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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/25/2011

Lessons from the great government shutdown of 1995-1996

By Glenn Kessler

New York Daily News cover from November 1995, during federal government shutdown

"There's a very good possibility that government will shut down. I know the Democrats have their talking points lined up. They'll blame us for everything. What will we do?"
--Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Feb. 22, 2011

With a March 4 deadline looming on extending a stopgap spending bill, both Republicans and Democrats are preparing for the possibility of a federal government shutdown. Interestingly, a new poll of political insiders reveals that Republicans overwhelmingly believe that a government shutdown is not in their interest. Democrats, by contrast, believe a government shutdown would benefit their party.

The reason? The great government shutdown of 1995-1996, in which a weakened President Bill Clinton faced off against determined Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) -- and won. Take a look at the classic New York Daily News cover from that period (above) as evidence of how the Republicans lost control of their message. The Republican Revolution died that day.

John Boehner, the current speaker, was the No. 4 Republican in the House leadership during Gingrich's heyday. By many accounts, the experience of living through that shutdown has deeply affected him. Assuming Boehner can maintain control of his caucus, that alone makes it less likely a shutdown will happen this year.

The Fact Checker covered the budget battles of 1995-1996 and so had a front-row seat to the GOP debacle. What lessons can the Republicans draw from that experience? As part of our effort to provide background context for issues current in the news, let's examine the history.

The Facts

The government shutdown took place in two phases. The first lasted five days in November 1995, until the White House agreed to congressional demands to balance the budget within seven years. But talks on implementing that agreement failed, and the second shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 15, 1995 to Jan. 6. 1996. (Then a blizzard struck Washington and local federal workers could not get back to work for days after that.)

The sticking point was the GOP demand that Clinton agree to their version of a balanced budget. In months of negotiations, Clinton had actually given a far amount of ground, infuriating Democrats on the left. He agreed to a balanced budget over seven years, to tax cuts, to changes in mandatory spending programs such as Medicare. But the two sides were remained far apart on the pace of spending cuts -- and even further apart on the policies behind those cuts.

Clinton's trump card was the veto. Under the Constitution, Congress must muster a two-thirds majority to overcome a presidential veto. So Gingrich had loudly proclaimed that he had a tool to confront the veto: the government shutdown.

"He can run the parts of the government that are left, or he can run no government," Gingrich told Time magazine reporters six months before the first shutdown. "Which of the two of us do you think worries more about the government not showing up?"

That was the first mistake the Republicans made: They appeared to be too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized he was willing to compromise within reason. Then Gingrich told reporters he stopped funding the government in part because Clinton made him exit from the rear of Air Force One when they returned from attending the funeral of slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. That comment just made Republicans appear petty.

In the end, after weeks of turmoil, the Republicans meekly gave up and eventually cut a deal with Clinton that was not much different than what they could have gotten before the shutdown.

Clinton used the episode as the springboard for his successful reelection campaign, and he humiliated Republicans for it during his 1996 State of the Union speech. He singled out for praise a man seated next to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton -- Social Security Administration worker Richard Dean, who had survived the Oklahoma City bombing and rescued three people from the devastated Murrah Federal Building.

As Republicans stood and applauded Dean's heroism, Clinton pulled out the knife, recounting how Dean was forced out of his office during the first shutdown and had to work without pay in the second one. "Never, ever, shut the federal government down again," the president scolded.

After that, Clinton never lagged in the polls again.

When a balanced-budget agreement was finally reached a couple of years later, it was almost entirely on Clinton's terms. It is remembered as his achievement, not that of the Republicans who had pressed so hard for it.

For Republicans, here are the key lessons.

Don't lose control of your message. Gingrich made a tactical mistake by appearing too eager to shut down the government, then compounded it by saying he furloughed 800,000 workers because of a perceived slight. Clinton, by contrast, never wavered from his key point -- he was willing to make a deal as long as it did not violate core principles.

