Beyond the Cusp

January 31, 2018

Who’s Really to Blame for Government Shutdown?

 

Next time the government, meaning Congress, cannot find some compromise on Immigration and the Budget and the government is shuttered again, who will be to blame? That appears to be one of the big questions in the minds of the media. They have an obvious answer, an objective for making this the pinnacle of political prognostication. They know they have three paltry weeks to turn this entire mess around in the minds of the people. They will have plenty of assistants on social media and across the Internet to repeat the mantra that all government shutdowns throughout history have been the fault of the Republicans. Back in the 1980’s the government shutdowns, and there were more than one, were all the result of Ronald Reagan refusing to sign a very proper and reasonable budget bill. Reagan received so much bad media that he finally caved and it was over budget and immigration where he gave in on amnesty in exchange for border enforcement to be discussed in the new Congress. Somewhere on the way to the next Congress that promise fell through the cracks and enforcement never happened. Then in the 1990’s it was about the budget and Newt Gingrich battled with President Clinton and in the end it was Gingrich, the Republican Speaker of the House who refused to play ball and shut down the government. So this last shutdown was placed on Chuckie Schumer so we have circled from the President to the House and the Senate so reason would say the next shutdown should start the cycle over and be the President, it is only fair, right? Well, that will be the story, it is the Republican refusal to be reasonable and accept that we cannot afford to build Trump’s wall. These shutdowns should be called the Great Wall of Trump shutdowns. That should sell, the Great Wall of Trump shutdowns.

 

The facts do not matter and the reasonable offer by the Republicans to grant the DACA young adults et al a reprieve as has been offered as a way of addressing their individual cases and allowing those who meet certain expectations to stay and those who have criminal records and other problems and do not speak English being deported was not sufficient. The fact that President Trump insists that his wall be at the very least initiated as the prototypes were impenetrable by special forces who were used to test their effectiveness. We know, totally unreasonable as obviously they could always just blow the wall up or tunnel deep and go under them as they are only going down six feet or thereabouts under the ground. Anyway, walls do not work, history has proven that. Just let us go through some of the great walls built from past to a few present day walls and we will see they failed, and more importantly, how they failed. The most famous of all walls, the Great Wall of China, was build to keep the Mongol tribes from invading from the north. The Great Wall kept the border so peaceful that the Chinese society grew exceedingly wealthy from a century plus of no wars. The Chinese people became soft and refused to have their children taken to guard the wall so the Chinese hired Mongols to guard the gates and that also worked for a few more decades until finally one Mongol warlord forced his tribe’s guards to open one of the gates and raiding parties poured in. Other Mongols saw this and the wall failed. The Roman Empire built walls to keep the Germanic tribes from raiding the norther edge of their empire. Eventually, they ran out of slaves and hired Germanic tribesmen to guard their wall and repair the wall. For some reason this led to the wall failing. Romans also built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Celts out and it remained a working barrier even after they put British tribal members from the south guarding the wall. Rome stopped paying these guards as they retreated from the British Isles finding them too expensive and not worth retaining and the wall failed.

 

Border Wall Prototypes

Border Wall Prototypes

 

But what about more modern walls? More modern was the Berlin Wall which was torn down after twenty-eight quite effective years being built overnight on August 12, 1961 and fell on November 9, 1989 and thus the wall failed. Even the Israel Terror Wall, sometimes misrepresented as an Apartheid Wall, has made suicide bombing a rarity but it is still extremely porous as walls go. Hundreds upon hundreds, possibly over one thousand, of Palestinians with proper identification each day pass through to go to work and the occasional terrorist does make it past the border wall officers who check identity cards so it has not been perfect. Should Hamas ever take over the Palestinian authority areas the wall will become relatively worthless, as Hamas prefers rockets to having people carry the explosives. Hamas has made the real wall, the Gaza Wall compromised with who knows how many tunnels and they regularly cross the wall simply by firing rockets over it. India and China have a wall on their border as well as India and Pakistan; and in these cases it is the fact that both nations have military guarding these walls that makes them work. The same goes for the DMZ Wall between North and South Korea where workers are permitted to cross and should North Korea ever fire the artillery and rockets they have poised just on their side of the wall, that wall too would prove worthless. So, we have seen that walls work great until they don’t work and then they fail catastrophically often just being torn down, breached or the gateways left open. What a surprise, walls need to be guarded by the people who built them or those with common fears; and if you allow your potential enemies to guard your wall, no matter how much you pay them, they will betray you and your wall will fail, we are simply stunned.

