TWO US citizen parents. the agility of hypocriticallunatics.

Re extending retirement. I am fine with "retirement" including a "cooldown" decade of part-time and fun "work" say in the schools teaching or mentoring.

Cruz is no Reagan, who had a common touch. The one I fear is Huckabeen, who might not self-destruct.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

I can invest or otherwise squirrel money away to support a retirement. What I CAN'T do on my own is save or squirrel away eligibility for health coverage. What I also can't do is put aside four or five million dollars in case my wife or child or I need it for an unexpected medical procedure.

So while I understand, and can perhaps agree with, your notions of raising the eligibility for SOCIAL SECURITY, I have to say that proposals to raise the eligibility age for MEDICARE are needlessly cruel. 70 to 80 year olds shouldn't be forced to work in order to be covered for the health insurance they are just starting to actually need to survive. Obamacare only partially and imperfectly addresses this.

Re birther sites--so they still don't believe the president was born in Hawaii? Or Hawaii in 1961 doesn't count as the real United States? And by what reasoning (or "reasoning") do they get that thing about TWO parents conferring birthright citizenship but one parent not doing so? They get to make it up as they go along now?

These people really have so little sense of history that they think a fake news story was planted about a BLACK CHILD in 1961 to set him up to be President of the United States? I sometimes wonder if we should have let them seceede during Civil War I.

David Brin said...

Medicare is indeed different. Indeed, I think the dems should simply have in one step included all children up to age 25 in Medicare. The goppers would have looked horrible fighting it. And LOWERED the age for seniors.

Incrementally, the big middle would get smaller as people got used to single payer for kids and gramps.

Instead of letting them secede, we should simply eject Charleston SC and call it our Hong Kong. Govern yourselves and we'll protect you and handle foreign policy and environmental enforcement. See how they do. Include half a dozen other proud southern enclaves that would leap at the chance, till they realize what it will costs. And rural blacks quietly take over S Carolina and Mississippi...

Damien Sullivan said...

Off topic: did you notice the Swiss signed an anti-tax evasion treaty? No need for the spasm war in _Earth_. Though the treaty needs to be ratified, which might mean a popular vote.

If you're worried about plutocracy, there's a lot of good news out of Switzerland on that front. http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/378133.html

locumranch said...

With less than 26 hours before Debt Ceiling default, David continues to insist that (1) the current US political impasse represents a mere pragmatic negotiating tactic, (2) US politicians have the best interests of the federal polity at heart and (3) Rep. Boehner possesses more than titular political authority.

Let's assume assume for the moment that Boehner has a sudden attack of conscience, decides to resolve the government shutdown and/or avoid debt ceiling default and tries to bring a vote to the House floor (which he will probably NOT do since in times like these the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity):

What's to stop any Tea Party member, especially Cruz, from repeating his non-filibustering filibuster from earlier this month?

Absolutely nothing.

In fact, most Tea Partiers & their hardcore constituents would welcome a federal debt default, seeing it as a victory for their particular form of anti-progressive libertarianism, knowing that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Then, like the Nika revolt, the Reds and the Blues will dispense with pretense & may potentially choose to run riot like so many football (soccer) hooligans.

Some federal services like the EPA, IRS, NASA & the federal courts will grind to a halt while other services (thought to be indispensable) will be quickly subsumed into state & local mandates, allowing that rough secessionist beast to slouch toward Bethlehem to be born, in a denouement know variously to certain Evangelicals & Yeats as either 'The Second Coming' or full release ...

Or the libertarian wet dream.


Best.

Damien Sullivan said...

"These people really have so little sense of history that they think a fake news story was planted about a BLACK CHILD in 1961 to set him up to be President of the United States?"

Oh, that was funny.

One trivial yet unlikelyu fix for gerrymandering: we have single-member districts for the House due to federal law, not anything in the Constitution. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/2/2c

Congress could require that state delegations be elected by some form of proportional representation, I'd favor open party list. Bam, done. Wouldn't effect states with only one rep -- you'd need an amendment to combine state delegations -- but otherwise, big improvement.

How you get Congress to vote for it, I don't know... Convince the representatives they'd be better off in new parties?

PeterWayne said...

Hey David,

The Page Dudes from the Days of Old, etc. etc. have been discussing the political situation on Facebook. I was a bit surprised by how things played out today. This morning when the Senate suspended talks so that Boehner could try to put a bill through, I assumed that it would follow the Senate negotiations with a few extra bones - just enough for the Democrats to swallow to save time. That would have been the logical thing to do. Then the Tea Party representatives balked (I wonder how much the Heritage Action scorecard had to do with that?), so nothing happened in the House. As I see it the Senate will work out a deal tomorrow. Cruz and Co. may or may not delay it a day or so, and then it will be back up to the House. The House Republicans will have the choice of being totally suicidal and refusing the Senate bill, or splitting, with - as you suggested - just enough Republicans joining the Dems. to get the bill through. Either way, it is a worse result than putting a bill through today.

