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How to Engineer a Shutdown

A must-read article in the NY Times explains exactly how the shutdown was planned, financed, and executed. Down to the exact talking points you now hear coming from the mouths of tea-party conservative politicians.

Heck, back in February they even published a self-named “Blueprint to Defunding Obamacare“, which was funded by a multitude of groups (often orchestrated by the billionaire Koch brothers — see, you really can buy government!)

They also put together an (again self-named) “Defunding Obamacare Toolkit“, including sample tweets to use to astroturf a grassroots movement against the law. You know, just in case their Tea Party drones were too stupid to come up with their own tweets, or couldn’t spell big words like “exemptions”.

The planning even included talking points to deflect blame for engineering the shutdown.

What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?
—> We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.
—> If Congress is willing to defund this terrible law and stand up for the American people, the American people will support them.

It doesn’t matter that this answer is nonsense. If you keep repeating it people will believe it.

But the worst part is that they also used strong-arm tactics to punish any Republicans who didn’t go along with their plan to shut down the government. For example, when one North Carolina Republican Congressman told a reporter that defunding Obamacare was “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard” conservative groups paid for ads attacking him. Republican Senators like Lamar Alexander and Lindsey Graham were also targeted, and are now being challenged by Tea Party backed candidates in their upcoming primaries.

Luckily, there may just be a silver lining to all this. Paul Krugman believes that the people who engineered this shutdown are “deeply incompetent” and calls the current GOP “the political equivalent of the Keystone Kops”. In fact, now that their plan to defund Obamacare has failed, they don’t even have a clue as to how to back down.



  1. johnny ro wrote:

    The whole plot is worthy of a Tom Clancy novel, except that Clancy would have the terrorists’ clever ultimate goal in sight as is not he case here. And we would be treated with a heroic defender of the people who moves smartly through the terrorist ranks, wreaking vengeance as their damage is stopped and contained and good is restored.

    It would all be fun to watch unfold except that real people are suffering and far more damage may be incurred.

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink
  2. Those knuckleheads, commonly known as Congress, make about $174,000/yr., or $14,500 every month. But I figure that they actually “work” 9 months out of a year, so they get about $19,333/month, and since they only work 4 days a week, they make approximately $2,416.63 a day.
    If they think Social Security is too expensive, why don’t they pay back the money they looted from the Social Security fund several years ago. Hell, they put Jimmy Hoffa in prison for “borrowing” from the Teamsters retirement fund. Besides, I earned my social security from working over 40 years and Medicare? They deduct $100/month from my social security check to pay for Medicare that I used for the first time last spring. And now they’re threatening the only income I have and for what?
    Those Republican’s Tea Party twerps managed to hijack their own political party, make extortion demands of the President, and hold the country hostage all because they want to abolish the Affordable Care Act. They’re terrorists, plain and simple. And they’re liars. So much for their “honesty and integrity” they claim in their campaign brochures.
    They are so hell bent on putting the President in his place, I hope the voters do the same to them come re-election time.
    A pox on them all! Because what goes around–comes around.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 4:46 am | Permalink
  3. Michael wrote:

    “Besides, I earned my social security from working over 40 years…” I always cringe when I hear claims like this coming from Baby Boomers. My father likes to tell me this all the time. He paid into the system, now he deserves to get back the money he paid. Thus, even threatening to take a dime out of his SS benefits is just theft. He earned that money, damnit!

    Except that’s not entirely true. Most Baby Boomers paid less into the system than they expect to take out ( For instance, a single man making an average of $43,500 will pay a lifetime total of $352K into SS, but will take out $432K. If that man has a wife that never worked, he will get $798K.

    Let’s compare that with a savings account, assuming 3% annual interest. If that couple contributes $978 every month ($352K / 360 months), with compound interest, they would have $571K to retire. So SS is actually paying them MORE than what they paid into the system + interest. So the Boomers make out pretty nicely. To add icing to the cake, they’ve also been working during (a) good economic times overall, with plenty of jobs and (b) low taxes thanks to Reaganomics slashing rates. So they’ve benefited from having a job and low tax rates.

    Now, for us Gen Xers and Millenials, here’s what we get: an economy of prolonged 8-10% unemployment, record amounts of college loan debt, reduced SS benefits at retirement (assuming Obama and the Dems continue to capitulate on reform that only consists of cutting benefits), and higher tax rates to pay for the debt the Boomers accumulated. The next time I hear a Boomer complaining about how they’ve earned every penny by their hard work and won’t consider any cut to their benefits or paying more in taxes, I think I’m just going to vomit.

    Those who fought in WWII: The Greatest Generation.
    Baby Boomers: The Greedy Generation.
    GenX / Millenials: The Lost Generation.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  4. Don wrote:

    So, Michael, please provide video of the impending event. My employers and I, too, paid into SS for 40+ years and I believe we – SS and I – entered into an agreement which promised me a certain level of income from SS. I’ve planned my retirement on that agreement just as I have planned my retirement on the income from a pension that I receive. Changing the rules of the game after the game has started because SS has gotten caught up in the deficit game being played out is wrong. I’m lucky – I have a decent pension and SS benefits and I also saved and invested studiously, as it turns out. I’m not the normal SS recipient. A large number of them live off their SS alone and many aren’t exactly at the level of quality of life that perhaps you and I think is acceptable. I meet them all the time and cutting their already meager SS income in the name of deficit reduction is also just plain wrong.