 

There are less than twenty days before the continuing resolution runs out and the government faces another shutdown. It is time to assess who is really to blame? On one side, we have President Trump who is insistent that his wall begin to be financed and built, period. The President is refusing to budge. The Democrats in the Senate are demanding that the DACA illegal immigrants be granted total amnesty, all of them with one blanket amnesty with no restrictions. The Republicans want a system by which these illegal immigrants must meet some minimal qualification which includes speaking English and a clean record of no criminal activity since breaking the law being smuggled into the United States. This would include drug possession and any felonies being disqualifying them from receiving amnesty and each case be reviewed independently. The Democrats also want extended amnesty for all illegals in the country now for a decade until they can be fairly assessed for citizenship. They do not want even those with criminal records or multiple deportations already to be excluded, blanket that all illegals remain in the country completely free from government harassment in any way. The President insists that any illegal found guilty of a felony being deported permanently, no exceptions.

 

And the final sticking point is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (H.R. 2580), also known as the Hart–Celler Act. This law completely revamped the National Origins Formula for having quotas based on needs and compatibility with American culture which had been in place since the Emergency Quota Act of 1921. Representative Emanuel Celler of New York proposed the bill, Senator Philip Hart of Michigan co-sponsored it, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts helped to promote it and thus the quota system was abolished and replaced with a lottery system where people from nations less represented were granted entry. This law has some of what you might call unintended consequences though many believe these were more accurately to be called intended consequences. This might have also been called the future will belong to the Democrat Party as these unassimilated people living off the government will be loyal Democrat voters. This was the program which gave start to the lottery visa program which would bring in immigrants by lottery from largely third world countries and this was how Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbeki national entered the United States. ‘The Diversity Visa Lottery Program is a Chuck Schumer program resulting from The Immigration Act of 1990. This modified the Hart–Celler Act so as to make the system even more fair balancing the entry into the United States from its former unfair Eurocentric systems. Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbeki national who entered under these programs would become the Bicycle Terrorist who plowed a rented pickup truck into a crowd of pedestrians and cyclists in lower Manhattan on Oct. 31, 2017. President Trump wants this program killed until it can include a more strict vetting of the applicants as currently vetting is minimal. Chuckie Schumer is fighting for this wonderful idea he promoted and refuses to have someone as ignorant as Donald Trump to alter his hard work.

 

