The US government shutdown is having some interested results, as the BBC discuss. Oddly enough the very things that the budget dispute is about are not being suspended. The PRISM system carries on spying. Americas vast military continues to bomb/invade other countries. Obama care and social welfare payments continued to be doled out. No, only the bits of the US government that Americans actually like have been shut down. :no:
The US shutdown also has the rest of the world somewhat bemused. How can you just shut down a government? And raise the risk of a default on government debt for the 3rd time in two years. If any other state did this theyre would be a market panic, a run on its banks and the credit rating of that state would drop so quickly that even Wonga would turn them down for a loan. The mere risk of a Greek default once led to the interest rates it was paying hit 20%.
The Republicans have been trying to put a brave face on things, with their media attack dogs trying to blame it on Obama, a claim easily dismissed by the fact that 2nd term presidents tend to be more worried about their legacy than partisan politics (given Obama essentially doesnt need the Democratic party anymore to get elected and he doesnt want his legacy to be economic meltdown).
However, ultimately the problem boils down to a split within the republican party between the old-GOP and the Tea Party. The Tea party could be described as a bunch of swivel eyed UKIP loons…but with guns, whove drunk way too much right wing kool-aid. As Ive long discussed, they (or UKIP) are the inevitable consequences of decades of Murdoch ultra-right propaganda, which has served to create a lunatic fringe within the right wing parties both sides of the Atlantic.
For many years the GOP have talked the talk about issues such as the deficit or the three Gs (guns, god and gays). However, what the mainstream republicans understand is that the real reason for doing this is part of long term bait & switch tactic. Given that much of the US budget deficit was run up by the GOP (tax cuts under Bush and Reagan, the war in Iraq, the financial crisis) they are hardly in a position to preach (indeed the only US president in recent history to present a balanced budget was Bill Clinton!).
Similarly, as Ive discussed before, there are many countries with a strong transition of gun ownership, but which regulate those guns carefully. And given that the founding fathers of the US came to America to flee religious persecution and the wars of religion being fought in Europe, the last thing the US wants to do is breaking the separation of church and state.
No, the reason for the GOP adopting these talking points is to prevent the political discourse moving onto terrain they dont want it to move onto such as why if Brits live longer than Americans and pay half what Americans do for health care (nice wee discussion of the pros and cons of both health care systems by an American who lived in Britain here), Obamacare just doesnt go far enough. Or doing something about climate change? Or is the best way of cutting the deficit to perhaps for the US to stop spending half of all the money the world spends on defence?
We see a similar thing in the UK with UKIP. Anytime the Tories have been under pressure, they and their tabloid allies will play the xenophobics card and complain about Europe or those nasty evil immigrants. Of course, the Tories dont actually propose to pull the UK out of Europe (that would be economic suicide). And some of those immigrants happen to be their golfing buddies who help finance the Tory party or the guy who cleans their pool. The last thing they want is to throw either out of the country.
I often find it significant how poorly the Tea Party types poll amongst US business leaders. Largely because, while many free-market advocates in the US might well talk the talk about small government and deregulation, they recognise that big government happens to be their best customer and greatest ally. And the value of market regulations was vividly demonstrated by the recent financial crisis (largely a consequence of lax regulation and A Bush Adm. asleep at the wheel) and the bailout. It makes poor business sense to drown your customers in the bathtub.
But the Tea Party (or UKIP) dont get it. Theyre policy amounts to a sort of suicide pact. Its the political equivalent of strapping on a suicide bomb vest, running into congress and becoming a martyr for the cult of Ron Paul. The political damage being done to the GOP by this shutdown doesnt seem to register. Nor the economic damage being done to the US. From there point of view theyd rather destroy the US economy and public trust than live in with Obamacare.
And what they also dont get is the political damage they are doing. The polls do suggest that the bulk of the US voters blame Congress for this shutdown and a prolonged shutdown will have an impact next election. And while the Tea Party may complain about Obama being a socialist, the reality is, looking at his political record, that hes more of a centrists.
In effect the message that the Tea Party is sending to liberals is that Obamas tactic of bi-partisanship is failing and if they ever get control of both houses again (which they could easily do if the Republicans go to war with each other in the up-coming mid-term elections) they need to do a re-run of FDRs 100 days, as well as select a candidate in the next presidential election who is even more left wing than Obama.