Don't get hung up on the numbers. In 1995, the 73 freshmen Republicans, about half of whom had never held public office, had been particularly reluctant to compromise on issues such as a $245 billion tax cut. But budget numbers are quite squishy to begin with, subject to wide variation in the later years of a multi-year budget because of factors such as economic growth and inflation. In calling for a shutdown, Republicans had rejected Clinton's offer of a $81 billion tax cut as inadequate -- and then ended up swallowing a $91 billion tax cut in the 1997 balanced budget deal.

Accept the winning headline. Gingrich and his Republicans had actually achieved a great victory by the end of the first shutdown. Newspaper headlines proclaimed: "President Agrees to Balance Budget in Seven Years." The rub, of course, is that there still were serious differences over policies and which budgetary numbers to use. But the irony is that if Republicans had quit while they were ahead, compromising on some issues, they -- and not Clinton -- would have won the credit for the balanced budget that emerged within years because of overflowing government revenues from the technology boom.

The Bottom Line

The U.S. Constitution is designed to promote compromise. If both parties are in control of branches of government, neither side can forever insist on nonnegotiable demands.

In retrospect, Republican lawmakers in 1995 had fallen prey to listening only to their own "echo chamber" and did not understand how their actions were being perceived outside Republican fundraisers and caucus meetings. A more logical course would have been to achieve smaller victories that would have preserved their majority. Assuming Clinton had been defeated in 1996, a Republican president could have then pushed ahead with the more revolutionary agenda.

Democrats obviously hope that Republicans once again fall into a similar trap of their own making. The House bill cutting $61 billion from this year's budget has the seeds of such a failure, because there are significant policy choices -- on such issues as family-planning funding and the environment -- that will be difficult to reconcile with the policy agenda of a Democratic-led Senate and White House.

House Republicans today are in a weaker bargaining position than the Republicans of 1995, because they do not also control the Senate. It will be fascinating to see whether this makes them more or less likely to heed the lessons of history.

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By Glenn Kessler  | February 25, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Economy, issue context  
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Next: Huckabee's inflated national debt figures

Comments

One hard lesson we all need to learn. When the GOP closes down the government, congresspeople and Senators continue to get their paychecks. They were careful to pass that into law a long time ago.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 25, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I think a shutdown is likely, and likely to last a long time, for two reasons:

1) Republicans don't have to worry about appearances anymore. Over the past decade or so, they've put together a far bigger media megaphone than the Dems. They have have proven more than capable of getting their message out and sticking to it. They have their own channels (Fox et. al) to speak to their directly supporters, and command more time an attention on the "mainstream" media.

Furthermore, thanks to their larger base, they've learned not to care very much what independents think, and were rewarded for it in the lower-turnout 2010 elections.

2) The incoming GOP freshmen actively campaigned on being anti-government. Shutting it down is therefore a good thing in their eyes. They don't remember what happened in '95 and have no compelling reason to assume it would end the same (thanks to #1 above).

Posted by: g9fool | February 25, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

The writer talks about the balanced budget agreement as though it was of great significance. In fact, by the time that agreement was reached, the deficit had already been reduced by over 90%, from $290 billion to $22 billion. All of the hard work on deficit reduction had been done in 1993. The balanced budget agreement was just window dressing to try to take credit for a budget that was already on a path to being balanced.

Posted by: hawkeyes1 | February 25, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

to g9fool: and it's more likely to backfire; there are far more republican federal workers than you may realize. Your narrow view of a government shutdown needs to broaden.

Posted by: getnthere5 | February 25, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Toughen yourself up, you elected republican congressional Nancy-boys; this isn't 1995. In 1995 we didn't have a $14 trillion national debt, we weren't running $1.5 trillion deficits every year, and we weren't in the midst of a mini economic depression.

If you guys cave in and can't cut spending now under these conditions after the last election, there's no hope for you or our country left at all.

Posted by: GoNatsGo | February 25, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

It's hard to guess what will happen re: the possible shutdown.

