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21
Don’t spike the ball too early, Democrats. The Tea Party may be a taste of what’s ahead for our party.
 
Last weeks’ Armageddon – or maybe, “Armadebtaggon” – looks now like a disaster for the GOP. The episode turned Americans and many Republicans against the Cruz crusaders.
 
But the Republican civil war may be a sign of where all American politics is heading in our polarized, high-octane, cable-news-addled politics. Cruz & Co. could just inflame Democratic hard-liners who are fed up with the two-decade-long Clinton-Obama search for elusive middle ground.
 
Remember when Obama ran for President in 2008 promising – in the words of Richard Nixon – to “bring us together,” to overcome the divisions of red America and blue America?
 
Five years later, he wins a much-needed victory by refusing to compromise. Hardball trumped sweet reason.
 
In the wake of battle, we hear high-minded statements about “moderation” and “working together.” A safer bet is more hardball – from both sides. Strap on your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

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15
 

For Republicans, the shutdown turned into a slapdown and the default into their fault.

 The GOP lost the debate, lost the battle for public opinion and put itself in a deep, deep hole for the 2014 elections. Governor McCrory’s DHHS debacle, $87,000 salaries and $230,000 bathrooms pale in significance.

The issues in the shutdown-default battle escape most Americans. It’s too big, too complicated and too easy to dismiss as just more Washington dysfunction.

But one thing is clear: the public blames the Republicans. They blame the Tea Party even more. They like both less than ever. They like President Obama and Democrats more than before. And they even like Obamacare more than before.

All this was shown in last week’s NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which apparently shocked Republicans into staging a retreat. It found that, by 53-31, the public blames Republicans more than Obama. 

Just 24 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party. Both numbers are all-time lows in the history of poll. 

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who did the poll with Republican Bill McInturff, said: “These numbers lead to one inescapable conclusion: The Republicans are not tone deaf; they are stone deaf.” 

It’s beyond most of us what exactly has been going on in Washington and what it means. But we’re clear on who to blame.

 

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15
In the 2006 election voters gave Republicans the boot.
 
In 2010 they turned around and gave Democrats the boot.
 
Now, according to a new poll, 60% of voters would vote to remove all the politicians in Congress. Democrats and Republicans.
 
A sign of sanity?
 

 

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14
There’s been a lot of screeching and howling coming out of Washington about who shut down the government. Respected economist Thomas Sowell lays out his opinion pretty calmly below:
 
Who Shut Down the Government?
By Thomas Sowell
 
Even when it comes to something as basic, and apparently as simple and straightforward, as the question of who shut down the federal government, there are diametrically opposite answers, depending on whether you talk to Democrats or to Republicans.
 
There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare.
 
This is not a matter of opinion. You can check the Congressional Record.
 
As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which means that Congressmen there have a right to decide whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity.
 
Whether ObamaCare is good, bad or indifferent is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of fact that members of the House of Representatives have a right to make spending decisions based on their opinion.
 
ObamaCare is indeed “the law of the land,” as its supporters keep saying, and the Supreme Court has upheld its Constitutionality.
 
But the whole point of having a division of powers within the federal government is that each branch can decide independently what it wants to do or not do, regardless of what the other branches do, when exercising the powers specifically granted to that branch by the Constitution.
 
The hundreds of thousands of government workers who have been laid off are not idle because the House of Representatives did not vote enough money to pay their salaries or the other expenses of their agencies — unless they are in an agency that would administer ObamaCare.
 
Since we cannot read minds, we cannot say who — if anybody — “wants to shut down the government.” But we do know who had the option to keep the government running and chose not to. The money voted by the House of Representatives covered everything that the government does, except for ObamaCare.
 
The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he wants a “clean” bill from the House of Representatives, and some in the media keep repeating the word “clean” like a mantra. But what is unclean about not giving Harry Reid everything he wants?
 
If Senator Reid and President Obama refuse to accept the money required to run the government, because it leaves out the money they want to run ObamaCare, that is their right. But that is also their responsibility.
 
You cannot blame other people for not giving you everything you want. And it is a fraud to blame them when you refuse to use the money they did vote, even when it is ample to pay for everything else in the government.
 
When Barack Obama keeps claiming that it is some new outrage for those who control the money to try to change government policy by granting or withholding money, that is simply a bald-faced lie. You can check the history of other examples of “legislation by appropriation” as it used to be called.
 