I think you are entirely correct on the money angle. I live in Bakersfield where oil money talks. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House whip is my Representative. A friend who had lunch at the Petroleum Club today said that all anyone could talk about was the situation in Washington, and how everyone had made very clear to Mr. McCarthy that if the matter wasn't resolved this week, he wasn't getting another dime in campaign contributions.

David Brin said...

Notice how locum starts with "given that David believes" and then lists three howling strawmen I never remotely said.

Damien any solution that calls for cooperation from the political caste, even democrats, is doomed. I will offer a bypass.

Tim H. said...

Given the nasty memes the .1% harbor, I feel uneasy about any renegotiation of safety nets and retirement. Remember that increased life expectancies aren't increased as much for folks with physical jobs, I see potentially increased human misery.

Shawn Oueinsteen said...

It is unfortunate that there are laws protecting members of the Senate and House from being sued. Ted Cruz, as leader of the Hill TP, has hurt many people, mostly to help his political career. My wife, who sells goods to Federal employees, is one whom he has hurt. I would love to sue him. But the Constitution keeps me from doing that.

Also, there is nothing in the Constitution concerning recall of a Senator, and the courts have ruled that States do not have that power. The only way a Senator can be removed from office is if two-thirds of the Senators vote to expel. So, with Cruz supported by the TPers, there is no way to remove him from office within the next five years, no matter how many people he hurts.

Tim H. said...

Shawn, calling the "Teatards" TPers just gave me a mental image of middle-aged guys in faux 18th century garb heaving rolls of toilet paper into trees, thanks, I needed the laugh.

Alex Tolley said...

So the deal appears to be done. The Republicans have capitulated (for now). McConnell couldn't resist stating lies about the situation and clearly intending to try another tack to get a Democratic defeat in future, plus calls to repeal Obamacare after the next presidential election.

My historian wife is coming around to the idea that maybe we are indeed facing a second US civil war, although how it will be fought is an issue.

Alfred Differ said...

The traditional way of removing Senators is to shoot them. I'm not advocating that here of course.

The problem I see with NOT renegotiating retirement age is that we are currently over-promising and that is just as immoral as not providing a safety net at all... because that is what we risk when our budgets collapse.

matthew said...

This will be an interesting fight, and not for just the GMO / pesticide portions.

The county of Kauai has passed a new law, after many months of protests, that forces agricultural companies to disclose the use of GMOs and pesticides and creates buffer areas where they cannot be used.

Kauai is the center of seed production in the world owing to it's three growing seasons.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/16/us-hawaii-kauai-gmcrops-idUSBRE99F0MD20131016

Sorry for the non embedded link. For some reason I could not make it work as embedded this time.

DuPont, Monsanto are expected to countersue and the law takes effect in nine months.

Why is this interesting other than the GMO / pesticide fights? DuPont has already signaled that they think that this sort of prohibition can only be done at a state or federal level. Expect some wildly divergent allies from the extreme left and right side of the spectrum to come together to fight the DuPont side of the legal challenge. This one will be interesting.

Damien Sullivan said...

2/3 of either house can remove one of their members. Unlikely to happen, but it's there.

Otherwise, yes, representatives without recall are like hiring a lawyer for four years whom you can't fire even if they fail to show up to their job. I know that the constant threat of recall election could have problematic side effects, mostly being always in campaign mode, but its lack is worth thinking about rather than taking for granted. Of course it's still a crude tool compared to referendums on laws.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The traditional way of removing Senators is to shoot them. I'm not advocating that here of course.


The traditional way of removing right-wing aristocrats is the Guillotine. Just sayin'


The problem I see with NOT renegotiating retirement age is that we are currently over-promising and that is just as immoral as not providing a safety net at all... because that is what we risk when our budgets collapse.


As I already said to Dr Brin, it depends if by "retirement age", you mean the age of eligibility for a pension or for Medicare.

On the former, I can agree, even though it would hurt me personally, for pretty much the reason you give. What good does a promise that can't be kept do me?

On the latter, the main benefit of Medicare is not the underwritten premium, but the group eligibility. If I have to pay into the program to keep it viable, so be it, but don't expect me to quietly acquiese (sp?) to being kept at the mercy of an employer or a private insurer into my 70s.

I think there's room for common ground here. And if it makes any difference, I'm currently in my early 50s of age.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Recall elections are not the answer

Why is it that everywhere else if a significant bill (like a budget) fails to pass then the government falls and a general election is held

Why is there a difference in the US model?

Could the US model be changed so that if the equivalent of a motion of confidence fails then an election is called?

LarryHart said...

Duncan,

The US model doesn't have any provision for elections other than the calendar. When Hurricane Sandy devestated the populous east coast just days before the 2012 election, there was talk of what to do if the vote just couldn't be taken in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. The conclusion was that we'd be in entirely uncharted waters even trying to postpone the vote.

Anonymous said...

Brin seems to having a hard time understanding that this stupid country is Bankrupt.

David Brin said...

Hey, anonymous! I'm just guessing cause you are an anonymous coward. But I'll bet this applies:

Do you relentlessly support style over substance?