Republicans HAVE to shout hard for significant cuts now, or else lose the enthusiasm of the base. And they must continue until serious negotiations begin.

But then the GOP leadership, i.e. Boehner, has to take realism into consideration. If significant cuts short of $100 billion for this year are offered, he may have to take the deal. The moderate electorate only cares about the final result; it's the partisans who care about the whole process.

I remember the 1995-6 shutdown, and the pre-Fox News media uniformly blaming the GOP for it. To this day any Beltway region yuppie will claim "Clinton balanced the budget" while ignoring that he only did so reluctantly, fighting the GOP all the way. And the 1996 standoff is incorrectly remembered as Clinton fighting on the LOWER deficit side of the battle.

With just the House, the GOP can't do much as FC points out, even if they actually try.

Maybe 2012 will bring us Mitch Daniels and a Republican Congress willing to make real fiscal progress. A guy can hope.

Posted by: angrydoug1 | February 25, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Republicans tend to set their carts before their horses; never learning from their mistakes. After FDR's 4 terms, they limited the election of one President to 2 terms. Then came their saviour heroes - Reagan, Nixon and Bush.

They fought tooth and nail for McCarthyism and rooting out communism in all facets of society. Then came the Great Society and Civil Rights programs that they are attempting to dismantle now. Then came Obama.

The Great Depression was a result of a laisse faire attitude towards never limiting business or the wealthy in their never-ending pursuits at magnifying a limited number of wealthy people and concentrating power to their kindred kind. It resulted in Collective Bargaining, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And, once again, they attempt to dismantle virtually every achievement for the lower and middle class that tend to be very popular. When they do, they get booted out of power.

What is it with these yahoos?

Posted by: pv2bdrco | February 25, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

It always has to do with the winning headline, doesn't it? What happened to simply just trying to do what is best for the people and the nation? Congresses that do that work together and seek compromise.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 25, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Before the Election Republicans were demanding a Shutdown and Democrats saying you are nuts.

Now Republicans want to force Democrats into another inescapable corner while complaining they don't want a shutdown and don't want to negotiate with Democrats either.

I don't care as long as my Social Security Check gets to my bank. Social Security is a Separate entity from the Rest of Government; Thank God and Bill Clinton.

Posted by: ddoiron1 | February 25, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

This is all about the Tea Party. They are the ones that win or lose this deal, and since they won't compromise the Government will shut down until one of two things happen:

Reid and Obama cave in to everything the Tea Party wants.

Or the House Dems peel off enough Republicans to pass a compromise bill that the Senate and WH can support.

Either way Boehner loses. Which is why he's golfing in Florida this week: might as well get those lobbying bucks while he can. After this he's a non-entity.

And either way, Obama and the Dems win in 2012. The base will turn out, and independents will vote Democratic in large numbers.

Posted by: dpc2003 | February 25, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

What about our income tax refunds???? Shut down the IRS Service Centers, and we won't get our income tax refunds. That is going to make people riot!

Posted by: AnnsThought | February 25, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

When seniors quickly stop getting their social security checks and taxpayers don't get their refunds, you can bet that the government shutdown won't last long.

Posted by: chi-town | February 25, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Get it right. Because there was on a liberal press the Republicans got the blame. What really happened was Clinton did not pass the budget so government shut down. Because of that we all benefited. When every one came back to the table we got 4 years of balanced budgets which lead to surplus. we got welfare reform which reduced the deficit. matter of fact the republicans got every thing they wanted of which to this day the liberal press gives Clinton the credit. I know I was there.

Posted by: texasoil | February 25, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The wild card this time is the newly elected members of the House, they're largely small busnessmen, farmers, et.al. not professional politicians. They have nothing to lose, they've got jobs and occupations to back to. Plus they seem to care about their campaign promises.

Besides I think SSA checks continue to flow, just not any new applications.

