Uh, Oh: Guess Who Just Went Liberal

NoRINOsThumbby Faba Calculo   11/12/13
Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, and Dennis Prager. What do they all have in common? Well, for one thing, they’ve both been read out of the conservative movement recently on this site alone.

We could argue terminology. Maybe “read out of the movement” isn’t exactly what happened. Call it what you will: gone liberal, gone wobbly, gone “establishment,” or just flat gone RINO. I won’t quibble on wording. But whatever you call it, one way or another, these four, and possibly others, have been declared to have, at some recent point, seriously departed from orthodoxy into heterodoxy, if not full blown heresy.

I won’t go into what Jonah wrote, as his sins against purity include admitting to a growing support for gay marriage, something which, my personal support for it notwithstanding, is still contrary, in terms of actual policy, to what a strong majority of Republicans and conservatives view as core principles. For Ponnuru, Lowry, and Prager, however, their chief (and probably only) crime was to disagree with the Tea Party (and other like-minded individuals) over purely tactical issues by publically saying what should by now be obvious to everyone: the government shutdown was a foolish thing to do in the face of its near-zero chance of working and far higher likelihood of damaging the party’s (and the conservative movement’s) chances in the 2014 and 2016 elections. For Ponnuru and Lowry, see: Against Despair. For Prager, see: Feeling Good vs. Doing Good.

Though the two articles mentioned above share a number of points, as the Ponnuru/Lowry article was by far the longer and more complete analysis of the two, I’ll briefly summarize in:

1. The shutdown didn’t gain us anything of value we didn’t already have but instead made things worse by focusing attention not on the flaws of Obamacare but on the internal divisions of the Republican Party.
2. The tactic of equating prudential disagreement as betrayal only hurts the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
3. There is legitimate frustration with how the party leaders had been handling things and the outcomes thereof. Nor did the leadership do much better in how they acted during the shutdown itself.
4. What makes it impossible to remove Obamacare right now isn’t a lack of Republican purity but insufficient political strength (i.e., minority status in the Senate, not holding the White House, and too few active supporters in the electorate) to compel the Democrats to support efforts to do so
5. The shutdown also drew attention away from the debacle that Obamacare was suddenly becoming
6. The party has, since the end of Reagan’s time in office, continued to move the right and to experience considerable successes
7. The idea that we’ve been losing elections because of insufficient purity ignores the fact that our more conservative national candidates (i.e., for Senate and House positions) have been doing even worse in terms of vote counts than our more moderate presidential candidates on a state-by-state basis
8. Buckley’s rule that “conservatives should support the rightwardmost VIABLE candidate” (emphasis added) should be our guiding principle, and this extends to our tactics as well
9. Even those pushing the goal of a one-year delay of Obamacare must have known that their stated principles applied just as well to a full repeal. That they didn’t try for the latter, more ambitious, goal indicates that they themselves were applying standards of what could and couldn’t be achieved (though badly overestimating what could be achieved)
10. Conclusion: there’s simply no substitute for winning elections.

With this framework, Prager’s piece can be most succinctly summarized as having repeated point 1 while adding an additional motive behind the shutdown: to make those who wanted the shutdown feel better. And, like the Ponnuru/Lowry article, he had the temerity to backup what he said by citing polls.

With all due respect to Patrick Henry, IF THIS BE TREASON GOING WOBBLY, THEN…boy, “going wobbly” really been defined down.

At the risk of being labeled “wobbly” myself, I must confess to being thoroughly in the Ponnuru/Lowry/Prager camp here. Such purely tactical disagreements (especially now that those who were against the shutdown have been proven right) are far too little to justify claims of liberal/establishment sympathies, wobbliness, or whatever you want to call it. Furthermore, this foolish maximalist positioning while in a far more minimalist position on the battlefield is a recipe for defeat now and a lessening of any chance of electoral victory down the road. And, should this approach predominate, who is going to be the next person to be read out of the movement?

Well, probably Thomas Sowell.

