Republicans Want to Shut the Government Down

They can barely contain themselves. In fact, they’re flush about it. This was in The New York Times yesterday:

The mood in the Capitol on Saturday, at least among Republicans, was downright giddy. When Republican leaders presented their plan in a closed-door meeting on Saturday, cheers and chants of “Vote, vote, vote!” went up. As members left the meeting, many wore beaming grins.

Representative John Culberson of Texas said that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement. “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’”

This is the “Samson option.” Republicans want to buckle the pillars of the temple and bring the roof crashing down on both the American economy and the international economy, first with a shutdown, then, a few weeks later, with a refusal to raise the debt ceiling. It’s a love of death; of apocalypse. It reminds me of the conservatives in Spain in the 1930s whose nihilistic slogan was, “Long live death!”

But what the Republicans are actually bringing upon themselves, apart from the wreckage they generate for others, is the electoral decline of their own party. And it’s ultimately going to fracture it, perhaps generating a third-party. The majority of 21st century Americans simply do not want their country run by religious, racist, and ideological fanatics and warmongers, and ten years from now the Republican shenanigans of October 2013 will be looked at, in retrospect, as a political fiasco; as the beginning of the end of the Republican Party’s white and evangelical dominated “Southern strategy.”

That’s my view and prediction. What’s yours?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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14 Responses to Republicans Want to Shut the Government Down

  1. Staffan says:

    I think your level of analysis is wrong. The fundamental problem is immigration. America has an estimated national average IQ of 98. Look at countries around 95-97 – Russia, Urugay, Ireland, Portugal etc. They are very different in terms of culture, history and politics. But they have one thing in common: they are all struggling. Look at your own country. States at 98 are doing pretty well but below that things go south. Callifornia at 95 (92 with illegals) has a huge public debt, high unemployment and low job creation. There is more than one way to die.

    And on that note I predict that ten years from now, you will live in Portland or some place like that ; )

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Hmm. I’m reading a new book that just came out that you might like. It’s not an “IQ is everything” book, but a “geography is everything” book. I’m oversimplifying, but it’s by Robert Kaplan, the well-known international journalist and intellectual. He argues that geography functions as the existential situation–the existential backdrop–around which humans make their chess moves and that we simply aren’t in the habit anymore of noticing it. We think the world is “flat” when it’s still quite wrinkled.

      And this is a good reason to think your analysis of California is wrong (even if your claim about Californians’ average IQ is correct, which I don’t know). California is on the Pacific Ocean facing America’s chief trading partners of the 21st century (China, Japan, etc.). And if we’re going to have analogies, Asian Americans are the Jewish Americans of the 21st century, and we (Californians) have the bulk of them living here. (The largest Buddhist community in the world outside of Asia is in Los Angeles.)

      In other words, Jewish Americans in the 20th century, with their family emphasis on education (think Einstein, an immigrant to America), raised everybody’s game intellectually, and today, in universities all over California, Asian Americans are doing the same. They make up perhaps a third of the students in the UC (University of California) system, and they’re here and not elsewhere because California faces Asia.

      So lucky us, and it’s warmer and sunnier here than in Portland (another factor of geography).


      • Staffan says:

        I’m not sure what the “existential backdrop” means and less how it would be conceptualized and measure in order to contradict the importance of general intelligence. It sounds a bit airy-fairy to me.

        It is true that the Asians are an important group, but they are not on level with the Jews and they are not the new Jews; they have a completely different character. And as the Whites leave, will the Asians stay and pick up a tab that just gets bigger every year? That seems like wishful thinking.

        As does the fact that you ignore the indicators I mentioned above. If you were right then low job creation, unemployment and poverty wouldn’t be such a big problem in your state. It looks more like reality is kicking in and that you are now becoming like all other economies at IQ 95 – why would you be the exception? Most unsuccessful nations have plenty of sunshine.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        How is it that California is a “dysfunctional state” if it is in the top ten of income in the country (the largest of the mega-states in the top ten)? Average median household income is higher in California than in lily-white Utah or Idaho. And it’s higher than Texas, which is 25th. The only red state that has a higher income than California’s is Alaska, a state loaded with resources and with just 500,000 people (California has about 40 million people, one in nine Americans).