Posted by: ronjaboy | February 25, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Get it right. Because there was only a liberal press to report it back then. The Republicans got the blame. What really happened was Clinton would not pass the budget as congress wrote it. You know congress the ones we elected to control spending in America so we don't leave all that power in one mans hands.The ones that are supposed to set the budget. So government shut down. Because of that we all benefited. When every one came back to the table we got 4 years of balanced budgets which lead to surplus. we got welfare reform which reduced the deficit. matter of fact the republicans got every thing they wanted of which to this day the liberal press gives Clinton the credit. There is a big difference from then and now. The liberals don't control all the content today. It will be harder for the democrats to spin it.

Posted by: texasoil | February 25, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm missing something here. During the snow days last year, we were being told that shutting down the Federal govt here in the DC area was costing $X billon dollars a day (I forget how much it was). What on earth is it going to cost if the whole of the Federal Govt shuts down? Has anyone up on the Hill thought of that? And Boehner is playing golf?? Shades of Marie Antoinette, don't you think?

Posted by: richardgj | February 25, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

If it takes a government shut-down to produce "REAL" Change, then so be it.
Americans need to demand that our federalgovernment use Zero baseline budget every year, otherwise the waste and fraud, etc. only compounds year after year.
Taxpayers are Serious about fiscal responsibility and want our government to take the budget as seriously as responsible families do.

Posted by: ohioan | February 25, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Federal Government shut down will not happen.
IMF will not allow it ....
you think Congress runs the show LOL.
BIS last day of fiscal year is the last day of march ... LOL. the debt ceiling will be raised, the IMF plug in Tim Giethner into our government will make sure this happens ...
land of false choices land of the free to do as you are told.

Posted by: AmericanSpirit | February 25, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The only shut-down that would be of benefit to our country would be if Fox "News" and Roger Ailes were shut down after a Federal Election Commission Investigation. No one but the braindead would miss this sc&mbag politics station. They should be reviewed by the FEC, particularly since they have solicited contributions for Republicans' campaigns. They also donated 1 million dollars to the Republican Governors Association, and donated 1 million to the Chamber of Commerce. It is nothing but a deliberate misinformation campaign working to elect Republican candidates and smear the president of the United States and polarize our nation. So shut THEM down. Our country would be nothing but cleaner for it.

Posted by: jKO2010 | February 25, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The GOP wants to shut down the government. To them, that's winning.

Posted by: Nymous | February 25, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The GOP wants to shut down the government. To them, that's winning.

Posted by: Nymous | February 25, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

MT error == duplicate post. :/

Posted by: Nymous | February 25, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Nice try. However, if the government shuts down because the president does not [by veto] cash the check that the Republicans have given him, it will be his fault. If I were the GOP I would be telling the people how much money they are giving the president to spend, not how much they have reduced it from what he requested.
The president will look like the proverbial pig that you can put a dress on.

Posted by: nychap44 | February 25, 2011 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Besides the argument of who balanced what and who should get credit for it, the focus here is that Clinton made some concessions--decent ideas about balancing the budget--but focused on cuts that are acceptable and don't hurt common people. The problem from the republican side is always the same: It's our way 100% or no way. They can't accept a win unless it is 100% of their ideas and ideology. Whatever you think about the stimulus bill, pro or con, the fact is that Obama accepted some of the ideas from the republicans in order to get some votes and pass it. Republicans, after getting many of their proposals or at least large parts of many of their proposals (true compromise)refused in totality to vote for it. Again its my way 100% or no way. In 1995 the republicans lost, not because the media or average person refused to acknoledge their contributions, but because they left in a huff because they didn't get everything they wanted.
We see this behavior in Wisconsin where the unions have already agreed to the budgetary cuts and still republicans see this as a loss because it involves a compromise on collective bargaining. Every parent has taught their children to be happy with what you got, know when and how to pick your battles, share, compromise, etc., etc. Yet republicans seem unable to do so. Acting like fit-throwing four year olds at times, they are again risking it all and some of the glory so that their ideology and only their ideology prevails.
Newt can talk all day how it was me me me me, but he only comes off as childish and immature.