Do you support those who scream about debt, yet piled it on faster than any group that ever lived? You support their lip service and ignore how Reagan and both Bushes were the ones who sent debt skyrocketing...

...ah but you despise the party that has a better record on fiscal responsibility by an order of magnitude and consistently an ALWAYS.

Oh, but it is the indignant incantations that attract you, never facts. No wonder all scientists have fled the GOP.

LarryHart said...

The country desperately needs infrastructure work done.

Millions desperately need employment.

Interest rates are practically negative.

We SHOULD be borrowing money like drunken sailors now, putting unemployed people to work on the infrastructure, so when the recession is over, we're ready to generate wealth again. THEN we can effing pay down the debt you're so terrified of.

The idea that we should pass up this golden opportunity with all stars alligned, and instead engage in contractionary austerity is (to quote Charles Emerson Winchester) ab-ZURD.

LarryHart said...

I meant to finish with an intentional misquote of Reagan:

"Austerity is not the solution to the problem. Austerity IS the problem."

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Brin seems to having a hard time understanding that this stupid country is Bankrupt."

Am I "bankrupt" if I have assets worth $1,000,000 and a dept of $100?

The sheer value of the infrastructure in a developed country is mindbogglingly
A few Trillion of dept in a country like the USA is negligible

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David Brin said...

Okay. The House passed it. And things have gone precisely as I forecast a week ago. And I mean precisely. In all details.

Yet the Times won't answer my emailed offers of op-ed. Alas.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't believe that enough Democrats can be convinced to register as Republicans in gerrymandered districts to make a difference in Republican primaries, even if there's little chance a Dem can ever win in their district.

Party membership is too much bound to 'personal identity'. It's like sports fans who stick with a losing team - they'll moan and groan and even make fun of their team - but never switch.

And even if they did, would they have a coordinated strategy? Should they vote in Repub primaries for the least popular candidate - hoping to dissuade true Republicans from voting in the election so a Dem might win?

Or try to get a moderate Repub, who might sometimes vote with Dems in Congress - but would pull independent voters away from the Dems and give the Republicans an even more solid lock on the district (and on fund raising in that district)?

PeterWayne said...

Duncan Carincross:

1.We aren't bankrupt. The national debt, as a percentage of the gross domestic product, is about where we were in 1948. If we weren't bankrupt then, we aren't bankrupt now. Almost every year thereafter until about 1970, the US ran deficits, but they were generally less than the amount of inflation and economic growth, so the debt as a percentage of the gdp declined. Three tax factors defined this era, high marginal income tax rates (90% to 70%), much lower capital gains rates, and high estate tax rates. There wasn't much incentive for the very wealthy to try to increase their share of the nation's income (i.e. executive salaries in the millions) because you would have to give almost all of it back to the government.

2. Technically, we've been out of recession for quite a while, but the recovery is weak because there is little new consumer demand, which is what drives recoveries. Consumer demand is weak because economic growth is mostly accruing to the benefit of the very wealthy. Even if you can afford a million iPods, you aren't going to buy that many. On the other hand, money spent on benefit programs and "entitlements" goes back out into the economy very quickly. A friend who works at Costco refers to the 4th of each month as EBT day, because many people go there to buy a month's worth of supplies as soon as their cards are credited. It is that kind of spending, like it or not, the fuels the economy.

3. Right now the government can borrow money at low nominal rates, and very very low real rates (factoring in inflation). It therefore makes sense to borrow for infrastructure projects that will benefit the economy later on. This type of spending builds a better America and also has a immediate stimulus effect.

4. Giving tax breaks to the wealthy, hoping that the benefits trickle down, just doesn't work very well. It only increases the gap between the haves and have nots.

David Brin said...

Peter Wayne, wow! Concise and devastating. You get post of the day.

locumranch said...

David deserves to pat himself on the back. As predicted, only 33% of the House of Representatives voted to destroy the US Federal government, a number mirrored by the estimated prevalence of mental illness in the Good Old US of A.

34% of us are mentally ill: That's what I call US exceptionalism.


Best.

Jonathan S. said...

Not quite in all particulars, Dr. Brin - Boehner is saying that they "fought the good fight, but lost," rather than claiming they forced the Democrats to finally negotiate. Which just tells me that you're even better at spinning a position you don't really agree with than a professional politician is. Perhaps that comes with writing SF...

Paul451 said...

Anon,
"Should they vote in Repub primaries for the least popular candidate - hoping to dissuade true Republicans from voting in the election so a Dem might win?"

The "least popular" Republican candidate is the most Dem-like one anyway. The moderate, the negotiator, the sane science-accepting pro-choice pro-women tax-raising gun-reform, etc etc etc.

In other words, Dems should vote in Republican primaries for the candidate they actually want. Then in the major, vote for "their team", the Dem. If (when) the Dem loses, they still get the least-worst candidate.

OTOH, voting for the craziest, rapture-seeking, economy-killing, anti-science whack-job in primaries is a very dangerous game, since 9 times out of 10 that's what you'll help get elected.