Those are the sticking points over which the war of words is over though the media will spend all their time covering the personal attacks and ignore the actual reasons that the government may again face a shutdown. But is a shutdown really all that horrible? It is if you reside in Washington D.C. area as that is the economy as the government and servicing the government is almost all that area does. That even includes the stores, restaurants and everything else you might imagine even to bowling alleys. The Federal Government employees will collect unemployment while they are otherwise on vacation and when they come back, they will be given a nice large payment to cover the time they were “out of work.” They are not required to return the unemployment so they make out fairly well, all things included. Some miss the overtime they used to get but the unemployment should cover that nicely. The Democrats always threaten to shut down the payment of welfare, food stamps, Social Security and other such but President Trump can order these be paid as they are a function of the Administration and he can claim them as vital interests. Many such payments are actually done by State government employees such as unemployment. Most of our readers are probably too young to remember the heady days when President Willian Jefferson Clinton and Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich were at war over the budget and from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996, they shut down the government completely for a total of 27 days. The world actually managed to continue to spin, the United States was not invaded as the military were considered essential personnel, crime waves did not develop as the Federal Agents were also considered essential and the Post Office is a supposedly independent agency and not directly run by government so the mail continued, and the nations did not grind to a halt. Other than the hyperventilating media, the entire three weeks and six days passed and nobody died as a result, not even a single hyperventilating media type, as they are practiced at that art. President Trump should challenge Chuckie Schumer and allow the government to be shuttered for as long as Senator Schumer can take the heat. We would bet that providing President Trump can still Tweet to his little heart’s content (not to imply he had a little heart as he is rumored to be a generous individual) then he will be able to continue and hopefully be persuaded to watch the goings on with an unattached glee and amused viewing port. The media will of course cast such blame predicting the end of the world, as we know it. If he can manage to allow the government to remain shut down with just the essential personnel and all government checks to the citizens continuing on schedule but with over three-quarters of the government on extended vacation, as that will be what it will be in the end, then he can easily make a speech during ‘prime time’ to the American people to apologize for the extended government shutdown and then propose that each department of the government be required to freeze hiring until further notice with the administration setting up a panel which will mediate any hiring needs during the period in order to make limited exceptions if a position is truly essential, which they will advise that the agency usually fill it from within. If President Trump can keep such a freeze in place his entire presidency and be reelected, perhaps government might finally be parsed to a more manageable size. Just a closing crazy idea.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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February 19, 2014

Political Terms Republicans Should Learn

After watching United States Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, marshal his majority of fellow Republicans to pass in a submissive and orderly fashion a completely clean piece of single item legislation raising the debt ceiling silently complying with the expressed demands of President Obama, we were struck by his complete lack of principles, vapid timidity, absence of cogent leadership and total absence of political gamesmanship. It occurred to us that perhaps Speaker Boehner had forgotten an entire slew of political terminology which any freshman Representative should know before ever arriving in Washington DC. So, in an attempt to provide some useful service, we figured that perhaps a short lesson covering some of the basic but vital terms necessary if the Republican Party ever again seeks to challenge the fates and take on leadership will need to understand.

 

Political Theater. This is the concept where even though you realize that you are facing a situation where any efforts you put forward are completely futile as you are facing a situation where the other party is holding all the cards, and the votes, and have the near total support of the mainstream media, you still make a display giving an accounting of your side of the argument simply to be able to state your principles and have them heard.

 

Principled Stance. This concept is very similar to political theater except on steroids. Here you actually pass legislation which represents your position and refuse to budge from these particular ideals, also known as principles, forcing the other party to make dire predictions and threats before acquiescing and eventually passing the clean bill while stressing that you are doing so solely because you are unable to win this time but promising that should your party ever have the advantage that they will act and enforce these principles you stood on.

 

Playing to You Base. This is a vitally important part of playing the political game where you make at the least a symbolic stand expressing succinctly the positions of you core segment of voters in the society. This does not mean that you only express those principles that play well in your district but more that you play to the core principles that represent the vast majority of your basic supporters on a national level. Doing this gives your mainstay supporters a reason to campaign and vote for your party in upcoming elections, and even more important, prevents the embarrassment of having your core support be so disenchanted that they stay home on election day. This should be something the Republicans are very familiar with and should be doing everything within their power to correct and correct as quickly as possible.

 

Stick to Your Guns. This is a simple concept which entails simply refusing to compromise without making the case and forcing the other party to sweat a little and make a compromise granting you some concessions before you eventually concede. In this way you at least extract a price and have something tangible to show your constituents come election time. Even more important is you establish firmly the difference between your party and the other party which provides the voters with a clear alternative to the current state of things. This is of the utmost importance at times like these where a large segment of the population is desperately seeking somebody to lead the nation in a different direction as there are now.