Back in late September, Dr. Sowell wrote an article calling the effort to defund Obamacare via government shutdown “futile and foredoomed”. He also said it risked creating “the distraction that Obama so much needs” (predicting beforehand the realization of Ponnuru/Lowry points #1 and #5). And, towards the bottom of the article, he wrote that, while believing that President Obama (and Chief Justice Roberts) deserved to be impeached for their roles in bringing such an obviously unconstitutional piece of legislation into law, “[b]ut, for the same reason that it makes no sense to impeach either President Obama or Chief Justice Roberts, it makes no sense to attempt to defund ObamaCare. That reason is that it cannot be done. ” (echoing Ponnuru/Lowry point #4) (See: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell092413.php3#.UoGXnvYo5R0).

That article was written before the shutdown began. Now, in a follow-up, he has written another article on this topic from a more retrospective point of view. Here, citing Burke’s principle that “[p]reserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavors” Sowell builds the case that the Tea Party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare in this manner didn’t meet the standards of “rational endeavors” (echoing again Ponnuru/Lowry point #4). He further states, “[w]ith the chances of making a dent in ObamaCare by trying to defund it being virtually zero, and the Republican Party’s chances of gaining power in either the 2014 or 2016 elections being reduced by the public’s backlash against that futile attempt, there was virtually nothing to gain politically and much to lose.” This is actually a touch harsher than anything Ponnuru/Lowry said and more in keeping with Prager: this has actually hurt our chances for 2014 and 2016.

He closes with a key question. “People can even learn from their mistakes — but only if they admit to themselves that they were mistaken. Whether the Tea Party can do that may determine not only its fate but the fate of an America that still needs the principles that brought Tea Party members together in the first place.” And that is the question. Can the Tea Party (and other like-minded fellow travelers) admit that they made a mistake? • (2896 views)

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14 Responses to Uh, Oh: Guess Who Just Went Liberal

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I was myself skeptical of the defunding maneuver precisely because I knew that slimy Harry Reid would never go along with it, much less the Fascist Messiah. But I will say in retrospect that the actual approach adopted could have worked if Boehner or some other GOP leader had done a good job of communicating to the public instead of relying on Slick Barry’s synoptic media accomplices to report things honestly. They called for defunding, then a 1-year delay in Obamacare (which in fact should have happened anyway given what we now know about the website), then a 1-year delay in the individual mandate, then merely reforms such as the Vitter amendment. This was the act of a party willing to compromise dealing with intransigent extremists — but that’s not how the synoptic media presented it, so most people didn’t realize it.

    The same thing happened after the partial shutdown began, and Barry Screwtape Obama deliberately (and callously) maximized the public’s pain (even going so far as to attempt to prevent people from viewing Mount Rushmore in the distance from public highways), with the active assistance of Harry Wormwood Reid and every single Senate Democrap. Again, the public was never informed whose fault all this was. Finally, the Republicans passed a series of individual appropriations bills (as in fact they had been doing all summer), only to see them ignored by the Democraps. And, again, the public was never informed. The crucial failure was the failure to inform the public.

    As to the basic point, you will note that I don’t read people out of the movement. As a Kentuckian, I haven’t yet decided which Senate candidate I’ll vote for in the primary next year, though I virtually certainly will vote for the primary winner (whoever it is) in the general election. (The last time I voted for a Democrat in the general election at any level of government was in 1981, and I don’t expect ever to do so again.)

    The crucial reason for the hostility of the grassroots toward the Establishment is the oft-expressed hostility of the Establishment toward their grassroots voters (see, e.g., Trent Lott’s complaints in 2010). They don’t trust the Beltway Bandits because the latter deserve barely more trust than Slick Barry himself does. If the leadership in the House had a history of EFFECTIVELY challenging Big Brother Barry instead of a series of mostly symbolic Obamacare repeal votes, events might have gone very differently in October. But time and again Boehner and Cantor (along with too many Senators) have sought to “go along to get along” with Big Brother Barry rather than to fight them. (Note their eagerness to find some deal on immigration deform, and the heck with what increasing labor supply when the demand for labor is stagnant.)