Whether legislation by appropriation is a good idea or a bad idea is a matter of opinion. But whether it is both legal and not unprecedented is a matter of fact.
 
Perhaps the biggest of the big lies is that the government will not be able to pay what it owes on the national debt, creating a danger of default. Tax money keeps coming into the Treasury during the shutdown, and it vastly exceeds the interest that has to be paid on the national debt.
 
Even if the debt ceiling is not lifted, that only means that government is not allowed to run up new debt. But that does not mean that it is unable to pay the interest on existing debt.
 
None of this is rocket science. But unless the Republicans get their side of the story out — and articulation has never been their strong suit — the lies will win. More important, the whole country will lose.
 
 

 

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10
A government shutdown’s turned out to be a peculiar sort of beast.
 
First, before a shutdown, every politician – in both parties – declares the government shutting will be terrible. Awful. Armageddon. And every politician swears they want the government to stay open.
 
Then the government shuts down.
 
Next one group of politicians proposes to reopen the government one agency at a time – and passes bills to fund half a dozen agencies. The other group of politicians declares it wants every one of those agencies open too.
 
Then refuses to vote to open even one of them.
 
Next both groups of politicians agree to pay every furloughed government employee every penny of their back pay when the shutdown ends – which turns furloughs into vacations with pay but doesn’t open a single government office and costs millions.
 
Now, how on earth, you might wonder, would a Democrat be all for opening government – but then vote against opening half a dozen parts of government?
 
Or how on earth can a Republican vote for furloughing people and paying them not to work – instead of simply paying them to go on working?
 
It turns out the President, the Senate, and the House work like a three way firing squad. Not one of them can spend a penny the other two don’t agree to. Now, fortunately for the elderly, long ago another Congress agreed to pay Social Security benefits. But, legally and constitutionally, the President and the Senate can’t fund their heart’s desire (Obamacare) as long as the House says, No Way.
 
Which leaves the Democrats with three choices: Bribery. A swap. Or coercion.
 
The President ruled out a swap declaring, I won’t negotiate. Period.
 
Bribery’s out because any Republican Congressmen taking a bribe (say an earmark) to pass Obamacare wouldn’t have to worry about winning the General Election – because he’d never make it out of the primary.
 
Which leaves coercion and, say what you want about Obama, you have to admit for all his suaveness and soft-spoken words the President’s a warrior of the first order. He didn’t come from behind and whip Mitt Romney by being Caspar Milquetoast. Plus, he’s endowed with a true believer’s faith. And a riverboat gambler’s nerve.
 
So, when the Republican House offered him everything he wanted except Obamacare, he figured, To heck with it – I’ll double down and bet the pot to win it all.
 
And, just like in a poker game, that left the Republicans with two choices: Fold their cards or take a big gamble too.
 
The prospect of calling Obama (and betting  the house) made the Pachyderms  plenty nervous – a lot of them figured the safe move was time to walk away from the table. In the end they made their bet but, right away, so as not to offend Independent voters, they immediately set about reopening as much of the government as they could – everything from national monuments to cancer research.
 
That made life complex for President Obama and the Democrats. Who wanted voters mad at Republicans. To do that, the shutdown had to hurt. So reopening parts of government didn’t fit into their plans. So they refused to even fund cancer research.
 
So how does all this end? Does Obama blink? Or the Republicans?
 
Here the President has one big advantage. He’s never going to run for office again. He’s done. But in two years a lot of Republican Congressmen are going to be up for reelection.  And more than a few of them have a nervous eye peeled toward next November.
 

 

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09
So all the DHHS scandals are based on a report that was doctored to mislead legislators and taxpayers.  The $87,000 salaries for young campaign aides, lucrative contracts for political allies, eyebrow-raising sudden exits by top department officials and sweet severance payouts.
 
All that is based on the McCrory’s administration claim that it inherited a “broken” Medicaid system. Now that claim is exposed as a selective, slanted editing of the facts.
 
No wonder Secretary Vos doesn’t like requests for public information. No wonder one of the $87,000-a-year aides shepherded her away from pesky reporters after Tuesday’s brutal legislative hearing.
 
We know all this thanks to Rose Hoban, a smart, persistent reporter for North Carolina Health News. Renewed proof, by the way, that great journalism no longer comes only from traditional journalism.
 