        California has oil wells and mind wells. It has riches galore and a nice liberal culture to go with it. People want to live here for a lot of good reasons.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Here’s a quick little news fact from NBC News:

      Asian-Americans are the single largest ethnic group among UC’s 173,000 undergraduates. In 2008, they accounted for 40 percent at UCLA and 43 percent at UC Berkeley — the two most selective campuses in the UC system — as well as 50 percent at UC San Diego and 54 percent at UC Irvine.

      Asian-Americans are about 12 percent of California’s population and 4 percent of the U.S. population overall.

  2. colinhutton says:

    US Federal debt, at $17t, stands at 100% of annual GDP and is equivalent to $50k for every person in the US (likely more than $150k for every economically active/productive individual). Not much better than Greece. US voters will never accept the hardship which would be necessary to repay the debt. The US will default. I regard that as a given, rather than a prediction. The unknowns are ‘how’ and ‘when’. Those will be determined by what is in the best interests of the US. Which is as it should be. The world is a Darwinian space.

    As to the ‘how’ : My prediction(recommendation!) is the unheralded announcement of the New US$ (without the ‘In God We Trust’ – too ironic!) exchangeable at NUS$1 = $1,000. For precedent see Nixon 1971, a default in all but name, which left the US largely unscathed. Preferable to the slow-train-wreck alternative of inflating the problem away.

    As to the ‘when’ : The unilateral abandonment of the gold standard in 1971 occurred when the geopolitical landscape was uniquely favourable to the US. Things are not as favourable now, in that we have a globalised economy and the reverberations of the GFC are far from over. Nevertheless, although the US is more exposed to the world economy than in 1971, its current global dominance (economic and military) means there is a window of opportunity for it to again ‘get away with’ a default. That window will close as China’s economic strength grows and its currency becomes convertible and represents an alternative to the $. They’re working on it!

    My prediction (you asked for it!) is that the US will default within 5 years. Perhaps 5 days if the Republicans are seeing things the way I do!

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      Your analysis, in my view, is deluded. First, you’re working with old numbers because the debt to GDP ratio is coming down right now and will continue to come down so long as the economy is growing. And the US will raise taxes or inflate the currency before defaulting on the debt (if there is still any sanity in the political system).

      If Republicans really default in two weeks it will be an enormous tragedy for the country and the world because it will mean that all future US debt will come with a much higher interest rate. That really would bankrupt the country, especially if the economy stalls on top of it.

      Republicans seem to be trying to bring about the conditions that they fantasize as reality.

      As for Obamacare, it was concocted in right wing think tanks as a way to counter socialized medicine models of health care and it was a Republican governor (Romney) who first implemented it (which we now know as “Romneycare”).

      Republican behavior collectively is deeply cynical right now and its dynamic may be spinning beyond the control of rational actors (such as the Speaker of the House). That’s what’s really scary, not the national debt. The Republican Party, as it swirls down in its dysfunction, is trying to take the rest of the country with it (and the global economy).


    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Here’s the figure according to a Sept 2013 news item:

      “The U.S. national debt is now about 73% of gross domestic product, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.”

      • colinhutton says:

        Hi Santi. Blogging between 3 and 5am! That is impressively late-to-bed or early-to-rise.

        I concede my outdated/overstated GDP% and am happy to have to do so. But I do not concede “deluded”. Time will tell. For you, if not for me! I may be old, conservative and cynical, but I’m not yet demented.
        I followed the link to Sullivan in your previous post and then his links, including to the NYT magazine article. It struck me as fairly populist/alarmist reporting, and superficial in focusing only on raising the debt ceiling. As though that would solve the debt problem. Whereas it merely postpones it.
        73% is still large as are the absolute numbers. I think you are far too sanguine about “raising taxes” as an option and underestimate the drawn-out repercussions of inflating the problem away. Continued rapid progress is far from assured for China, but if it happens economic warfare will follow.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Why economic warfare with China? Why is it a zero-sum game? I want to see poor countries plug into the global economy and prosper. It seems the surest way to achieve long-term peace. Shrinking and battered economies (and inequality) make for warmongering, nationalism, and generally reactionary politics.