    • faba calculo says:

      Well said, Timothy, as always. You present your case strongly. I’m proud to call you a fellow Kentuckian (moved when I was five, though I did).

      That said (you knew this part was coming, right?), I’ll go with Dr. Sowell on this one: the shutdown was a preordained failure. That Reid and President Obama were never going to go along with it was obvious. That the MSM wouldn’t either was equally so.

      Furthermore, the compromises you cite didn’t amount to much and/or were stopped, in no small part, the same way the shutdown was started, by the purists. Undoing Obamacare vs. merely delaying it for a year (as advantageous as the latter approach we now see might have been for a program that was sooo not ready for prime time even by its own standards) would have just meant that another shutdown one year from now would have been guaranteed. If this had been a fight Obama had any reason to fear he might lose, kicking the can down the road might have been tempting, but it wasn’t. And delaying the individual mandate could easily have put the whole program into a death spiral. Not something we’d all cry about, perhaps, but I’m hardly surprised that Obama wasn’t attracted to this idea any more than any of the others.

      The Vitter gambit had the greatest chance to work, but, in addition to opposition from Obama, this time there was also strong blowback from places like Heritage and Freedom Works. Thus was an initiative that at least had the smallest chance of failure (say 80% vs. 99%) but forth by the leadership (A.K.A., “the establishment”) shot down by, among others, more rightward voices and their supporters in the House (A.K.A., the “real” Republicans).

      As for your point about Obama maximizing the pain, there it would be hard to disagree. Hell, during my enforced three weeks of additional paid vacation, I decided to walk to the zoo, forgetting that the zoo was part of the Smithsonian (and, hence, closed), and that the path I was using ran down Rock Creek Park, which is national park (and, hence, also closed). Granted a trip to the zoo is merely a luxury, but a Rock Creek Park also wholly contains Beech Drive, which is one of the major thoroughfares north and south through the city and into Maryland. Thus, DC/Maryland lost an important road in the mix as well. And don’t even get me started on them taking the handles off the f’ing drinking fountains on the canal bike paths along the Potomac. But the biggest offense didn’t come until I finally reached the city that day and saw the guards at the Lincoln Memorial.

  2. faba calculo says:

    As an addendum to this article, I’ll note that Dr. Sowell has a follow-up post to yesterdays addressing the same topic (see: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell111313.php3#.UoKr8PYo5R0) in which he commits the exact same offense for which Prager was so criticized: citing poll numbers as a measure of damage done to the Republican Party.

    PRAGER: “Republicans and conservatives achieved nothing — and did themselves substantial harm — when the House passed legislation that demanded the defunding of Obamacare as a condition of further funding the government and perhaps even raising the debt ceiling. I have not read a convincing argument on behalf of these tactics. But I have read polls showing that the Republican party is held in lower esteem than at any time in its history. And any Republican who dismisses such polls ought to recall that the polls, not wishful-thinking Republicans, were right in predicting that Obama would win reelection.”

    SOWELL: “Polls show that this mistake has already hurt the Republican Party, the only party that has any chance of repealing ObamaCare. To have any realistic prospect of repealing ObamaCare may require the Republicans to win both the 2014 and 2016 elections. The Tea Party’s failed and foredoomed defunding effort predictably got the Republicans blamed for shutting down the government. The fact that the Democrats also went down in the polls means nothing. Politics is a zero-sum game. If it hurts the Republicans more, that helps the Democrats.”

    If there is any significant difference between what Prager said and what Sowell said, I fail utterly to see it.

    One final thing. With this post and now this comment, I suppose it would be easy to see me as just trying to screw with Brad, as it was articles and comment by him that, at least as far as this site is concerned, most typified the effort to read Prager, Lowry, and Ponnuru out of the movement (or whatever term you choose). This is not the case. He and I differ on at a number of points, sometimes sharply (the issue of reading people out of the conservative movement and gay marriage especially come to mind). But I have great respect for Brad, as a person and as this sites creator/administrator. It started in an exchange between him and another person here (since departed, I believe) you, in as many words told Brad to F off, an affront he handled with immense aplomb. That respect has only grown since, for, disagree as he and do, he not only fails to censor me when it’s might right to speak, but permits me to use his microphone here, where it is just a privilege.