Posted by: mvrok1 | February 25, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Both parties suck. This shutdown is different from 1995. The U.S. is bankrupt.

Posted by: shred11 | February 25, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Thats right, pv2bdrco, "Republicans never learn from their mistakes." Wow, just brilliant! Please explain the difference in the two parties (answer: none). Demoblicans are good, n' Republicrats R bad. Genius! Its always great to read the comments in the Post. I try to avoid it though as it reduces my IQ by at least 10 points each time I do. The two party system is dead. You might as well vote for Goldman Suchs vs. JP Morgan Chase. Although more likely its deciding between insolvency or bankruptcy. Same thing.

Posted by: shred11 | February 25, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

mvrok1, in Wisconsin, all the people - including union members and their supporters - got to vote for governor, and they collectively chose Walker, who is governing as he campaigned by reducing the fiscally reckless collective bargaining power that the public unions have.

It's the unions, not the Republicans, pouting about not getting 100% of what they want. They could have argued their side to the electorate and won, but they didn't. Protesting now, after the fact, and using non-Wisconsin (Obama's) support, sure looks like the behvior of your 'fit-throwing four year old', does it not?

Posted by: angrydoug1 | February 25, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The last time the GOP shut the gov't down, the economy was not in the crisis it is now, as I remember.
We still possessed some remnant of our resiliant economic confidence.
Today, that is not the case.
Since we know, the GOP are out to despoil Obama's presidency at all costs, it's apparent our national economy and security in the midst of 2 wars is of no consequence to them.
And who they'll tag to pay the price.
So ...
Their testosterone bubbling, they don't care.
It's going to cost us dearly to allow them another round of their political jollies.
While the Obama administration stays on a steady course working to bring the country back to dependable growth, we must not forget which forces are provoking this further disaster.
(BTW, check out the TIME Magazine link, look at the bottom of the article -- p. 4 -- to see who contributed to the reporting at that time.
Interesting bit of trivia.)

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | February 25, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

How funny. Reagan and his Republican sucessor Bush 41 run up huge deficits, then a Democrat gets elected to clean it up. Immediately the Republicans start threatening and demanding that the deficit be reduced, and blaming it on everyone but themselves. Same thing happens again with Bush 43 and Obama. Anybody see a pattern here?

Republicans are the ultimate hypocrites. Voting Republican is voting against your own best interests.

Posted by: Chagasman | February 25, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Newt screwed the pooch on the 95 shutdown, but they will do a much better job this time. Most Americans now understand that they would be better off not being debt slaves to China. Every day that the federal government is shut down is a day that Democrats are not enslaving Americans under totalitarian marxism. Every day that the federal government is shut down is a day that judges are not overruling the voters and imposing totalitarianism from the bench. Every day that the federal government is shut down is a day that Democrats are not raising our taxes and not throwing our money down various ratholes. Every day that the federal government is shut down is a day that they are not starting wars in foreign lands. Soon the people would realize that there is no downside at all to shutting down the federal government forever. That's what terrifies the political elites. We do not need them at all.

Posted by: doctorfixit | February 25, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I hope to God it shuts down, because the silly dims won't have anyone to blame AT ALL, but themselves. They had the budget in their hands to pass or not, with full control of Congress, back in October (when it is supposed to be passed). Rather than do that, they purposely and deliberately did not vote on it because they didn't want to be seen as increasing the debt or as cutting off someone's gravy train just prior to an election..they were happy to kick the can down the road, and to let whomever came back after the elections deal with it however they could. This was a clear failure to lead and was part of the reason they got booted out of control of the House in November. Now it's time for someone to wear the mean, nasty pants and get a budget passed..I applaud John Boehner for doing what has to be done.

Shut the sucker down!

Posted by: flintston | February 25, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I suppose when the Fact Checker isn't interested in checking facts, he can just resort to liberal propaganda.

It's sad when the only way you can talk about balancing the budget is when by threatening to shutdown the government.