 

Calculated Risk. This refers to taking the measure of the situation and if there is an opportunity to fulfill the items described thus far, you actually brave the consequences and make your stand holding out from conceding the fight for as long as you are able. This may very well mean that the mainstream media will pillory you for taking this stand but at least they will also need to give you the microphone to speak to the people to explain you reasoning and the position for which you are making a stand. Yes, there are risks but often this will pay off down the road as long as you do not go overboard and completely refuse to address anything at all.

 

Object Lesson. This refers to a very simple and basic action in which you define a concept and then put that concept on display as publically as you are able. By doing so you will have adopted that concept as your own and ownership of popular concepts is a desirable aim. Currently, one such concept is the paying down the debt or, at a minimum, not adding any more to the already almost debilitating national debt. If any concept has found its time, the balanced budget requirement and the passing of a Constitutional Amendment stipulating such as one of the basic requirements demanded of the Federal Government is definitely one of them. Sure there would be the necessity to place a path around this requirement during times of war or other calamities and demanding a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Congress would make only truly serious situations allow for such. 

 

Government Shutdown. By all appearances you act as if allowing, or even forcing, a government shutdown would be the worst possible action ever taken. This may not be actually the case as the American voting public in polling has stated that one of their most important desires is to lower the debt. The majority of American voters has expressed their dissatisfaction with the current direction being taken by the Federal Government in particular and is desperate for an alternative. There is likely no bigger statement to be made than actually forcing the shutdown of the government. Even if you force a prolonged shutdown say six weeks or more, you will actually serve the purpose of allowing the vast majority of Americans to realize how little positive things in their lives owe anything to having the Federal Government fully functioning and this is an object lesson whose time has come.

 

Default on Debt. This is simply a scare term used as a weapon of threat that predicts an overt and outrageous eventuality which, in reality, is technically false. The Federal Government takes in simply on fees, taxes, duty paid on imports, tariffs and sundry other remittances collected daily to pay the necessary required debt payment, which is simply paying the interest on the debt and does nothing to pay down the principle, making an actual default an impossibility. If the Federal Government were forced to shut down, the debt payments would still be possible as the sole individual necessary to make such payment is the Secretary of the Treasury, a person who would not be affected. Even if the President, in order to create the absolutely worst case scenario, were to require his Cabinet members to also not report to work during a shutdown, the President also has the power to make the required debt payments.

 

Framing the Argument. This terminology is also called Framing the Debate and consists of setting the acceptable terms and their meaning such that the ability of the other side to argue their position becomes untenable. The best way to combat this tactic is to take the initiative and get out in front of the debate and defining the terms in a manner supportive of your arguments. One example of this tactic has been the defining illegal immigrants as undocumented workers, poor people leaving a really unfortunate and bad situation who have simply entered the United States illegally in order to find employment and raise their families or persons lacking the proper paperwork. Another use of framing the argument in the immigration reform drive has been the claim that the border can be enforced closing it to illegal smuggling and illegal immigration simply by electronic surveillance and that drones patrolling an area is just as effective, if not more so, than building an actual and real fence. Simply by defining the problem such that the only realistic solution is the one offered by those defining the terminology the debate has been won without really debating a single item allowing the blanket application of one side’s entire set of arguments and solutions.

 

Teachable Moment. This phrase has become one of President Obama’s favorites and has allowed him to set its definition thus far. Even though President Obama has adopted the phrase Teachable Moment does not prevent anybody else from also utilizing it. All this phrase means is that the person or group invoking it believes that the discussion is beyond the common understanding of the general public and they are going to use the situation to define the particulars and implications of the event or item to which they refer. The phrase itself is not a very strong argument as long as somebody contests the definitions assigned by the author using the phrase. Teachable moment is the announcement used by any politician when they wish to frame the debate favorably to their arguments and close down any disagreements or discussions coming from the opposing view.