    Here’s to you, Brad.

  3. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    I don’t know, Faba – there’s a bit too much gloating in your tone for me to accept that you have Conservative interests at heart here. You really sound as though a grovelling apology from the Tea Party (and all of us who want to fight the Democrats with whatever weapons we have today, not after the next election) would mean more to you than the repeal of Obamacare. And I think you need to be a little more specific about exactly who or what is reading the persons you mentioned out of the Conservative movement (in Goldberg’s case, I’m strongly tempted to point out that it’s Goldberg himself who seems determined to do that).

    First, as to your being “right”: hindsight is always 20-20. If you plan to toss a coin five times claiming you’ll get five heads, and I bet against you (knowing that the probability of your success is only 1/32), and then somehow you do manage to toss five heads, are you then correct to say to me, “See Nik – I was right all along”? In the case here, I can’t agree that the Republicans should not have fought, but they should certainly have fought more wisely and with perhaps a more attainable goal in view. Having lost this scuffle, I think more because the whole thing was done in a hasty, improvised manner and because some Republicans were eager to betray Conservatives (e.g. Mitch McConnell trying to undercut Ted Cruz and Mike Lee) than for any other reason, that does not automatically validate the reasoning of those of you who opposed the “shutdown”.

    The tactical questions are complicated, and frankly I’m too tired to go through them all right now. But I would like to point out to all of you who say “We can’t shut down the government under any circumstances” that you are making two terrible mistakes:

    (1) You are conceding the sole responsibility for the “shutdown” lies with Republicans. In fact, the parties share it 50-50, for just as the Republicans could avoid the “shutdown” by funding everything the Democrats want, including Obamacare, so could the Democrats have avoided the “shutdown” by agreeing to fund everything except Obamacare. In other words, Democrats are so committed to the power-grab of Obamacare that they are willing to “shut down” the government in order to keep it. That case could have been made, if the Republican leadership had had the stomach for it.

    (2) You are literally handing the Democrats a blank check. Suppose Harry Reid decides he wants not only Obamacare funded, but another $400 billion for yet more bribes to Democratic supporters. By your reasoning, Republicans should just cave in and give it to him, since we mustn’t “shut down” the government, and wait until 2014, or 2016, or never, to mount a fight against the Democrats.

    The fact is that Republicans hold the House. Of course they can’t get everything they want, but neither should the Democrats. The power of the House, intelligently used, could force some concessions from the Democrats, and should. If “elections have consequences” as Democrats and squishy “moderate” Republicans are always reminding us Conservatives, than one of those consequences is that the Democrats lost the House, meaning Republicans can and should force them to deal. If not a full defunding of Obamacare, how about an agreement to end all the unconstitutional “waivers” or something else that will make Obamacare even less palatable to more people during the next 12 months, in time for the 2014 election? How about some true spending concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling? How about an absolute refusal to give back-pay to government workers after the “shutdown” ends, which would put some pressure on the Democrats to end it by making a few concessions for once?

    Doing nothing until 2014 because “we don’t have the Senate” and then doing nothing in 2015 because “we don’t have the Presidency” is too weak and defensive a strategy. Sooner or later, to score points or win a war, you have to go on the offensive, and the Tea Party is not wrong to demand this.

    • faba calculo says:

      Certainly, there is a pointedness to my argument. Believe it or not, I did edit the original article to make it less so. Thus, the snark is mostly in the title of the piece and the riff on Patrick Henry. That said, I did find the reaction against Prager’s piece (especially) so out of left field that I can’t deny that I take amusement in the fact that Dr. Sowell has now effectively echoed them. Call it a character flaw.

      I have no interest in the Tea Party grovelling, just in them not supporting the initiation of shutdowns in the future.

