Government Shutdown

Will the government shutdown?  I’m just a blogger with no special information and only a cursory impression of the many moving parts and conflicting agendas of all the players involved. But so far my record is at least as good as the professional talking heads, so let’s see. 

The way I see it there are a few major things going on. The single biggest is that Trump is insisting a continuing resolution contain money for a border wall, in exchange for money for Obamacare. There could be a few things going on here. Trump might be treating this as a regular business negotiation. He could be hoping the democrats, or maybe republicans, will come back with a counter offer. Perhaps less money for the wall, or just a promise to pay in the future. Maybe he’s trying to get the government shutdown, so he’s making impossible demands. Once shutdown, he would be able to blame Congress, or maybe defund any programs he deems unworthy. Maybe it’s a wild stab in the dark to get some kind of success in his first 100 days. 

If any of these are his plans then he has problems. If this is a simple negotiating tactic, then he’s off to a bad start. Democrats have no motivation to work with him at all. There’s no point in trying to negotiate with someone who only wants you to fail. And republicans aren’t particularly big fans of either the wall, or Obamacare, and they hate spending money on anything other than tax cuts for the rich. So they have no reason to negotiate either. If he’s trying to get the government shutdown then he’s succeeding, but there’s a strong chance he’ll be blamed for the shutdown. If Congress passes a spending bill without money for the wall, and he refuses to sign it, he will have an uphill battle trying to deflect blame.  It could be a wild, random move. If that’s the case then I’m just wasting my time, so I’ll ignore that possibility. 

There’s another possibility. He could be setting up his own failure. He could want to fail and look weaker. I’m not ruling that possibility out. His history has lots of examples of him attempting things that could only result in failure. Maybe he likes to lose, or just is unwilling to rule out any possibility till he tries it. The way he’s going so far, I’m inclined to believe it. 

I believe he will fold on this issue.  For all his talk of winning and being a great negotiator, he really doesn’t have that many successes to point to.  I would bet this is a poorly thought out negotiating tactic that he will abandon as soon as it becomes clear that it isn’t working.  If Congress had some real negotiators, then we might have seen a very interesting possibility.  Trump’s proposal was a dollar for dollar funding of Obamacare and the wall.  What if Congressional republicans said we aren’t willing to fund that much, but we might fund a 1000 to one.  You could use the money to buy one brick.  That would have been a fascinating process to watch; an actual negotiation played out in public.  Not holding my breath.

The last thing I want to comment on is that, other than Trump, this process has been pretty smooth.  House Republicans and Democrats seemed to be working together pretty well, and likely would have sent a bill to Trump with plenty of time to spare, and that didn’t piss anyone off too much.  I have a theory that the overall competence of a group rises to a required level, then no higher.  In the case of our government, if the president is competent, then the Congress will be idiotic.  However if the president is an unpredictable clown, then Congress has to step up to fill in the missing intelligence.  More on that theory later, but I would bet that having a lousy president might make the rest of the government work harder to make up for it.

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