Posted by: Benson | February 25, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Republicans have two weaknesses going into a shutdown:

1) They tried this before and lost. Americans don't like double losers, and trying the same failed trick twice smacks of stubborn, willful ignorance.
2) Reid controls the Senate agenda and Democrats control the Senate committees. They can't force Obama to sign or veto a budget because he won't see one without Democratic Senate approval.

The biggest advantage Republicans have over 1996 is that Obama has no stomach for a fight. They've seen him roll over time and again when pressured. His weakness is far more important than any advantages his party owns, because he doesn't have the stomach to press them to his advantage.

Posted by: LeoNoVA | February 25, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

It's ridiculous that both the National Enquirer and WaPo would create a "Fact Checker" section run by themselves and then expect people to believe its content.

Posted by: panola60 | February 25, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

What I don't understand in this debate is why all of the talk is about cutting spending. If deficits are a problem, why not cut spending AND raise taxes?

Posted by: topofthedial | February 25, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Republicans' position may be weaker without the Senate, but consequently, more of the blame will go to Democrats for a failure to compromise, especially since their refusal to compromise was one of their own biggest failures.

Posted by: INTJ | February 25, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm 70 and have seen a few gov. "shut-downs". In every instance the MSM "news" media has presented it as the "Repubs shutdown.." etc. Matters not bit if the fight is with a Dem president or Dem congress, the fault is always posted as the Repubs fault by the Dems and their propoganda wing, aka, MSM news media echos and amplies everything their favorited demogog speaks.

That's why the MSM's news audience has erroded to a fraction of what it was even a few years ago. But, they learn nothing and continue to struggle over the dwindling remainer of mind-numbed robots that still believe them.

Our TEA party, the Mid-East struggles, etc, exists ONLY because the Democrat approved media no longer has a strangle hold on what the public can learn. And THAT genie isn't going back in the bottle!

Our TEA party, the Mid-East struggles, Chinese unrest, etc, can happen ONLY because when State (Democrat) approved media outlets no longer have a strangle hold on what the public will be permitted to hear. But they have lost control of information and THAT genie isn't going back in the bottle! As a conservative, it's been fun to watch America's lock-step NYT news eletists wither on their feet.

FOX News, talk radio, cell phones with video cameras and the internet allows fast, easy communication and access to information the old boys used to distort or keep hidden from the public.

No wonder the Dems whine and pine for a broadcasting "Fairness Law", they think only info from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, PBS (and the late, unlamented "Air America") is "fair" because they rarely, and then very reluctantly, mention them in an unfavorable light.

Posted by: wncchester | February 25, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Things are different now than they were in 1995

TODAY THERE'S A POWERFUL CONSERVATIVE MEDIA MACHINE TO BEAT BACK THE LIBERAL MEDIA MONOPOLY

Posted by: TonyV1 | February 25, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

"If deficits are a problem, why not cut spending AND raise taxes?"

Sounds good, doesn't it? But raising taxes rarely brings in the money that's projected. And, in many instances, the income actually declines! Tax the people, or business too much and they WILL find ways to cut their loses if they have to simply quite working so hard.

In the 70s the Dems effectively killed the healthy American private airplane and luxury boat business by rasing taxes. The tax revinue quickly dropped to about 20% of what it had been before the taxes were raised! Seems the mean ol' filthy rich guys (usually liberal) quit buying home grown expensive stuff and get it from Europe; check where Senator John ("I served in Viet Nam") Kerry got his luxery sail boat last year.

Thing is, St. Ted Kennedy led the very public fight to raise those "luxery" taxes. But when he acted to remove them a few years later it was done quietly. Unfortunately, the skilled employees that had made those industries successful had faded into other jobs so it has been to difficult to restore the businesses, even if our foolishly restrictive EPA/OSHA/etc, rules would allow them to do so. Moral of the story; gov. gets greedy, kills the 'goose that laid golden eggs' and she's dead.