      As for who here has read Prager, Goldberg, Lowry, and Ponnuru out, isn’t it obvious? It’s Brad. Again, you can believe it or not, but I struggled with how to go about so strongly disagreeing with a man who posting (and, yes, approving or disapproving) my article to a site he created. So, as I thought it clear who I was disagreeing with, I left the name off.

      As for Goldberg, you are absolutely correct. Even though I fully agree with his stance on gay marriage, it isn’t lost on me how far, at least in terms of that issue, he and I are from the mainstream in conservative thinking. Or at least from the mainstream social conservative thinking. As I said in the original article, it’s for exactly that reason that I didn’t take his case up here, and I will allow that, for Goldberg, he is on FAR stronger ground. I still think him wrong about his whole Goldberg-Inc. hypothesis. Rather, he’s probably more of a neo-conservative / slightly-libertarian / small government conservative than he is a social conservative, as is the case with me.

      Yes, hindsight is 20/20. I hope those who supported the shutdown use it in forming their foresight for the next round in this battle come January. Nor was predicting failure at all hard, as Sowell himself foresaw. How any managed to talk themselves into believing it had a decent shot at working is beyond me. OK, actually, maybe it isn’t. I think they saw what they wanted to see because the alternative was to not do much more to fight Obamacare than had been being done previously, which had come to zero in terms of good results. I understand the frustration and am forced to admit that I don’t have any alternative approach that actually IS likely to work. But that still doesn’t obligate me to engage in wishful thinking.

      As for your two terrible mistakes…

      1) This point is pure sophism. What is says is that there is an equivalence between making or not making a threat and giving in or not giving in to it. There is no such equivalence. One side sought to bring about change by closing the government and risking default, the other side refused to reward this tactic by giving up their (however foolishly and unconstitutionally) most prized legislative victory in god knows how long.

      2) I am not advocating giving the Democrats a blank check because I am not advocating a position that we can’t shut the government down under ANY circumstances. If the Democrats are ever so stupid as to attempt what the Republicans just did, fine. Give them all the rope they need to hang themselves. Offer them a clean continuing resolution and let them turn that down if they dare. (Note: they won’t.)

      Finally, I’m certainly not against the party using its control of House to forcefully negotiate. I’m just against their using that power to back themselves into a corner and then hope that Obama will, for some reason, rescue them by caving on (what he at least see as) his signature victory, because HE ISN’T GOING TO DO IT.

      And you raise an interesting question about what we should bargain for, but (no surprise) I don’t agree with your suggestions. Any attempt to bargain for changes to Obamacare that will make it less popular (e.g., forcing the employer mandate to go into effect now) will be fruitless, as Obama has as much impetus to avoid this as we have to want it. Furthermore, pushing to law to make people even worse off is just as likely to rebound against us as following the trail of breadcrumbs back to who caused the change won’t be hard. If there is anything we really want that we MIGHT be able to get, it would the end of the birth control mandate on religious (and especially Catholic) institutions. There, at least, we can point to a clear violation of freedom of religion, and as he could say yes without jeopardizing the program as a whole, he just might.

      OK, one truly final thing in this overly long post. Sowell is right about one more thing: right now, Obamacare may well be its own worst enemy. Administration officials are suddenly talking like they are much less confident of having the website fixed by December 1 (or is it the 15th?…don’t recall now). If it’s not fixed by then, Obamacare is going to be in a position of fining people for not having insurance that was supposed to be being supplied by Obamacare but isn’t. Instead of trying to deal another wound of our own to the program, the best bet is likely to advertise the one its inflicting on itself even as we speak.

      • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

        “This point is pure sophism. What is says is that there is an equivalence between making or not making a threat and giving in or not giving in to it. There is no such equivalence. One side sought to bring about change by closing the government and risking default, the other side refused to reward this tactic by giving up their (however foolishly and unconstitutionally) most prized legislative victory in god knows how long.”