The slated editing is worse than the usual Republican tendency to ignore facts, like evolution and global warming. This is leaving out facts. It is substituting factual information with made-up gobbledygook. It is deliberately misleading the public and their elected officials.
 
Hoban’s expose shows that, in doctoring a report on the state Medicaid program, “McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light.” They “eliminated detailed explanations.” They deleted the fact that “North Carolina’s administrative costs are lower than most states rather than 30 percent higher, as maintained by McCrory administration officials.”
 
Governor McCrory probably had enjoyed Obamacare and the federal government shutdown pushing DHHS scandals off the front page recently.
 
Now DHHS is back on the front burner. And the kitchen is getting hotter.

 

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08
What if Obamacare flops? What if the public has sticker shock? What if voters blame both sides for the shutdown?
 
From the White House down, Democrats seem awfully confident the shutdown-Obamacare standoff will end well for them.
 
Plus, they say, Americans will love Obamacare once they get to know it. But suppose all they know is that their insurance company raised their premiums? Will they blame the company, or Republicans governors and legislators, or Obama?
 
Democrats point to how this ended in 1995. But this is 2013. It’s Obama, Reid and Boehner, not Clinton, Dole and Gingrich. It’s Obamacare+Shutdown, not just the shutdown.
 
Republicans have their talking points down; Carter spelled them out: We’re reasonable folks. Let’s fund the programs we agree on. We’re ready to negotiate.
 
Do Obama and Reid look unreasonable, refusing to negotiate?
 
Here is what you can be sure about: America is far more bitterly divided today than 20 years ago. Republicans have poll-tested their messages, as I’m sure Democrats have. And, above all, people have an innate suspicion that government screws up whatever it touches.
 
I hope Democrats haven’t mis-underestimated the enemy, as George Bush would say, or misread the battlefield.

 

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04
Talk about strange things happening: Up in Washington two tribes of politicians have been pummeling each other night and day over who deserve the blame for shutting down the government.
 
Then, unexpectedly, one tribe changed directions.
 
First the House Republicans voted to fund national parks and monuments, then they voted to fund part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, then operations for the District of Columbia, then cancer research at the National Institute of Health.
 
Which all sounded reasonable.  
 
If the Montagues and Capulets in Washington couldn’t agree on funding the whole federal government – why not fund the parts they do agree on?
 
There was a brief glimmer of hope until the Chief of the Senate Democratic tribe declared, That’s a wacky idea.
 
Who’d have expected it?
 
One tribe says, ‘Let’s fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and cancer research – we all agree that’s good work – and the other tribe says, No way – that’s a crazy idea.
 
It’s sort of leaves you scratching your head.

 

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02
Look at the news this week, and you see that Republicans made a classic PR mistake: They stepped on their story.
 
For them, the best story would be problems, questions, concerns and online glitches with Obamacare. Instead, that story is competing with shutdown fallout: national monuments closed, WWII veterans turned away, school tours cancelled, military closings, air traffic problems and the like.
 
Obama, naturally, gets all the blame for Obamacare problems. Republicans get all the blame for shutdown problems.
 
Republicans will never win the argument that Obama, Harry Reid and the Democrats caused the shutdown. Every American knows that Democrats love government too much to shut it down. For decades, Republicans have driven home the message that Democrats love government way, way too much.
 
Republicans, everyone knows, hate government. They want it to go away. QED: They own the shutdown.
 
And they smothered their best story.

 

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02
 
How you feel about Obamacare probably correlates about 100 percent with how you voted in the 2012 election. Unless you already found out you pay more or less for insurance. I’m double-sold. I’m saving a bunch of money.
 
The fundamental fact about American health care was well put by Bill Atkinson, former CEO at WakeMed: “Americans want the very best health care that somebody else pays for.”
 
It’s all a cost-shifting game, and what we pay has little to do with the care we get as individuals.
 
To fix that, Obamacare does two things you’d think Republicans and conservatives would like: End the free ride for freeloaders and encourage competition.
 
The freeloaders are like the fellow in the paper who said he doesn’t need health insurance because he’s healthy. But if he’s in a wreck, or falls off a ladder, or has emergency surgery, the rest of us have to pay his bills.
 
As for insurance-price competition, North Carolina doesn’t have it because of the legislature and the McCrory administration. States that have real competition – that is, more than two companies offering policies – are seeing real savings.
 
But those are facts. And facts, as we see in the shutdown-debt limit fight, have nothing to do with Republican politics today.

 

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