We don't need "better" government, we need LESS government. And that means less letting them spend our kids future for our own pie-in-the-sky illusions today!

It's gov that has destroyed so much of our various once productive industries and ever increasing taxes (and silly regulations) have been their weapons to do it. Then they whine about what happened, what went wrong, as if the bad results came in total isolation from the obsticals they imposed. ??

It's a fools effort to allow gov to raise taxes in a supposed effort to balance the budget, never mind pay the dept down. The politician's don't have a problem with too little taxing, instead they have an unstoppable drive to increase spending no matter what happens to the national economy, they can always find another special interest group to buy votes from - with other people's money! Thus, even if they could increase income by, say 10%. they would increase spending by at least 15%. They just can't stop themselves, we must stop them or it won't happen.

No matter what, politicians will always drive the nation backwards unless "we the people" deprive them of the one thing that gives meaning to their live; their perk-filled office, fawning accolates and fat salaries. We won't get that so long as we endure the tax burdens and regulations and rosey promises they love to lay on us!

Posted by: wncchester | February 25, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Where is the fact checking in this column? Give it up, Glenn. You have lost any credibility and become a Democratic shill.

Posted by: hisroc | February 25, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

"TODAY THERE'S A POWERFUL CONSERVATIVE MEDIA MACHINE TO BEAT BACK THE LIBERAL MEDIA MONOPOLY"

Yeah, the electonic MSM "news" media - ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, PBS, NPR (saying "liberal" is redundant) - is NOW out numbered by FOX. the web and AM talk radio. How can the old guys hope to maintain their formally tight grip on information in the face of that "powerful conservative machine"? ;)

Posted by: wncchester | February 25, 2011 7:08 PM | Report abuse

If Koch wants a shutdown there will be a shutdown. If Koch does not want a shutdown there will be no shutdown. The GOP obey!

Posted by: Americacares | February 25, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

This shutdown will last a long time??? I do not think so. The second people start missing their Social Security checks the Republican's staunchest defenders, the over 62 crowd will start yelling like never before. The Republican's need to get their lunatic fringe, "The Tea Party Cult" under control, and real quick.

Posted by: qtrotti | February 25, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, when the checks start bouncing, it doesn't matter whether we have a shutdown or not. The 1.4T estimated deficit is dependent entire on people being willing to lend us 1.4T every year, year after year.

At some point, that stops. Going to be interesting to see what happens when it does.

Posted by: HarryVoyager | February 25, 2011 9:37 PM | Report abuse

If Clinton had yielded to the bigger tax cuts the Republicans were demanding instead of holding firm and agreeing to only $91B, the budget would never have been balanced.

So, Clinton, not the Republicans, was responsible for the balanced budget.

And once Clinton left office, the Republicans cut taxes, no longer blocked by Clinton, and doubled the debt in the next eight years, clearly establishing the in ability of Republicans to balance the budget.

Obama has been following the tax cut and spend policies of Republicans because Republicans would only blow any balanced budget Obama and Democrats sacrificed to produce. Time for Republicans to hike taxes.

Posted by: mulp | February 25, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Why is the economy such a mess??
Well for one, this country is no longer a Democracy, but a Cashrarocy!!
Of course the lobbyists & big moneyed contributors love this.

I am starting to think that the only way the American people will get their Democracy back is to follow the lead of the people of the Middle East ....... seems "our" career politicians of both political parties just pander to their special interests and not this country or it's people.

THAT IS WHY THE ECONOMY IS SUCH A MESS.........

It's being run by these large corporations for themselves.
It's all about GREED!!

Maybe we should just send or dump manure on all the Career Politicians on all levels of government.
What they do in the name of the American people just stinks......

It's no longer a government by the people for the people.

Posted by: bkarpus | February 26, 2011 5:38 AM | Report abuse

It is the role of Congress to pass laws and to fund them. It is the role of the president to see that the laws are faithfully executed. Clinton shut down the government in the 90s, not the Republican Congress. Clinton won the media manipulation side of the game for two reasons: the media are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Democrats and Gingrich overplayed his hand.