Paul451 said...

Forgot to add,

Hacking the Rep primary by helping pick a moderate candidate may encourage independents and some Dems to vote for the Rep candidate in the major election, it also allows the Dems to choose a more liberal candidate too. Instead of the current system that forces the Dem leadership to pick a right-wing blue-dog because he's seen as "electable".

David Brin said...

History shows that most voters find "sabotage" tiresome. Anyway, why do it? The registration method merely lets you vote in the only election that matters, the Primary. Since the general is a joke, you'll use your vote in the primary to pick the least-bad fellow... which is your perfect right.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Peter Wayne

You miss the point -
"The national debt, as a percentage of the gross domestic product"

This is like saying my mortgage as a percentage of my income
It's important but not critical

If I have $1,000,000 in property even if my mortgage is $5,000 and my income is only $1,000 I am NOT bankrupt

Even if the current US dept was an unusually large percentage of its gross domestic product
(which it is not)
Then the country would not be "bankrupt" because its asset base is huge

We are both saying the same thing - not bankrupt -
But I am saying it at twice -not bankrupt-
Not on income terms
Not on asset terms

Paul451 said...

Duncan,
Just to be pedantic, GDP is more like gross revenue, not income. (Which is not quite the same as "gross income", usually meaning post-COGS but before administrative costs.)

Tim H. said...

"Trickle-down" really works best in a protected economy. The special malevolence of the "New Wrong" was to simultaneously embrace and sabotage trickle-down by promoting unrestricted trade, which should have been linked with environmental, health and labor standards from the beginning.

Naum said...

Peter Wayne's post is spot-on!

As a followup, here is military historian David Fitzpatrick, driving it home along the same lines… …you might want to share with your ostrich (FB) friends.

But those who either do not understand the debt-to-GDP ratio, or who do understand it but don’t want Americans to understand it, instead use the “household budget” analogy to explain the current problem with the deficit and the debt. “I have to balance my household budget,” so the logic goes. “So should the government.” Nonsense. Pure and utter nonsense. A national budget is not the same thing as a household budget. It’s not “apples and oranges.” It’s “apples and moon rocks.” And to say more would be to turn this already-too-long essay into a book. Suffice it to say that anyone who truly believes that the household budget analogy provides a valuable understanding of the federal budget needs to take a basic college-level economics course.

PeterWayne said...

Mr. Carincross, my apologies, I missed the point that you were quoting from "Anonymous", and pointing out his error.

matthew said...

Naum, that David Fitzpatrick article is gold. Reposted.

I'll continue the echo chamber and agree that Peter Wayne's post is excellent.

And locum, very nice point.

locumranch said...

I don't think most of you understand the significance of the House voting percentage wherein 33% of US House Representatives voted to defund the US federal government by debt ceiling default. This number is of massive significance.

Lincoln won the US presidential election in 1860 with just 39% of the US popular vote; Saddam Hussein's coalition, representing less than 20% of the total population, exercised absolute authority over Iraq for 24 yrs; and Assad's coalition of Alawites, representing about 11% of the Syrian population, has ruled Syria for almost 45 yrs despite a unified Sunni opposition that represented more than 74% of the total population.

In other words, we're not out of the wood yet: The US Red & Blue situation will worsen before it gets better; the Tea Partiers & GOP will become more emboldened by the relative success of their extortionary negotiations; and the US Secessionist (and/or balkanization) movement remains a very real & imminent threat to US Federalism.


Best.

David Brin said...

locum can be cogent when he takes his meds. Good point.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart:

I hear you on the distinction you are making regarding retirement age. I'll add that I don't see group eligibility as a retirement issue at all, so I'm supportive of splitting the concepts. It only looks like an old age thing because young people face low risks most of the time.

I got a lesson in this just this summer. I got diagnosed with an unpleasant little auto-immune disorder that would have been quickly terminal if not for the fact that 1) NIH funding many years ago found a way to trade certain death for complications, 2) recent research found a second technique that is less toxic, and 3) I have decent medical insurance. I now find myself in the situation where I behaved like a responsible adult should but an unlucky draw motivates me to make REALLY sure my employer wants to keep me around. Fortunately... they do and they've flexed for me, but we all know there are reasonable limits to what they can and should do. I'm 51 and fully capable of working in my field, but if I got laid off I have no doubt my next insurer would view this as a pre-existing condition and run for the hills... if they could.

Decades ago when there wasn't much the medical folks could do to help a lot of us it made some sense to treat retirement from work and access to the medical care part of the social safety net as related. Today, though, they can do so much more to keep us alive. Lots of things have to break down now or you have to get really unlucky. We should examine our promises again to make sure we can meet them because conditions have changed enough to matter.

PeterWayne said...

Although the shutdown wasn't the only factor moving the market lately, I think it can fairly be said that it was the most significant.

It is interesting that as far as the market was concerned the shutdown crisis ended on October 9th. The three leading indexes had been going steadily downward with the usual bumps since mid September. On the 9th they reversed course and have been going steadily upward (again, with the usual bumps).