    So, Michael, I strongly believe that SS benefits should not be cut and I do believe that restoring Federal income taxes to the levels we saw in the 90s wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. You have to remember, though, that many folks on SS pay little in the way of taxes because they have little income, relatively speaking.

    Please put the video of you throwing up on YouTube and post the link to it here. I can’t wait.

    Friday, October 11, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  5. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Michael – You’ve described a Ponzi scheme I believe. At least one run by the gov’t disguised as a legitimate retirment system. Unfortunatley, thats most retirement systems, with maybe the exception of the Post Office. The other bad part of the SS system is they say it’s funded with something like 2.7Trillion which will carry us through 2032 or some such thing I heard a Dem Senator say on CNN. Problem is that 2.7T was already spent and they left an IOU instead (which is part of our 17trillion debt). If the Gov’t can show me an account with 2.7T that says “do not touch except for SS payouts” I’ll drive to Washington and yell I’m wrong from the steps of the Lincoln memorial from sun up to sun down. But i ain’t gassing up the car anytime soon.
    I do hear you on the GenXers and Millenials though and I’ve told my sons who are part of that generation not to count on SS. I’m at the tail end of the boomers and I know many of my boomer friends don’t expect SS to be there until our end. But we are a smart and solution oriented bunch, which was past onto us by the Greatest Gens, so we have investments, savings and our GenXers to lean on if we need. You’ll not likely be able to take away promises from those depending on them, but you will have to limit them for yourselves. It’s what you’ll give back to the Greats and Boomers for ridding the world of the shadow tyrants and cold wars and dictators who want to rule the world. We did that for you, just keep an eye open in case a weed starts shooting up, then rip it out and carry on.

    The Genxers and Millenials will have to take charge of this mess of a system created by the Boomers and last of the Greats and reign in the giveaways and re-structure almost everything. You’ll do it and make it right, because you have our blood coarsing in your veins and your own greatness will prevail. The other choice is to do nothing and learn to speak arabic, chinese or russian. Maybe your generations will be known in 100 years as the Greastest Generation of the new millenia. If sons and daughters like mine have anything to do with it, you will because they’re truly awesome. Now go get um and become the person you were born to be.

    Friday, October 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  6. Michael wrote:

    Don, you COMPLETELY missed the point. From 1980-2010 (i.e., during your working career), you were engaged in a contract with SS. That contract said that you needed to contribute some percentage of your salary into this large pool, and, in exchange you would get some fixed amount when you retired. My generation is also being bound by this same contract. However, we are being told that, due to a miscalculation from a couple of decades ago, we will have to pay more into the system and we will have to expect less when we retire. In fact, some of us are assuming that we should expect nothing when we retire.

    As illustration, let’s say the percentage you were told you needed to pay was 10% of your income. During you working career, a growing number of economists realized that you contributing 10% was not putting enough money into the system. To adequately save enough, you actually needed to be paying a little more. If you changed the percentage in 1985, you would have to save 11% rather than 10%. If you waited until 1995, you needed to switch to 12%. If you didn’t do anything until 2005, then you would actually need to be contributing 15% of your salary to make up for the lost balance. (I’m selecting these percentages to illustrate the compounding effect, and they should not be interpreted as an attempt to be completely accurate.)

    So what did you do? None of the above. Some sleezeball actor with a wide small came along in 1980 and convinced your generation that you didn’t need to listen to them. In fact, you should be contributing less of your income, say 8%. And, gee, this guy really liked jelly beans and he was just so darn likable. At that point, your contract was changed. You were told to pay less, but you were promised the same benefits. So, for 30 years, you paid 8% instead of 11% or 12%. Because what’s a couple percentage points here and there? Your generation convinced itself that you could actually have your cake and eat it, too.

    Now you’re crying foul and refusing to bend. So what’s the solution? Pass the buck onto those that come after you. We have to start paying 18% into the program so that we can pay for your current benefits. In exchange, we get promised a fraction of what you’re getting. In fact, many of us are assuming that we will spend the next 30 years paying for your benefits and will never see a dime in return. You’re welcome. We are entering into the same contract that you did, but we know it’s a lie.

    And that’s just those of us that are lucky enough to have a job. I’m Gen X (very tail end), so I remember what the economy was like in the ’90s. At the same time, I’m young enough that I can see what’s happening to millenials. Their unemployment rate is in the 15-20% range. They’re graduating with an average of close to $25,000, and they’re going to work minimum wage jobs in the service industry. They have no idea that companies ever offered something called a “pension.” They can’t even begin to save for their own retirement because they’re paying off their college loans. And they won’t have SS to bail them out at all later. But they’re still going to be contributing 18% of their minimum wage incomes to pay for your retirement. And people accuse millenials of being selfish and “entitled.”