        Faba, if I were somehow authorized to read you out of the Conservative movement, I would do it because of this statement alone. You have completely adopted the Left’s viewpoint lock, stock, and barrel! Let’s clear through this foggy thinking by answering these questions yes or no:

        1. Had the Democratic Senate passed the House bill, would the “shutdown” have been avoided? (Yes)
        2. Is it not then true that by choosing not to accept the House bill, the Democrats freely chose the “shutdown” over not funding Obamacare, even though Republicans were willing to fund the rest of Leviathan? (Yes)

        The fact is that there are two Houses of Congress. Unless you assume along with the Democrats that everything they want must be funded without question, there is no “threat” involved in saying we don’t want to fund Obamacare, or some local boondoggle, or Solyndra, or Item XYZ in the budget – understand? The parties do not agree on funding priorities, and so a compromise would normally be sought. Democrats (and you) are taking the position that they must automatically get everything they want, and Republicans must get nothing they want. Sounds awfully one-sided to me.

        As to “default”: you are now misusing the term just as Democrats do. “Default” means we fail to pay the interest on the debt. It does not mean Barry Obama and Harry Reid don’t get all the spending they want, or even that they had last year. It does not mean that Congress refuses to fund some part of the government (like Obamacare). No default would ensue from failing to raise the debt ceiling – if that were not true, fiscal collapse would already be inevitable.

        To see that, suppose that without further borrowing we could not pay the interest on the debt. That would mean that without an economy-shattering tax increase or a sudden spurt in economic growth, revenues were already less than the interest payments. Under such a situation, the principal (debt) could never be repaid, and in fact would increase, causing further increases in the amount of interest payments until they could no longer be met by borrowing – in other words, the point of default would be reached with mathematical certainty.

        Note also the similarity to the “shutdown” issue: your position leads logically to the “we can never refuse to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances, because by so doing we risk default” view, which in turn leads logically to inevitable default as long as Republicans hold the House and Democrats the Senate. Does allowing the Democrats to take us to default, or even closer to default, by constantly borrowing more money sound like a responsible position to you? If Republicans cannot balance the budget without the Senate, should they not at least extract some small spending cuts in return for increasing the debt ceiling?

        You may claim to be some kind of small-government Conservative, but unless and until you rid yourself of the assumptions you share with our enemies on the Left, your tactical advice will remain useless at best.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          You have completely adopted the Left’s viewpoint lock, stock, and barrel!

          Exactly, Nik. I posted this article just for sheer novelty. But it’s clear that Faba is little more than a contrarian. I don’t believe that he believes his own stuff and is merely doing “not that” contrarianism. Even so, it is instructive (at least to me) that this is often all that this nihilist-producing culture has to offer and to guide people.

        • faba calculo says:

          “Unless you assume along with the Democrats that everything they want must be funded without question, there is no “threat” involved in saying we don’t want to fund Obamacare, or some local boondoggle, or Solyndra, or Item XYZ in the budget – understand?”

          If the Democrats want new or increased spending on something the Republicans don’t want (and the Republicans haven’t been marginalized in an election) there’s plenty you can do: namely, don’t let it get put in the budget. And if it’s discretionary spending, you can at least hold it at current spending by doing this and agreeing to a clean CR. But if, like Obamacare, it’s mandatory spending, you can’t even do that, because mandatory spending doesn’t get its spending authority from the annual budget but from the legislation that created it. And also all welfare spending is mandatory. So, other than arranging for the essential workers to work without pay and virtually guaranteeing that the non-essential workers receive X days/weeks/whatever of unearned paid leave (take careful note, the House vote to make sure that the furlough counted as paid leave was unanimous on both sides of the aisle), there’s little you can do except threaten to let the shutdown (however partial) go on so long and do such damage that the Dems will feel compelled to give in. If that’s your idea of responsible governance, then, let me assure you, if you were in a position to read people out of the movement, I’d have already left long ago.

          As for default, I am not misusing it, as I am using it in exactly the same way you are: failing to make payments on the debt when due.