        As for 3 am blogging, it’s me trying to get up early to grade papers and then goofing off. (I did get them done before my 8 am class.)

        There would be zero “debt crisis” if one both cut the size of government and raised taxes. It’s the combination that the polarized political parties cannot reach agreement on. Demographic shifts suggest that at some point over the next ten years, Democrats will control all of the government and will then be in a position, if the economy is growing at that time, to fix the debt problem by cutting spending and raising taxes (much as it has been fixed by liberals in California).

        And if worse comes to worse, there’s always inflation. Default is certainly not the first option, and is of course the worst. Only the Republican-controlled House can bring about so idiotic a “solution.”

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Here’s a bit of helpful discussion on the debt to GDP ratio:

      • colinhutton says:

        From Niall Ferguson in the WSJ on Friday, Oct 4 : As anyone can see who reads the most recent long-term budget outlook—published last month by the Congressional Budget Office, and almost entirely ignored by the media—the question is not if the United States will default but when and on which of its rapidly spiraling liabilities.

        (apologies, I don’t know how to embed links. But Google finds the piece easily)

        He must have seen my 30 Sept. comment !!

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        I like Niall Ferguson as a scholar and enjoy his books (and forgive him for his support of Romney in the last election), but the United States will never default on its debt, ever, UNLESS the Republicans drive the country deliberately over the cliff by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.

        Why do I say this? Because there are less disastrous options. One is increasing economic growth with smart investing and strategic use of Keynesian economic models during recessions; a second is inflation; a third is to raise taxes and cut spending at the same time. This third option will probably happen in the 2020s when Democrats control Congress and the presidency and the Republicans are in disarray after their stop-gap Southern strategy has shipwrecked them demographically.

        What the country has to do at the moment is get the political gun away from the Republican hostage-takers (then we won’t be in danger of default). America has no looming Greek-style crisis. If the Republicans drive the country into default, it will be a crisis of their own making.

        My worry is that there are just enough Tea Party Republicans to imagine that a global economic crash is good politics for them; that it will sweep the GOP into control of both houses of Congress and the presidency; and that’s all they really care about. I worry that the party isn’t concerned about anything else but winning, and that the only way to win against the demographic headwinds is to create a cataclysm that matches its counter-revolutionary ambitions.

        And I note today that China is getting involved. The Chinese are starting to get nervous about Republican political brinkmanship, publicly warning America not to go into default. But I’m not sure the Republicans are really listening anymore. Their fever is too high. May it break soon and they return to their senses.


  3. colinhutton says:

    A world dominated by US would likely be a far better place for my children and grandchildren than it would be under China. Its social progress appears likely to lag a generation behind its economic progress. So, although I think you are far too sanguine about the situation, I hope you are right.

    Meanwhile, I stand by my opinion that the US will ultimately have to default. And that being so, it should do so sooner rather than later. I’ll allow, however, that the 5-year time-frame I chose was to provide a reasonable chance that I would still be mentally and physically present and be able to post a ‘told-you-so’ comment here! Niall Ferguson was too sensible to commit to a time.

    I was not aware of him until I read that piece of his, reprinted from the WSJ in my daily paper. Researching him, he did sound entertaining. And I take also what you say as a ‘to-read’ recommendation. I do get the impression, however, that his contrarian views may be quite calculated. If you can limit the downside of adopting such views, the pay-off can be handsome if your conclusions turn out to be correct. (And of course, we should attach no more credibility to 15-year forecasts by CBO’s and economists than we do to those by accountants or liberal arts professors).

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