    Having said all that, Don, I actually agree with some of your points. I personally despise some of the reforms being proposed for SS. For instance, raising the benefit age to 70 instead of 65 because of the idea that people are living longer. In actuality, life expectancy correlates with socioeconomic status. Those at the bottom of the income ladder (i.e., those that need SS as income) are not living longer. So, the notion of raising the retirement age is, in essence, asking janitors to work for more years because lawyers are living longer.

    Part of the problem is that SS is not means tested. So people like my father, for whom SS is a nice supplement but not absolutely necessary, will continue to get the guaranteed benefits from that contract, despite the fact that he paid less in taxes than he should have. But there is no way of convincing him that is the case. So he will live the rest of his life taking more in benefits than he needs, my generation will continue to provide them, and then, after he dies, my generation will get squat.

    The point is this: Your generation got duped and conned. Your generation’s lack of ability to think critically and rationally about budgets led to 30 years of irresponsible behavior. Your generation broke the system because you elected representatives that told you that you could benefit from lower taxes AND still have a great retirement system. Rather than accepting that fact, your generation simply sweeps it under the rug and says, “Your problem, not mine.”

    Patriotsgt, yes, the way SS has been run for the past couple of decades is a Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t always that way, but Reaganomics made it so. Deliberating underfunding the government, then borrowing from the SS trust fund to pay for the tax cuts, then bringing it all to a head now with a possible default on those obligations… The problems could have been prevented with slight corrections a couple of decades ago. But no changes were made, because voters at the time didn’t actually think it was a problem. And voters really liked the bumper sticker-friendly ideas that government wasn’t the solution to the problem–government was the problem. And I appreciate the soaring rhetoric about how great my generation may go on to be (ironic, since I remember all the griping in the ’90s about how we were nothing but lazy slackers…). I’m just afraid that I’m too cynical to believe it.

    Friday, October 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  7. Don wrote:

    Michael, if you’d made the points you claim to be making in your first post, I would have gotten them. What I picked up from your post is that you’re tired of us “elderly” folks expecting to be paid at the rate the gubmint has promised us. That we’re getting more than we paid in, depending on one’s lifetime, I might add. I also heard you bitch about the bad deal that younger folks are getting today, so, no, I didn’t miss your points.

    Your second set of points makes your position clearer and I can understand a bit of why you’re so bitter. What you don’t apparently realize is that no generation is homogeneous and that I share with you many, if not most, of the concerns you voice. I can be about as cynical as they come – cynical to the point that, in many ways, there are days when I’ve quit thinking that positive changes can be made. Yup, given up ’cause I think things are so fucked up that they won’t improve in my lifetime and, most likely, in my son’s lifetime. If I was 30 years younger, I’d be worried about whether this country will still be in one piece when I hit 60 so I can understand why you’d feel you wouldn’t receive payments from SS.

    I didn’t mention what I think should be done to protect Social Security. Means testing? There should be a diminishing return as one’s income rises from other sources whether they be investments or income, but not the system that is currently in place. Right now, people that can’t get along on their SS payments get jobs (if they physically can) to make ends meets. Past a fairly low threshold, they lose $1 of their SS for every $2 they make. Not quite a losing proposition, but these are folks just trying to get by. Raise the cap for income that can be taxed for SS? Yup. Allow folks to opt out? Nope. It’s a national system.

    But, all this being said, I don’t believe that my SS payments should be cut. I did put $$ into the program for 40+ years. I also put money into my pension as well as my 401K and our IRAs. We weren’t rich – no boat, no late model car every three years, no vacation home. We set ourselves up to retire, but part of that retirement is the return I get from SS and I feel I have earned it. One point I would seriously disagree with you on, though, is the return that I could have made with a 3% savings account. Lord, I’d hope I could get better than that “>D

    Friday, October 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  8. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Michael – I understand everything you said, but we cannot lump the blame on any one group. Since the 70’s the house and senate have mostly been controlled by the Dems. There are years 95-01 that Reps controlled both houses, but most years it was controlled by the Dems.

    So to lay all the blame on Reagan is to also say all the blame for the current issues and lack of action falls on Obama. Neither of those 2 scenarios is correct. The executive branch signs the bills into law, but legislators write them and if no one writes them then no one can sign them. The best attempt was in the 90’s with Clinton and the Republicans taking a stab at it and they made some progress. Neither party has been willing to do the hard work and they have kicked the can down the road and this congress and president will do the same. No party wants to make the hard choices because if you take something away then all hell breaks loose.

    Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    But PSgt, when the Republicans had total control of both Congress and the Presidency, what did they do? They passed Medicare Part D that ran up entitlements (without paying for it), blowing up the deficit. So how can you give them any credit at all for wanting to reduce the deficit? The ONLY time they are for reducing the deficit is when Democrats are in power. In other words, it is a tactic, and not their goal. Cheney even famously said that deficits don’t matter. Reagan ran them up like crazy. They are also more than willing to throw money at the military (even money they don’t want). They have no credibility at all around reducing the deficit.

    You’ve been watching Fox News again, haven’t you?

    Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

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