This is the first blog for a while, after the success of the Tiny Terrorist with her GCSE’s the Badger collapsed in a heap and was carted off to America.
It was however a serendipitous move in that his extradition coincided with the latest bout of political madness, badness and brinkmanship in Washington so sadly rather than enjoy the pool, much time was spent following the local television coverage.
WHY IS IT HAPPENING?
The explanation of how the situation has become so fractured and polarised is actually not that complicated.
The first reason is that the US has a three tiered legislative system which are all three separate bodies; The Whitehouse (President), The Senate and Congress. They have legislative powers and for laws to be ratified all three need to agree.
Broadly the President and Senate concentrate on foreign affairs and the Congress is focused on domestic issues including budgeting.
The obstacle currently is that the President is a Democrat and the Senate has a Democratic majority (so supports democratic policies and the President’s agenda) the Congress has a Republican majority, so does not.
It seems anomalous that Congress can be Republic controlled when they lost the Presidential vote by a significant margin?
The explanation is that every ten years the Congressional district boundaries are reconfigured (these are the same as constituency boundaries for UK MP’s) the last time this was done was in the Bush Presidency with a republican majority in Congress so they were redrawn to favour Republican candidates.
If they were redrawn today by Democrats and a vote then held the Democrats would have the majority (this process of changing voter mix to one’s advantage is commonly known as Gerrymandering).
So, the joyous legacy of that Titan of a President “W” lives on.
In the latest rankings of the Best and Worst US presidents George “W” ranks one from bottom.
He is apparently superior to Warren Harding (1921/23) who: had his campaign financed by organised crime, had numerous affairs whilst in office (fathering an illegitimate child), had bootleggers supply the Whitehouse with alcohol whilst enforcing prohibition, appointed a corrupt judiciary and is believed to have been murdered whilst in office by his wife leaving an estate of over $1m with no obvious source of accumulating such wealth.
It must have been a close run thing.
THE TEA PARTY
The Tea Party (named after the Boston tea merchants’ rebellion which precipitated the war of independence from the British “no taxation without representation”) is a right wing hard line fundamentalist group within the Republican Party who have come to wield significant influence in recent years (Sarah Palin et al).
Their agenda includes reducing government oversight and regulation, imposing morals consistent with religious teachings (so no abortion, the right to teach creationism in schools etc), no gun control and reducing taxation and government debt.
There are a number of apparent contradictions with their stated positions, including:
They believe fiercely in the American Constitution but this expressly prohibits the combining of state and church, the US is secular by design; they want to advance Religious doctrine by legislation.
How can the US debt be reduced if taxes are cut, the maths doesn’t work unless social security is slashed.
The Financial meltdown of 2008 was an example of a lack of regulatory oversight; they blame the Clinton (Democratic) administration for the crisis saying there should have been tighter controls on Wall Street whilst at the same time arguing for less government interference and regulation everywhere else?
POLITICS IS A JOB
Senators are elected for six year terms, congressional appointments are only two years, Republican congress people will not be re-elected if they do not represent the views of their tea party constituency so they are pushed to the right negating the possibility for bipartisanship, and the Republican Congress has become beholden to the doctrines of fundamentalists.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
The current government shutdown is a national embarrassment but not systemically that important, the end game all parties are focused on is the looming debt ceiling negotiations which come to a head in the next ten days.
The Debt ceiling is pretty much what is says on the tin, it’s the total of all borrowings the US Government is allowed to incur, once the amount is reached then no more borrowing is permitted (through issuance of Treasury bonds) so the Government cannot pay bills and defaults.
It would truly be the Daddy of seriously bad for myriad of reasons.
This all sounds apocalyptic and in theory it is, but in reality “almost certainly” it won’t happen.
The current game of chicken (we will, you won’t, we really will, no you really won’t) between Congress and The President will be resolved.
Both sides need to appear to their base to have won something, for the Republican Congress this will require some sort of concession from the President that the budget can be renegotiated to reduce overall spending (fewer tax increases and more spending reductions).
The President must be seen to have stood up to a bullying Congress and specifically for his Healthcare Bill, the Affordable Care act.
The funniest thing last week was the survey carried out which asked US citizens in Republican congressional districts the following question:
Are you in favour of the Affordable Care Act?
This was overwhelmingly answered YES.
Do you like Obamacare?
The answer was a resounding NO
They are actually both the same thing, Obamacare is simply the derogatory term used by anti-Republican politicians for the Affordable Care Act.
It’s possible of course that Congress drives the US economy of the cliff and until a deal is done markets will fret, but even given the fundamentalist zeal of the Tea party appears intent on a rerun of the war of independence, this time seeking freedom from the their pinko Liberal oppressors (no taxation without, well without everything else really and by the way, even then, no taxation!) one has to believe there are enough sane people to say stop.
As much as politicians need to act as their constituency demands if they want to be re-elected there is a point beyond which some will not go, blowing up the US economy for no good reason is surely one of those points.
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