Category Archives: the purse strings and law

Mutiny Aboard the Ship of State

OK, let’s try this again –

Congress holds the purse strings.

Congress may use the purse strings to keep the US budget as balanced as possible given the will of the American people and the vagaries of swings in the economy (in other words we may have to allow for a little extra debt and deficit in a recession and tighten up the budget a bit when times are good – which is just about the opposite of what we actually do).

Congress must steer the budget through the shoals of periodic recessions without making decisions to cut our temporarily ballooning expenses and without causing undue grief for the American people they represent.

This Congress, this 2013 Congress, contains a faction of people controlled by a hysterical, mostly rural, minority, and this minority faction, from the hinterlands of America, wants to win by insulting and belittling the American people; a real charm offensive (not). They have been consistently expressing their contempt for Americans who are not wealthy almost since George W. Bush left office. Luckily for this “mean” faction each American has assumed that s/he does not belong to the group of people you are insulting (even though they actually already belong to it or will at some time in the future. After all we all grow old; we all face medical issues.)

Congressional representatives do owe it to their constituents to represent their demands in Washington. However, when their constituents, no matter how insistent, represent a minority opinion these representatives have a responsibility to the nation. They may represent a specific locale, but they also are supposed to help steer the ship of state.

This particularly unpleasant and insistent faction of the 2013 Congress has agreed that they will steer the ship of state onto the rocks unless the government does something that it should never have been asked to do. What do our federal representatives owe to keeping that ship of state afloat and what do they owe their local electors? What if local demands threaten to beach the ship of state? Do these representatives stage a mutiny on behalf of their local constituents? Do they grab the wheel and steer directly towards those rocks?

Is it justifiable to threaten ruin unless a law of the land is overturned? Is it OK to keep saying that a law is deeply unpopular, when you really mean it is deeply unpopular in “Dogpatch”? (Does anyone remember Dogpatch?)

Should we allow budgetary concerns to be conflated with overturning laws? What law will a segment of our society want to undo next? Perhaps Roe v. Wade could be overturned in this same way. Or maybe Brown v. the Board of Education? Or perhaps the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Or the Voting Rights Act (oh, I forgot, the Supreme Court already did that)?

We can’t allow this. This subverts Democracy. Any law can be passed and then overturned by simply refusing to open the public purse, by hooking the ship of state with a tiny tug boat and towing it towards the jagged rocks.

This is the problem with this entire charade; this is what Obama is saying; the purse strings should be used to steer spending, not to undo the law of the land. This is not democratic; this is autocratic, authoritarian.

The “Teapublicans” are not asking Obama to sit down and make a budget deal. He has already offered them the spending figure they wanted.

The “Teapublicans” want Obama to give up parts of a legally established law. I don’t even think Obama has the power to do this. There are ways to change a law and this kind of piracy of the ship of state is not it.

It does not matter how popular or unpopular this law is in this situation. Funding cannot be used to make and unmake laws. This should be unconstitutional and when and if we get past this crisis, we should make it explicitly so.  It used to be accepted that the budget and the law are separate. Now it will have to be spelled out.

As for releasing hostages (letting some people out from under the shutdown) how is this any different from that situation in which Captain Phillips found himself when the Somali hijackers boarded his ship? These pirates settled for taking Captain Phillips as their only hostage and gave up on keeping all of the crew under their control, but they were still pirates and it didn’t make them innocent or change their crime. If we let the NIH out from under the shutdown, and the Veterans, and the National Parks, the President and the nation and that ship of state will still be under the coercive control of a few disgruntled Americans who are pushing their representatives, who are turning them into these pirates and who are doing this from some very selfish concerns which they are trying to make the entire agenda of America.

End the shutdown. What you are doing is seditious. Pass a clean CR and raise the debt ceiling and follow proper order to get a great (or even an adequate) budget passed. Leave the ACA alone until the American people can see what it will bring to pass for America. We are tired of this infighting but we are not ready to abandon our Captain (President).