Nothing much happened in Washington on the 9th, except Koch Industries letter to the Senators was made public. Coincidence? I think not.

LarryHart said...

Naum:

As a followup, here is military historian David Fitzpatrick, driving it home along the same lines… …you might want to share with your ostrich (FB) friends.

But those who either do not understand the debt-to-GDP ratio, or who do understand it but don’t want Americans to understand it, instead use the “household budget” analogy to explain the current problem with the deficit and the debt. “I have to balance my household budget,” so the logic goes. “So should the government.” Nonsense. Pure and utter nonsense. A national budget is not the same thing as a household budget. It’s not “apples and oranges.” It’s “apples and moon rocks.” And to say more would be to turn this already-too-long essay into a book. Suffice it to say that anyone who truly believes that the household budget analogy provides a valuable understanding of the federal budget needs to take a basic college-level economics course.


"College level"? Elitist. I'm afraid that won't sway the ostriches.

But suppose the right-wingers WERE correct that a government should be run like a household budget. If that household followed Paul Ryan's plan, they'd be trying to be fiscally responsible by buying less food, clothing and heat...and then offsetting whatever money they saved by TAKING A VOLUNTARY PAY CUT (i.e, "Letting my employer keep more of his own money."). And if the employer somehow insisted "No, I'm giving you a raise and I want you to have it," they'd insist on spending a dollar LESS on food, clothing, and heat for every dollar extra in their paycheck.

Even on their own terms, their fiscal policies make no sense.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not convinced the 'family budget' thing is intended to deceive. I suspect there might be some honest confusion here. Look back at how Washington treated debt instead of Hamilton. I was important to be able to go into debt, but it was also important to aggressively repay the debt. It was a matter of moral character for him... as many things were.

An American 'conservative' might reasonably agree with Washington and argue on moral grounds. If so, they might make the same kind of mistake the 'socialists' make when applying rules we learn from family life to the national level. Families are generally led, but that approach doesn't work well when scaled up to communities and nations. Families economize their resources, but that doesn't work well when scaled up again.

This might be the same class of mistake the socialists make.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

"Trickle-down" really works best in a protected economy. The special malevolence of the "New Wrong" was to simultaneously embrace and sabotage trickle-down by promoting unrestricted trade, which should have been linked with environmental, health and labor standards from the beginning.


Trickle down economics makes exactly as much (little) sense as it would to claim that "Handing out free money to the unemployed will make them more likely to use that money to find jobs." Rich people supposedly "create jobs" because investing in production is how they make themselves more money. If instead they get more money just by having it handed to them, why would they bother with the more difficult work of "creating jobs"?

Money doesn't trickle down--it trickles up. If you want to stimulate the economy, give money to those at the bottom rungs. They'll spend it at Wal-Mart or Exxon stations, and eventually, that money will end up in the coffers of rich people anyway, but it will do lots of work on the way there. Giving money directly to those on the top bypasses all that useful work. It's like putting the flame jets at the TOP of your oven and trying to cook your turkey that way.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ,

If conservatives were really interested in paying off debt as a moral issue, then they'd be willing to raise tax revenue at least enough to help pay down that debt. Instead, they insist ONLY on spending cuts, and then they want to immediately OFFSET those spending cuts with tax breaks. The debt stays the same, but spending is slashed.

In a family budget, this would be equivalent to starving your children so that you can afford to take a pay cut.

Also, Republicans ran up debt when interest rates were much higher. Today, we can borrow money for almost negative interest AND the recession almost begs us to borrow to spend on stimulus and infrastructure at the same time. When times are better, yes, pay down the debt, especially during times when inflation threatens. But a Great Recession is the exact wrong time for austerity policies.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, I am aware of the way the money goes, the point I was apparently making badly is the wealthy do invest a little in production, and in a protected economy, you'd notice, even if it was something a bit dubious, like Schwinn or Murray chasing low labor costs, so retailers could continue to live as they were accustomed. In a World economy, profits tend to be invested somewhere other than where they were generated, hobbling the local economy. Yes it would be better if stimulus and investment were more directed at labor, after all, the American finance industry is very good at getting working class money, it's what they do.

LarryHart said...

Tim H,

I'm not entirely in disagreement with you either. There might have actually been more of a trickle-down effect when the wealthy spent their money more locally.

In its day, the assertion "What's good for General Motors is good for the USA and what's good for the USA is good for General Motors" had truth to it. I don't think the same assertion can be truthfully made about (say) modern Haliburton.

Tim H. said...

The chasing cheap labor around the globe thing ought to keep things churning for decades, but how many "Love canals" will be left in it's wake? How badly will the United States be reviled? Here's a challenge for the Greens, devise a regulatory regime with minimal bureaucratic overhead to avoid future environmental incidents associated with 3rd world industrialization.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart:

What if we are seeing two sides of the GOP here? One wants to trim spending on the belief that economic growth will pay down the debt (a reasonable argument) and the other serves their masters with tax breaks (typical politics). Some of the tea party people are so wet behind the ears that they might think they can win their 'no new expenditures' argument with the other side because that other side wouldn't dare cut a deal with the Democrats. Heh.

