The ongoing government shutdown is a big mistake. I realize that this is a controversial topic, and if you disagree with me, by all means write an angry comment in the field below.

In this article, I’m going to cover two points: Why the shutdown is a bad idea, and why Republicans shut down the government (hint: it’s not only because they hate obamacare).

So, why is this shutdown a mistake?

1) It allows Obama to blame Republicans for any future economic downturns. Obama spent his entire first term blaming everything bad on Bush. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Bush (whether we’re talking about George or Jeb), but he really took it too far – exactly everything was Bush’s fault. Now, as time goes by, that excuse becomes less credible. However, Obama is in luck: The Republicans, by shutting down the government, have made sure that Obama will be able to blame them for the rest of his term.

Here’s the thing: The stock market is overvalued right now. I can’t tell you exactly by how much, but investors are assuming that things will soon go back to normal again, and as I explained in my last post, that just aint gonna happen. Basically, shutdown or not, we were in for a bear market, something analysts have warned of since long before the shutdown began. The earnings reports will arrive in the coming weeks, and most analysts seem to agree that these reports will cause a market correction (that is; the earnings won’t be good enough to justify the current high stock prices).

Now however, once the stock market turns bearish, Obama and the rest of the Dems will be able to point at Republicans and say “See, this is what happens when you let Tea Party radicals be in charge of the House”. It won’t be true, but it’s easy to see how it can stick: The average joe doesn’t really know a lot about “earnings reports”, but “investors are pulling their money out of the US because we don’t seem to have a functioning government, because Republicans will shut it down whenever they don’t get what they want” is a lot easier to grasp. And that brings us to the next problem

2) The shutdown will in fact have a negative impact on the economy. Yes, the democrats will exaggerate the effect and blame every piece of bad news on the Tea Party, but yet… this isn’t good. As a conservative, I want limited government  – but I also want functioning government. By shutting down the government, Republicans have refused to let government function.

I’m not the only fan of functioning government – business owners like that too. Republicans may think they are doing the private sector a favour since they are cutting the size of the government (temporarily) through this partial shutdown, but seriously, that’s like cutting off a leg to lose weight. It’s counterproductive – sure it works in theory, but you’re not really getting healthier.

When Washington suffers from this type of gridlock 4-5 times a year – sometimes it’s the budget, other times the debt ceiling, and this time it’s both – business owners and investors become less likely to hire and invest their money in the US. A common counterargument is that the economy didn’t suffer much in 1995, when the government was shut down for three weeks. But let’s remember that that happened in 1995, during a dotcom-fueled economic boom. The economy today is much more fragile and the US is much more dependent on investors’ trust in the economy and in the government (the very idea that the US might some day default was absurd in 1995).

Now I understand someone is going to say “Well if the President hadn’t pushed through his unpopular health care reform…” but that’s the thing: He’s the President! The Democrats won the last Presidential election, the last Senate election, and going by popular vote, they actually won the last House election as well! Where is our mandate? When people voted for Bush in 2000, they certainly didn’t expect to get the Patriot Act, but Democrats had no right to shut down government over that (and they didn’t). If voters really are so stupid as to not understand that electing Obama means that they get Obamacare, then they deserve Obamacare. They may not have voted for Obama because they wanted the ACA, but they voted for Obama knowing that doing so would lead to the ACA becoming law.

3) The shutdown gives Obama a chance to recover – and polls indicate that he has. The last couple of months hasn’t really been good for Obama. He suffered an epic failure when he tried to secure support in congress for a military intervention in Syria. And, adding insult to injury, he got schooled by Vladimir Putin in the New York Times, an otherwise Obama-friendly paper. Obama appeared to be backing down because Putin told him to – basically, 22 years after a Republican president won the cold war, a liberal president was taking orders from Kremlin! That really should have been devastating.

But it wasn’t, because the Tea Party decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Obama appeared weak when he dealt (or, in the end, avoided to deal) with Syria; now he gets a chance to appear like a stateman.

I know that the Republican PR machine is working overtime to tell people that Obama is being “unreasonable” and “won’t negotiate”. It won’t work, however, because House republicans – by acting the way they’ve done since 2010 (refusing to raise the debt ceiling until the last minute etc) – have made sure that everyone already thinks that they’re the unreasonable ones.

Obama doesn’t appear to be unreasonable; he appears to be standing up to a group of people who are being unreasonable. He is like a parent who gets fed up with his child who is having a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery shop and who decides to drag the child out, kicking and screaming. Do you think the other shoppers in the store are going to think the parent is “unreasonable”? Are they going to think “Wow, what a bad parent, why didn’t he negotiate instead? Why wasn’t he willing to discuss and reach a compromise on whether to buy honey oats?” or are they going to think “Thank God there are still parents who knows how to stand up to their kids when they misbehave”?

