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Government: With a shutdown looming, the engines of blame warm up

House and Senate leaders moved one step closer to a government shutdown Wednesday, raising the drumbeat of blame-casting from both sides. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed the Tea Party faction in the House GOP; a group of House Republican freshmen blamed Harry Reid. Polls suggest that the public can't decide who to blame in the event of a shutdown, which means the fight is seen as a battle between equally reasonable -- or unreasonable -- positions: the House's effort to slash the deficit vs. the Senate's resistance to precipitous spending cuts in a struggling economy.

The Senate position is undermined by the increasingly positive reports about jobs and the economy, which call into question the need for more stimulus from Washington. Another problem for Democrats is that voters across the country have gotten religion on the deficit, so putting up a fight against $61 billion in cuts when the deficit is nearly $1.5 trillion seems, well, petty.

On the other hand, Republicans are the ones refusing to split the difference between the chambers on the budget, so the public may find it easier to blame them for a shutdown. In a way, they're more like the NFL owners, who are demanding a reduction in the percentage of revenue paid to players, than the athletes, who want to retain the current split. (In the polls I've seen on this topic, more people blame the owners for the lockout than the players, although the No. 1 choice is "both.")

To me, though, the weakest point of House Speaker John Boehner's argument is the rationale he offers for making the cuts. According to ABCNews.com, Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters this on Wednesday:

Our goal is real clear. We’re going to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get, and the policy riders that were attached to them because we believe that cutting spending will lead to a better environment for job creation....

It would be easy to just fold your cards and go home. That’s not what the American people elected us to do. They elected us to cut spending because cutting spending will lead to a better environment for job creators to create jobs. And we’re going to fight for as many spending cuts as we can get.

It's hard to imagine how cutting the federal deficit by 4% (the House GOP position) instead of 2% (the Senate position) would make a difference in the decision to launch or expand a business. I mean, how many companies are poised to open a new branch office as soon as Congress eliminates funding for National Public Radio? Puh-lease.

With interest rates incredibly low, there's no evidence that even the bodacious amount of government borrowing is raising the cost of capital for private industry. A far more likely impediment to expansion is the high rate of unemployment and under-employment, which raise concern about consumer spending.

That's not to say the feds shouldn't cut spending (although The Times' editorial board has argued that Congress should hold off until fiscal 2012, when the economy has more steam). It's just to say that Boehner's making the wrong argument.


The supply of dollars and the demand for healthcare

The House swings at NPR, hits every public radio programmer

Economy: The other fallout from Japan

Favoring cops over fighter planes and rocket ships

-- Jon Healey

Photo: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), left, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Credit:AP Photo / Evan Vucci (Boehner) and Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images (Reid)


Comments () | Archives (13)

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Why can't the Times and it's writers just tell the truth.

This budget was supposed to be finalized in September 2010.

Democrats had total control of the House, Senate, and the Presidency at that time.

Why didn't they approve and pass the budget then? - Pure politics. They were looking at the November 2010 elections.

Had they had integrity and been honest, they would have passed the budget they truly wanted, but would have been beaten even worse.

What pure hypocrisy.

Smarter than you.

Your article is pure trash and YOU DON"T understand politics -obviously- and you should take an economics course for sure.

Jim Burks

There's a simple solution: both sides agree on 96% of the current spending. Fund that, let it go on, then argue later about funding the other 2% or 4%.

Tom Birchfield

"Republicans Ruined You Good America"

..."Be sure now you Independents, run and put some more back in, Karl Rove/Republicans sure do appreciate you, as Republicans run from jobs, and the record 15 Million Unemployed Americans seeking them to live, pay their mortgage payments and car payments, and feed their families, Republicans could care less!

Thats why they are talking about the deficit the Majority of Americans could care less about, while Rome Burns, Republicans talk about deficits!

Republicans have ruined you good America, and you can thank them for that fact, and the Independents who put'em in!