 

Opposition Party. This refers to the party having the least power. The Senate has the Republican Party in the minority and thus they are the opposition party. The House of Representatives has a majority of Republicans making the Democrats the opposition party for all intents and purposes there. As the Senate and the Presidency are held by Democrats, even with the majority in the House of Representatives, this casts the Republicans as the opposition party. As the opposition party there are some basic guidelines that are required. The most important requirement is for the opposition to offer an alternative view on the most important subjects, legislations and problems facing the public. They are also tasked with presenting opposition, sometimes standing on principles despite the consequences. What they are not supposed to do is simply cave to the demands made by the party holding the majority of the power by utilizing the safeguards placed in the Constitution to curb this exact situation.

 

In the recent debate, or lack thereof, over raising the debt ceiling once again, the Republicans shirked their duties by folding before President Obama and the threats and intimidation of the Democrats allowing for a clean piece of legislation and passing on any attempt to make the Democrats pay a price thus accomplishing at least one small iota of the Republican agenda. The complete capitulation and collapse of the Republicans in the House of Representatives was absolutely one of the most repulsive and appalling acts of cowardice. The pathetic performance by the Republican Representatives was outdone by craven disregard for principles and resorting to the most deceptive of actions by the Republicans in the Senate. The Republican controlled House of Representatives could have very easily forced through legislation which would have required a discussion if nothing else over the concept of giving the entire American public a reprieve from the requirements of Obamacare by including granting a waver as part of raising the debt ceiling. Since President Obama has already granted waivers and stay of execution of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, for both businesses large and small as well as wavers to Administration and Congressional staffers and other favored groups through blatant disregard for the limitations placed on the office of President by the Constitution, the extending of a similar set of waivers for the general public is really not such a revolutionary concept. Demanding that the general public receive equal treatment to that granted to even the largest of corporations would simply be leveling the grounds for enforcement and removing the disparate treatment favoring wealthy corporations over regular citizens by President Obama.

 

Even this lack of will to establish a position by the House of Representative Republicans was not a valid reason for the Republicans in the Senate to deceptively vote for cloture ending debate and then vote against the legislation raising the debt ceiling mostly so they could claim later this year, or whenever they come up for reelection, that they opposed the debt ceiling being raised as demonstrated by their “Nay” vote but betrayed by their cloture to end the sole Republican taking a principled stance, Senator Cruz of Texas. The argument by the Republican leadership in the Senate was that they would have eventually lost anyways, so why resist. The problem with that defeatist argument is that a filibuster supported by the entirety of the Senate Republican would have prevented passage of this legislation. The nuclear option taken by Senate Democrats to permit cloture on a straight up or down vote only applies to confirmations and not to the filibuster of legislation. That means to end debate the Democrats would need to find about a half dozen Republican Senators to vote with them or the filibuster on the legislation would block its passage. Presuming that the Republicans expect to someday actually win elections, particularly the Presidency, they had better first establish a definable difference between themselves and the Democrats. Taking a stance that represents fiscal responsibility would be a very good principle on which to start making your stand. Apparently the Republicans only desire to follow behind the Democrats and take every precaution to prevent making trouble for President Obama or Harry Reid. Perhaps, in reality, there is no opposition party and what we have is two variations of the same party system which leaves the American people without an alternative to the current destructive road on which they are travelling ever faster and faster. The brakes probably could not be applied demanding a price for raising the debt ceiling, but perhaps the foot could have been removed from the accelerator pedal and even maybe the car placed in neutral in preparation for braking in the not too distant future. If such slowing and eventual reversal is not executed soon, then the execution of America and her economy is indubitably assured.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