Posted by: cwillia11 | February 26, 2011 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Today, the Republican's difficulty is a lack of understanding of basic math. Instead of confronting the ONLY solutions to the deficit problem, they are nibbling around the corners by cutting relatively tiny programs that are supported by the majority.

To cut the deficit, they need to:

1) Slash the military which today is larger than the next 20 developed countries COMBINED. There is no reason or excuse for that.

2) Cut medical costs by allowing the government to bargain for EVERYTHING. We are paying many times more for drugs than any other country. Ditto medical equipment. Ditto the obscene profits of the unneeded middleman - insurance companies.

3) Secure the future of Medicare (which does not contribute a single dime to the deficit) by raising the retirement age and raising the income limits for contributions.

4) Increase taxes on the wealthy. Yes, that includes increasing taxes on that amount of income that exceeds $250,000. Look around. Anybody making that income, and much, much more, is wealthy by any standard. The filthy rich could may a lot more in taxes without noticing. They should.

Republicans won't do these things because they are scared to death of their base -- the teapartiers, birthers, deathers, and ignorant know-nothings who Get Out The Vote.

Posted by: Casey1 | February 26, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

wncchester and others are living in a fantasy world. Here are the facts.

1. From 1970 - 2009, spending was about a constant 20% of the GDP yet from 1980 on, the debt as a percentage of GDP increased greatly. A simple look at marginal rates will explain this. Marginal rates were between 70% and 93% between 1946 - 1973 and were severely cut after that. In spite of what the Cato Institute and friends say, the debt was not cause by too much spending, but by not enough taxation.

2. In 1946 the debt was 120% of the GDP, It went straight down to about 32% in 1973. During this period 1946 - 1973 taxes were much higher. Marginal rates were at least 70%; they were 93% under Eisenhower. The economy was better than what we now have. For example, median wages went up 3 times as fast as since 1973. CEO's earned 50 times what their workers earned; it is 500 times today. Staring in 1973, the percent of wealth and income taken by the richest 10%, 1%, and 0.1% has gone up at an ever increasing rate. In fact, can you point to a period in US economic history where high taxes have negatively impacted the economy? Perhaps in the '90's when Clinton raised taxes? Nah. Please don't just talk about a tiny PART of the economy like yachts.)

3. On the flip side, since 1990 the periods with the lowest marginal rates were the years leading up to 1929 and 2008. These were also the periods when economic inequality and speculation was the greatest. As you know these periods led to disaster. There is some evidence that when tax rates are high, since rich people hate to pay taxes, they leave their profits in their companies, pay their workers more, improve their means of production, and perhaps even hire more, but when rates are low, they take them out and ... speculate!

BTW why don't you guys look at Ireland where taxes and spending were cut and you conservatives talked about the Irish Tiger. Now they have gone down the tubes.

Posted by: lensch | February 26, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

This game between Republicans and Democrats must stop! The Economy of our Country is a mess! Is this some kind of joke? What is wrong with these people?
If they don't want their jobs, they should be fired, all of them! If they are refusing to work, why should we pay them?
These game players are not facing the very issues we the taxpayers are paying them to. They should not be paid during any time they choose (a little vacation on us.) The tax payers are fed-up with these people! These Politicians, need to pay attention to their behavior. The voters are becoming sick with all their corruption, lies, deals, and the inequality on their performance. The serious issues we are facing today, have not being dealt with by these jerks! Look how the people elsewhere are cleaning their houses of useless jerks! It is time for us Americans to also begin to demand that these guys either do their job, or we must vote them out! These politicians are cutting on Education, Health, and many other important positions, police, fireman, and services that the public needs. Lets demand to cut on some of their paychecks! We have millions of people that does not see a pay check, they are willing to work, and they can't find a job! If we fired a few of these no good guys in Washington, we can better fit the needs of the people and our Country!

Posted by: irapinto2004 | February 26, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

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