Independents had better see the writing on the wall this time and replace the Democrats and the Democrats better get it right, or they too will find themselves wondering the in the wilderness!

The country is looking for jobs, jobs, jobs, and could care less about the deficit, as Republicans play politics and do more harm to the economy then they are doing good, that's what they want that way they can blame the President for not doing enough, while the educated see, it's the Republicans who aren't doing enough, and in fact are ruining U.S. good!


If the Federal Government shuts down and thousands, perhaps a million Americans are without a paycheck, then Congress and the President should NOT BE PAID either!
Also, we would not have a problem with the economy if the GOP had not held out for tax breaks for the wealthy last year which sees companies like: GE, Exxon, BofA, CitiBank, Boeing, etc. NOT PAY one cent in Federal Income Tax while the Middle Class foots the bill for their government financed bailout and environmental fiascos.

Shame Game

The Republicans ran up $10 trillion of the national debt and allowed Wall Street and the banks to plunder our financial system, leaving many people without jobs and most people with maimed nest eggs. Almost all economists advocate a government stimulus and sensible regulation. Tea Party types spread panic over the debt, blame the government and labor with some twisted logic and want to bet the farm on these same gilded opportunists.

The national debt has been much higher in the past and we survived it while thriving, recall WWII. We should be taxing wealthier individuals as we did in the past, passing laws to prohibit financial industry rapaciousness and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure to both eliminate unemployment and be ready for this century.

All the Tea Party has to offer is to shut down the government unless we hobble these efforts because of the debt their pals ran up.

Tea Party is right, they are Mad Hatters. Throw these nitwits out in 2012.


This is no longer about the budget. They have agreed on a number, it's just that Republicans are insisting on including completely unrelated policy riders that have nothing to do with the budget, have no chance of passing a D-Senate and a D-President, and are just about appeasing the extreme right wing of their party.

To think that they are willing to shut down the entire federal government over NPR and Planned Parenthood is appalling and shows how ridiculous the GOP has become.


If the Republican's spent less energy trying to social change I think they would have a budget by now.

You have to admire a political movement that can publicly fight for political and social change by forcing bankruptcy, all the while sending out your message that "Obama wants to ruin our economy."

It's called, "Starve the beast," and David Stockman, Reagan's budget director has second thoughts now that it is working so well.


"Starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future reductions in the size of government.

Public Advocate

The Taliban uh er I mean the Tea Party won't agree to a budget until they take away reproductive rights from women. The EPA is not out of control but in fact industry is out of control when they fail to control pollutants which contaminate the water we drink and the air we breathe. Global warming is a scientific fact. The GOP Taliban Tea Party is so anti-government that it's readily apparent they want to shut the government down which actually reflects their inability to govern.

Kevin Davis

Wow, reading these comments, one would think that it is soley a Republican problem. However, here are some truths to ponder:
-The Democrat controlled House/Senate have not put forth anything to counter Republican proposed budgets
-Since Mr. Obama took office, our debt has risen from $1trillion to over $3 trillion-in two years
-Many of the long-term members of both Houses continue to push for pork
-We have been told by Mr. Obama's economists that the economy is improving yet more people are out of work than ever-too much propaganda
-no "Hope & Change" since Mr. Obama took office
-We Are Broke!
Regardless of political affiliation, it is time to look at the bottom line. If we don't get a handle on our debt(CA and Fed), we will implode. Just look at Europe(Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc). Democrats & Republicans, take off your "rose colored" glasses and see the light. As Mr. Obama's former personal spiritual adviser (Rev Wright), has stated, "The chickens are coming home to roost!". Think about it...

Harry Jones

The engines of blame? Are you refering tothe LA Times?


There was no budget when the democrats controlled everything. They failed, now they just wish to politicize this as they are gearing up for 2012...


tea baggers is forcing the republican to shutdown the government. the republican can't say no to the tea baggers. America is in ruin. And they call themselves patriot!



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