October 9, 2013

Do These Furloughs Reveal Obama’s True Foreign Policy Agenda

We have all witnessed how many of the furloughs and shutdown closures have been used more as a war on the public in order to make the shutdown actually an inconvenience but otherwise these actions have appeared petty and almost juvenile. When you seek to assign blame for whatever consequence of the government shutdown has just collided with your plans affecting your life there is an easy rule of thumb in determining where to place that blame. Simply determine which department of the government is responsible for providing the services or servicing the area which you have found is closed. If the department is among those which fall under the President’s Cabinet, then the Administration most likely chose to close off that service or area. The prime example is the Park Service which is completely under the auspices of the President. So, every National Park or monument which has had its access restricted or terminated was a choice made by someone within the Administration and not by the Congress. Truthfully, most of the areas which fall under the auspices of the Congress are extremely unlikely to conflict with the average person’s life surprisingly enough. The Congress has furloughed a fair number of workers which is why some Representatives and Senators are likely lost in the vast halls of the Capital Building and associated office buildings because the assistants who pushed the buttons on the elevators for them and who actually had learned where the many meeting rooms and other necessities, including the correct floor for each and every of the 535 members of Congress’s offices have been furloughed. Don’t be too harsh on our esteemed Congressional representatives as they likely have far weightier problems on their minds than to waste their immeasurable mental capabilities memorizing room locations or what floor their offices are located. The vast majority of workers furloughed which fall under the control of Congress would largely be their own staffs both in Washington and back in their home district or state. The rest would be the legions of support personnel within the office complex and Capital Building including interns, pages, message carriers and the like. Thus, the majority of furloughed personnel which are likely, however slight the possibility, to affect anything the average citizen does on their regular schedule of activities has most likely been furloughed by the Administrative Branch of our government and have been selected under some arbitrary set of rules which emanated from the White House through the separate department heads and Cabinet appointees.

 

All of that be as it may, there has been one set of furloughed personnel which were somehow, through a form of logic which entirely escapes reason, classified as unessential personnel. Perhaps I have my priorities all jumbled-up but I would have placed the work of this particular office extremely high on my list of essential personnel as this office is responsible for some vital policy enforcements. I am referring to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control which was ordered to furlough all but 11 of its 175 full-time employees. Presidential spokesperson James Carney was quoted pointing to this “meaning that the office is unable to sustain its core functions.” The Office of Foreign Assets Control’s work includes issuing new sanctions designations against “those enabling the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as terrorist organizations, WMD proliferators, narcotics cartels and transnational organized crime groups” which has now been impeded. This office is also tasked with enforcement, investigations of sanctions violations and offers penalties, issuing licenses for humanitarian activities, and issuing new sanctions prohibitions. Mr. Carney refused to comment as to whether or not the furloughed personnel would result in any lessening in the enforcement of the sanctions against either Syria or Iran. Wendy Sherman, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported, “Our ability to do that, to enforce sanctions, to stop sanction evaders, is being hampered significantly by the shutdown.” She subsequently added, “Let me assure you that we will continue to vigorously enforce the sanctions that are in place as we explore a negotiated resolution, and will be especially focused on sanctions evasion and efforts by the Iranians to relieve the pressure.”

 

Administration spokespeople continue to claim that every furloughed Federal Employee was the direct result of Republican actions and that the Administration has absolutely no discretion or alternatives to the various furloughs and respective shutdowns. They claim that they have carefully applied the furloughs with the effort to make the shutdown have the least disruptive consequence to the operation of the government as a whole. But as the numbers of government employees who were necessarily furloughed there were some unavoidable compromises which will affect the operations of government departments and sectors. Somehow looking at their choice to do such direct and extreme harm to the enforcement of international sanction I cannot believe that in cutting a whole 15% of the government workforce that all but 11 of the 175 full-time employees in the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department was unavoidable and not a malicious attempt to lessen sanctions enforcement on Syria and Iran which the President has been hesitant to apply constantly standing to block or postpone Congressional and even European demands for tougher sanctions. This particular choice was a malicious and deliberate crippling of essential operations for which President Obama must be held accountable for as this had to come from the very top with his blessings. There is no way anybody can convince us that this was done without the President’s full knowledge and endorsement. This is another instance where I reread the Constitutional definition of treason and wonder when the trials will begin.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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