I'm not saying that is how it is, but I think it is possible thus I have to consider the possibility that the family budget analogy is honest confusion among some of its believers.

Tony Fisk said...

An interesting take on the recent shutdown shenanigans, and what might be yet another civil war.

Paul451 said...

Locumranch,
"and the US Secessionist (and/or balkanization) movement remains a very real & imminent threat to US Federalism."

"Threat"? How is Secession a threat? If just one large, deep red state seceded, or just a handful of small ones, the US would flourish.

Paul451 said...

Apparently Mitch McConnell wrote into the debt-ceiling deal, a $2.1 billion funding increase for a project in his home state.

Because, you know, ummm, entitlement cuts and, errr, living within your means.

David Brin said...

Scientific American put it succinctly: "In many ways the federal government shutdown was a huge, unplanned experiment in what happens when we give up on science for two weeks. The experiment is now over and the results are still incomplete. But so far, they are ugly." Have a look at the latest, disastrous blow in the War on Science.

Only here's the deal. This was not a "regrettable side effect" to those who precipitated this crisis. It was a Feature. Indeed, it was a central goal.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=government-shutdown-was-temporary-the-damage-to-science-permanent&WT.mc_id=SA_facebook

TheMadLibrarian said...

And one wonders why SA has largely turned off comments on its articles. For a publication that is supposed to concentrate on disseminating scientific information, there sure were a lot of pseudo-researchers blowing off the shutdown's effects in the comments section of that article. If I were a scientist, I would be very downheartened by the apparent cavalier dismissal of my work.

TheMadLibrarian
iitiesv: ties between 2 and 5

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm not saying that is how it is, but I think it is possible thus I have to consider the possibility that the family budget analogy is honest confusion among some of its believers.


I don't discount the notion that some voters really do believe the family budget analogy. Truth be told, I would have agreed back in the 90s. I LIKED the fact that the debt was being paid down back then.*

But I'm asserting that EVEN IF one buys into the family budget analogy, the insane-GOP ideas of what to DO about debt don't make (even internal) sense. If you're worried about debt and trying to pay it down, you don't willfully reduce and limit the amount of income you can take IN. You don't use high-interest debt to pay off low-interest debt. You don't go on spending sprees with a credit card and then decide when the BILL COMES DUE that you're going to "save money" by not paying it.

[* What changed was the Bush administration demonstrating the folly of Democrats giving up social programs in order to save money--all that means is that Republicans have more available for THEIR cronies. If neither party is going to actually allow a surplus, then the mere fact of debt isn't a choice any more--only what to do with that debt, and on that question, I'm firmly on the Dem's side.]

Alfred Differ said...

I still like the idea that we were paying down the debt in the late 90's. One doesn't need the family budget analogy to see the value in doing it. It is a sign of strength that improves confidence in the markets. It moves money off secure investments into riskier ones. That's worth some effort as long as people do it with eyes open.

I'm with you on the idiocy of the GOP approach under GWB. I voted Dem the whole time knowing that I didn't much like their approach either... but what choice did I have. I agree with David's description of them as kleptocrats at best and 'rule by the worst' at other times.

I will quibble with your list of insane things to do though. Giving money back when facing a debt might actually work in the long run IF the people who would use it produce enough revenue for the gov't to overtake the interest paid on the bond when it roles over. When interest rates are low that is a distinct possibility. Obviously, though, that's not what happened under GWB's watch. Returning money to the cronies AND getting into two open-ended wars was worse than insane. It would be suicidal if it weren't for the fact that the US is incredibly resilient and wealthy.

locumranch said...

How is Secession a threat? If just one large, deep red state seceded, or just a handful of small ones, the US would flourish [Paul451]

Paul's response (above) is typical of Blue State urban elitism which confuses the under-populated, poorly industrialized but resource-rich nature of most Red States with either powerlessness or moral irrelevance, even though nothing could be farther than the truth.

Blue States owe their prosperity to their (mostly) coastal locations, controlling almost all of the US's major ports & trade routes except for land-based interstate trade which is regulated by the federal Commerce Clause, a clause put in place long before the land-locked Red States existed.

The Commerce Clause is the vaunted source of Blue State prosperity because it permits the Blue States to transport Red State resources, raw materials & finished products across state lines in a grandfathered tax-free fashion.

This is the undervalued commodity that the Red States bring to the bargaining table and it is the one vital thing that their secession threatens to take away: Tax-free commercial access. 'Access' is also the key word in the concept of federalism.

Now, imagine what happens if a few under-appreciated Red States secede & close their borders to commerce. How are you going to move your goods & services from point A to point B when the Red States own or control all the land-based trade routes?

Why, you humble yourself. You hold you hat in your hand; you pay the piper a premium; you simper and play 'nicey nice'; and you give the devil his due ... or you go to war.


