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September 15, 2011

Brinksmanship, Shutdown, Kick-the-Can: Games True Believers Play

In July, the intractable minority (using Rep. Mica as an avatar) shutdown the FAA in a fit of brinksmanship over their desire to include new union-busting legislation on behalf of Delta Airlines. Although press releases claimed that 70,000 people were idled, the reality is that 4000 government employees were out of work, and some number of construction people were also out of work; the 70K number is an exaggeration based on multiplier-ripple effects, a type of math generally used only to justify public investment in sports stadiums.

Shutting down a government agency is a spike-the-ball moment for the True Believers, but in July the news was almost lost in the noise about the debt limit. The Republican House and the Administration managed to get a 90-day extension signed, which expires Sept.16.

Today, of course, is Sept. 15.

The House passed legislation that would reauthorize the agency all the way through January. They timed the signing so that the bill would get to the Senate after the Upper Chamber began working on a FEMA bill for the recent East Coast disasters.

Once again, the House Republicans have designed a situation in which they've delivered last-minute legislation to avoid an unacceptable outcome, without any time for discussion, negotiation, or process. If the Senate doesn't pass the bill -- well, it's not the Republican's fault that Harry Reid can't keep his house in order.

The great perverse genius of Boehner's plan (or rather, the Koch Brothers' strategy presented by the Boehner avatar) is that at most, they'll kick the can down the road for a few months - even when/if the Senate and President cave, in January we get to play Shutdown all over again. It's the game that keeps on giving.

Even if the Senate does get to consider the 120-day authorization, Senator Tom Coburn (R) intends to block any action until funding for bike trails is removed. Boehner shouldn't have all the fun(ds). If the Senate does cut the bike trails, they've changed the legislation - which means the House needs to approve it before it's valid.

Meanwhile, if you were was furloughed for a month in July - or even worse, an Inspector who was furloughed and continued working and paying their own travel expenses - you've got to be concerned. You're probably not thinking about NextGen, you're probably thinking about your NextCheck.

I really do think that the House Republicans represent the intractable minority of True Believers described in this month's Atlantic article. Here's a link to the original academic paper, Social Consensus through the influence of committed minorities. by J. Xie, S. Sreenivasan , G. Korniss, W. Zhang, C. Lim, and B. K. Szymanski.

One shutdown, or one mishmash, you might attribute to chaos. This is an ongoing series of shutdowns, and it might be time to connect the dots and recognize the pattern. This is a picture of today's True Believers during the Government Shutdown of 1995.

A Countdown of Sorts


Don Brown said...

As always, I'm impressed with your intellect and jealous of your graphic skills.

Don Brown

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