To the American people, the Tea Party appears to be unreasonable, tantrum-throwing man-children. Sure, the media has never been kind to the Tea Party, but to a large extent, they’ve brought this on themselves by picking too many battles at the wrong times, by using extortion and by simply not appearing to know anything about the issues they talk about. Whether Obama is being unreasonable or not, he doesn’t appear unreasonable next to the Tea Party – the same way none of us appear tall, standing next to an NBA player. And in politics, perception matters.

4) The shutdown distracts from the real issues that Obamacare is already having. 99 % of those who tried to register during the first day failed. Imagine what a field day Republicans could be having with this if not for the government shutdown.

Worse, it’s going to get a lot harder to criticize Obamacare in the future – any politician who does it on the campaign trail will immediately be accused of being one of those “Cruz” Republicans who refuses to accept election results and insists on shutting down the government to get their way. I fear that it’s going to be kind of like with immigration – today, you can’t criticize immigration without first saying something like “I’m not a racist, but…” or “I have several latino friends”. Maybe in the future, anyone who wants to criticize Obamacare will first have to excuse themselves by saying “I’m not a Cruz Republican by any means, but…” or “I have several friends who have signed up”?

If that happens, then the ACA will never be repealed. Just like the border will never be sealed as long as you can’t even discuss the issue without being suspected of being a closet racist.

5) Republicans are setting an ugly precedent. There are a few things I hope we can all agree on: The entitlement programs will have to be reformed, the sooner the better. Democrats are unlikely to reform them. And; Republicans are even less likely to achieve a filibuster-proof majority in the senate any time soon.

Like I mentioned previously, democrats never shut down the government over the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, nor even the Bush tax cuts. Because, back in the good old days, senators and congressmen really tried their best to keep the government open; you didn’t shut it down just to put on a show for your core voters.

If Republicans were to take over the White House in 2016, and Democrats decide to employ the same strategies that the Tea Party is using now, then I can guarantee you that the entitlement programs won’t be reformed in time to save them. It’s not like there aren’t any radicals in the Democrat party; it’s just that the Democrat leadership is a lot better at keeping them under control than the Republican leadership is with the Tea Party. It’s not hard to see a Democrat “Tea Party” movement forming if Republicans take control of another branch of the executive (say, the White House) and try to reform these programs. Of course, any reforms will face resistance anyway – but why give the Democrats an excuse to shut down the government in a few years?

Not reforming the entitlement programs is at least as important to Democrat core voters and radicals as Obamacare is to Republicans and Tea Partiers.


In conclusion…

I do not believe that the shutdown will lead to a default. There are still enough sane Republicans in the house to prevent that. Republicans will yield, and most likely get absolutely nothing in return – Obama knows that Republicans won’t let the US default, so why should he compromise? It’s a game of chicken in which Republicans are predetermined to end up as, well, the chicken.

Instead, Obama will use this opportunity to destroy the credibility of the Republican party and destroy the spirit of Republican core voters whom – because they listen to conservative talk radio – actually believed that the shutdown could somehow lead to the repeal of Obamacare. Honestly, I think part of the reason why Cruz and his colleagues decided to pursue this course of action is that they’ve started to believe their own propaganda: They truly believe that everyone hates Obamacare and so no-one will mind shutting down the government to get rid of it, and they truly believe Obama is so spineless that he will back down. Sure, Obama is spineless when it comes to foreign affairs, but it’s delusional to think that he would give up his signature achievement to please a couple of tantrum-throwing congressmen.

Don’t get me wrong – I agree with the Tea Party principles of limited government, private health care and balancing the budget. The Tea Party movement was necessary to revive the Republican party after the 2008 elections, but for every passing day, it is becoming more and more of a burden.

In essence, the problem with the Tea Party is not its ideas and causes, but the fact that it picks show-offs over intellectuals 10 out of 10 times. Intellectual discussion is discouraged, which is why the Tea Party representatives fail to convince those who are not already die-hard Republicans: People like Cruz can only speak the language of the Tea Party; they are unable to explain logically step by step in a way that the average joe can understand why their positions are correct. They like to claim that Obamacare is bad because it’s “government health care” and it never occurs to them that not everyone considers the word “government” to be profane. An intellectual – say, an educated economist – would be able to make a case against obamacare that anyone could understand. Maybe not a case that would convince everyone; but definitely a case that would convince everyone that there are valid reasons to oppose obamacare. But why bother nominating candidates who can do that, when you can instead nominate those who keep preaching to your ever shrinking choir and then blame the “lamestream” media when you lose?

Days like these, I really think Jindal had a point when he said we’re the stupid party.

Thanks for reading.

Photo credit: cool revolution via Flickr (Attribution 2.0 generic).

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