Best.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

One doesn't need the family budget analogy to see the value in doing it. It is a sign of strength that improves confidence in the markets. It moves money off secure investments into riskier ones. That's worth some effort as long as people do it with eyes open.


That's what I thought in the 80s and 90s too. But apparently, Alan Greenspan thought otherwise. He was TERRIFIED that the budget surplus was on the way to elimniating the national debt altogether, and he signed onto the Bush tax cuts with the specific goal of preventing that from happening.


I will quibble with your list of insane things to do though. Giving money back when facing a debt might actually work in the long run IF the people who would use it produce enough revenue for the gov't to overtake the interest paid on the bond when it roles over.


Sounds like you buy into Supply-Side economics, which might have been a theory worth trying, but has been proven over the past 30 years to not work. The theory seems to be that if government leaves the wealthy more of their own money, they'll spend it (more wisely than the gov'mnt). In reality, they hoard it and keep it out of circulation. Taxing them is the only way to get that money into circulation again.

On the other hand, I'd use your FORM of argument and claim that it makes sense in a Great Recession to borrow money and spend it to stimulate the economy by employing people to fix infrastructure, all the moreso when the borrowing costs are so low. Of course, that brings the deficit up even more, but you're SUPPOSED to deficit spend in a recession.

As Paul Krugman quoted someone else as saying, worrying about the deficit during a depression is like worrying about water conservation while your house is on fire.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Now, imagine what happens if a few under-appreciated Red States secede & close their borders to commerce. How are you going to move your goods & services from point A to point B when the Red States own or control all the land-based trade routes?


You wait for them to realize that they're no longer entitled to suck at the Federal teat, and for THEM to come cap in hand to US. Eventually, the real United States would end up trading money for free-passage rights, but without giving them back their Senators and Electoral Votes.

Sounds like a win-win.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Locum, Why would the red states cut their noses off to spite their faces by blockading free transportation of goods? The red state/blue state transportation quandary cuts both ways. Red states may be (by and large) resource rich, but mostly the blue states convert the raw materials into processed goods, and thence get them to other markets outside the US. It's one of the things that points out how we all benefit from the interconnectedness of our economy. Is Texas, striking out as its own Republic, truly prepared to negotiate for fruit and veg with California, machine tools with Ohio, and lumber from Oregon, or drop that entirely in favor of buying from other countries? Not to mention all the international treaties that need to be redone (although I suppose they could make a case for relocating the Berlin Wall along the Rio Grande if they secede).

TheMadLibrarian
mpirdle: delusions of minor empire

Damien Sullivan said...

"Now, imagine what happens if a few under-appreciated Red States secede & close their borders to commerce. How are you going to move your goods & services from point A to point B when the Red States own or control all the land-based trade routes?"

Sea transport is cheaper and more important than land. A port can trade with any other port in the world; a landlocked country can trade only with its immediate neighbors. (Not counting air frieght, which is expensive.) In a trade struggle between a landlocked country and a port country, the advantage is hugely with the port.

And in a struggle between a manufacturing/trading center and a raw resources center, the former has a huge advantage, unless the latter has a nigh-monopoly. The inland red states offer food, minerals, oil, and gas. Valuable but replaceable via ocean trade.

Typical red state inversion of economic reality...

"Blue States owe their prosperity to their (mostly) coastal locations, controlling almost all of the US's major ports & trade routes except for land-based interstate trade which is regulated by the federal Commerce Clause, a clause put in place long before the land-locked Red States existed."

They also owe their prosperity to good education, big cities, effective government, and manufacturing traditions (which in New England's case go back to abundant small hydropower for early mills.) Human capital, social capital, and well, capital, vs. land and cheap labor. These are probably more important than the Commerce Clause; cf. Singapore and Hong Kong and Japan. And, despite being landlocked, Switzerland.

Tony Fisk said...

Now, imagine what happens if a few under-appreciated Red States secede & close their borders to commerce. How are you going to move your goods & services from point A to point B when the Red States own or control all the land-based trade routes?

Apart from sea routes, one recalls how the 1948-9 Berlin Blockade was handled. (hint: the Soviets didn't try that again)

Damien Sullivan said...

Let's spell this out more. Consider states A and C, which are large West and East coast states, with large ports, diverse manufacturing, world class universities and finance, etc. And state B, which specializes in ranching and mining, and has rail and road connecting A and C.

In the event of full trade war, A and C pay slightly to somewhat higher prices for a fraction of their foodstuffs and raw materials, and have to route trade between them through the Panama Canal or Canada. Meanwhile B's economy totally collapses, because it no longer has imports or exports. It gets to try autarky as pioneered by such prosperous states as North Korea and 1960s India.

If it tries to squeeze A while continuing to trade with C, it's now in a monopsony situation: C knows B won't be trading with A, and can put the screws to B itself. C perhaps pays even lower prices for B's goods, while A's in the same situation as before.

With rare exceptions, landlocked countries are poorer countries.