          “No default would ensue from failing to raise the debt ceiling”

          You state this with a certainty that is unwarranted, at least in the medium to long run. It’s true that, just passing the “official” debt ceiling expiration date doesn’t bring about instant default. That’s because there are pools of money (e.g., the Federal Employees Retirement Fund, as I recall) where the government can hold off for a time in making its payment, at least for a few months. In fact, we passed the debt ceiling date back in May, leaving the government to employ its “extraordinary measures”. But those measures only go so far, and some big bills (especially military retirement, and spending on Social Security and Medicare) come due the first of the month. We made it into October, but it was far less likely we’d have made it past November 1 (though even that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility). At that point, the risk of default on debt would have been very real.

          Conservatives like to take comfort from the fact that, even with the country running on just revenues (i.e., with no new borrowing) there was always enough money to make debt payments (assuming other things weren’t prioritized over them), but even if the payments were given the highest priority, that’s no guaranteed that there would be no default. That’s because, while the money might be there, putting prioritization into place might not be doable in practice, due to the way the government computer invoicing system is designed. It gets hit with about 100,000,000 invoices each month, and it’s designed to just pay the invoices in the order they appear. Therefore, should we breech the debt limit for real (i.e., run out of the extraordinary measures, not just pass the “official” date), it’s possible that the most we could do is simply pay the invoices as the money came in, in the order in which they appear. That would mean that, if there were Social Security/Medicare/military retirement bills with prior due dates, the debt payments would have to just wait until it’s turn. If that turn came after that debt payment’s due date, welcome to default.

          Now that might not be the case. It might be that the computer system could have a prioritization feature hastily added. Then again, it’s also possible that healthcare.gov will be up to speed later this evening, but I wouldn’t go betting on it. Though on a smaller scale, I’ve been closely involved in software development programs here at BLS and have found them to be universally slow undertakings.

          It’s also possible, I suppose, that overall prioritization would be impossible, but it would still be possible to pull the debt payments out of line and pay them “by hand”. But I’d have been a lot more confident of this if anyone from the current or a past administration, from either side of the aisle, who had overseen these systems had come out and said, “Pay no attention to these alarmists, there’s an easy work-around.” If you know of such a person with major and direct experience with this system who said this or something similar, please share.

          Finally, though I thoroughly reject the tactics of the Republicans (willing or not) here, I never said we must NEVER default. In some cases, it makes sense. Then again, in some cases, it would make sense for you to let me saw your leg off, and in such cases, you should probably do so. But before the sawing begins, you should probably have ample reason for believing that it was both absolutely necessary and had a high chance of solving whatever problem was driving this extreme decision. In the case of this flirtation with breeching the debt ceiling, there was neither.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            They could always prioritize; in fact, the House passed a bill (ignored by slimy Harry Reid’s Senate, of course) to do just that, so that default would never be an option. But even without that it needn’t be — unless Obama chose to do so in order to falsely accuse the GOP of responsibility (as some Republicans began to think was his intention, and I’m inclined to agree with them).

            • faba calculo says:

              You can no more bring a new computer system into existence via legislation than you can override the laws of economics.

              This is not to say that I’m sure the current computer system couldn’t be made to prioritize, or that none could be done by hand. But a gun against someone’s head and their productivity does sometimes go way up. But there is far too little info available here to say that a law was passed, therefore it was clearly doable.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Very good analysis, Nik.

      Apparently what the “smart” crowd believes is that we should not battle with what power we have. They forget that the Left has always battled with what power they had, even when severely outnumbered.

      And they kept at it. And look at where we are now. And, sadly, look at all these confused and befuddled people (including Thomas Sowell for the moment) who insist the “right” approach is just around the corner if only we will wait.

  4. CCWriter CCWriter says:

    Let me just go on record, for what it’s worth, that not everyone endorses every instance of this “reading out.” I find a lot of it problematic, and for a variety of reasons.

    Not everyone on the right is authorized to speak for me. I reserve the right to have my own opinions. Read me out based on that if you like; I’ll read myself back in. 😉

    P.S. Cartoonist Scott Stantis often does speak for me. Here’s his take, in today’s instalment of “Prickly City”: http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/taking-a-stantis/2013/11/prickly-city-rino.html

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