A real major red/blue split would be more complicated, with a multi-way transportation network, and Texas as a red coastal manufacturing state. But if just some inland red states somehow secede and try to play games? They'd be more screwed than the Republicans just were in this shutdown/debt crisis.

David Brin said...

Any Secession would probably be about con federalization rather than complete independence. Defense and basic systems of trade would be kept under one roof.

I often cite one major reason, beyond slaver and treacherous oath-breaking and Confederate acts of aggression against the North since 1852... for why Secession was horrible in 1861. The destruction of a great continental nation whose internal state was (if you weren't a native American) stunningly unprecedented peace.

No one ver mentions this! Except for the Civil War, most Americans spent their entire lives perhaps seeing a soldier briefly, now and then at a train station. This was NOT the case in 99.99% of human societies, who spent vast amounts supporting a vast caste of warriors just to keep ravaging hordes at bay... and routinely the homeland's soldiers BECAME ravaging hordes. Or their generals became oppressive lords.

Those who tally reasons for America's success speak of resources and sometimes lack of interior trade barriers. Ethnic and memic matters and so on. But that continental peace was surely tremendous. And the confederates wanted to destroy it forever, turning us into another silly, balkanized place like Europe, forever struggling, armed, bitter and teetering on war.

Screw that, and screw those who are trying to do it again.

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He has trampled..."

Damien Sullivan said...

Oh, how did I forget? There's also that inland red states tend to be net recipients of Federal aid, getting more than they pay in taxes.

Frankly I often feel it's the blue states that should be trying to secede. The red states clearly don't want them any more, and separation would allow better policies and a more modern constitution than something frozen in the 1780s.

matthew said...

Ha! Harry Reid put Bernie Sanders on the conference budget committee. Source article is very partisan, but I definitely agree that putting America's token Socialist on the committee is a funny poke in the eye to Paul Ryan et. al.
Bernie Sanders is Paul Ryan's Worst Nightmare

Paul451 said...

Locumranch,
The others have responded as I would. I only add that "closing their borders" would put them on the wrong side of US import restrictions/tariffs. And indeed, outside of NAFTA. All those factories that Texas-pumpers keeping waving around would be back across the border in a heart-beat.

Since the seceding states wouldn't want to lose access to the largest (maybe second largest now) market in the world, they are going to negotiate things like through-transport, in return for getting free-trade with the US.

matthew said...

This article argues that the whole Neo-Confederacy thing is untrue: what is happening now with the Tea Party is a continuation of Old Guard Northern State Conservatism.
Thank Yanks for the Tea Party!

Worth a read, even if I disagree with some of the most basic analysis. Plus, Graphs!

Paul451 said...

David,
"for why Secession was horrible in 1861. The destruction of a great continental nation whose internal state was (if you weren't a native American) stunningly unprecedented peace."

Even excluding the endless larger (nameable) battles with Native Americans, between the Revolution (1774-1783), round two (1812-1815), Mexican-American war (1846-1848), and of course the Civil War (1861-current), you guys seemed to have an internal (or border) war every generation or so. Only after the Civil War was there relative internal peace. (Although you seemed to be pretty much at constant war somewhere. I thought you guys were meant to be isolationists at heart?)

LarryHart said...

Damien Sullivan:

The inland red states offer food, minerals, oil, and gas. Valuable but replaceable via ocean trade.


Illinois has plenty of food and (natural) gas.

In the 80s, columnist Mike Royko made fun of then-Governor Thompson (a Republican, btw) splurging on a fleet of helicopters, which Royko quipped could "bomb Indiana into submission". Perhaps the gov was precient after all.

LarryHart said...

Damien Sullivan (again):

Frankly I often feel it's the blue states that should be trying to secede...


It would certainly be an Alexander-like solution to the Gordian knot of a problem.

Maybe we could join Canada? That would solve the problem of making Illinois contiguous with the coasts.

Damien Sullivan said...

Heh. "Thanks Yanks" (interesting read) also links to http://jacobinmag.com/2011/03/burn-the-constitution/
bemoaning modern liberal love for the Constitution, when earlier Progressives saw it as the plutocratic charter it was. "rage for paper money" and abolition of debts were among what Madison wanted to prevent in Federalist 10.

David Brin said...

Larryhart yes, conquer Canada (gently) then with a dozen new Blue states the damn civil war will be over.


Onward to next post....

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

Well, I meant that the BLUE states should join Canada, but I suppose your way works too.

What might make for really interesting legalistic wrangiling is if the blue states seceede and then the old Confederacy uses federal powers to prevent the secession.

TheMadLibrarian said...

After global climate change does its thing, we may WANT to join Canada, especially if the grain belt moves north and plains state farms turn into dust bowls (again!)

TheMadLibrarian
rtydathe: gerrymandering along transportation routes

Randy Winn said...

FUN FACT: the Articles of Confederation specifically allowed for union with Canada (Article 11) without a vote by the states.
Since the Articles set up a "perpetual union" one might argue that it clause is still in force; nothing in the Constitution overrules the Articles - it merely establishes a different government structure for the pre-existing nation ;-)