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Who Shut Down the Government? Or, How Thomas Sowell Just Totally Exposed the GOP

by Jerry Robinson on October 11, 2013 · 21 comments

Who Shut Down the Government? Or, How Thomas Sowell Just Exposed the GOP


The sheer fiscal insanity and spineless leadership that infects Washington is only exacerbated by the American people’s defense of these thugs based upon their team colors. When will the American people realize that they themselves are the butt of a bad joke?

by Jerry Robinson

Amid the recent U.S. government shutdown, both political parties have been refining their talking points in an effort to gain public support for their positions.

As usual, the political theater has led to a new and obnoxious blame game. The Democrats point their finger at the House Republicans citing their obsession with defunding Obamacare and their failure to pass a “clean” continuing resolution (spending bill) as the reason for the partial government shutdown.

Meanwhile, House Republicans have fired back by highlighting the “unfairness” of Obamacare and claiming the new law will bankrupt America.

And, in typical fashion, those who still choose to believe the ridiculous words gushing out of the mouths of political leaders from both sides of the aisle have come out swinging for their respective party.

Quick Disclaimer: Due to the politically hostile nature of our culture, I must regularly remind our readership of my political atheism to avoid the inevitable buckets of hate mail. So, here’s my disclaimer once again: While I have little sympathy for either party, I do admit that I find myself repulsed by many of the policies promoted by the Democrats. However, it is the doublespeak of the Republican party that provides me with the highest entertainment value. I compare my interest in the Washington political machine with that of a bad car wreck. Rubberneckers slow down as they drive by a massive car accident. We don’t want to look, but we can’t help ourselves. While I know this is a crude comparison, it is fitting in so many ways. Now, back to the article…

The political wrangling in Washington has crippled the democratic process. Years of gargantuan spending levels on the “warfare and welfare” state by both political parties have driven our nation to the edge of financial insolvency. And it is getting worse, not better, by the day.

Of course, neither party appears interested in taking responsibility for the fiscal train wreck that awaits America. Instead, as Rome burns, our elected officials engage in intellectual jousting matches cleverly designed to cast all blame on their opponents.

One recent example of the political blame game comes from one of the political writers that I have admired for years: Thomas Sowell.

In a recent article entitled, Who Shut Down the Government?, Sowell applies his mostly clear-eyed analysis to sorting out the facts of the current government shutdown debacle.

“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.”

Sowell is absolutely correct. Republicans did indeed vote to spend “all of the money required to keep all government activities going…

Republicans voted to keep giving money to:

  • The Department of Homeland Security, and its bogus “security theatrics” including the $30,000+ annual salaries for every single TSA goon that gropes grandma
  • The National Security Agency, along with its vast domestic surveillance capabilities that has turned America into a police state
  • The entire military-industrial complex, including billions of dollars in defense contracts and our global war machine
  • Every single government entitlement program including the Social Security ponzi scheme
  • And trillions of dollars more for other “essential” government services

But I can already hear someone protesting: “All those things are out of the House’s control.”

If that is your belief, let’s permit more space for Mr. Sowell to correct you.

“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.”

That’s right. Sowell explains that it is the House that gets to decide whether the nation spends money on a “particular government activity.”

Wow! What a time to remind the American people who has control of America’s purse strings.

So, while government spending levels spiral out of control, the House has decided that it only wants a fight to defund Obamacare. This is rather convenient for the GOP, considering Obamacare has not yet had a chance to permeate the nation. I think that honest hard-working Americans should hold their applause and standing ovations for these “sudden fiscal conservatives” who want to defund one government program while funding other similar programs at extreme levels.

After all, if the GOP is so “gung-ho” to stop the rampant growth in government spending, why stop at Obamacare? Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see Obamacare defunded and replaced with a free market solution. But I am more interested in seeing across the board cuts to ALL government programs in order to stave off an inevitable default in the years ahead.

Since the House has the responsibility of “approving all government spending,” can anyone answer why these “sudden fiscal conservatives” have refused to defund the existing entitlement programs that pose a much more grave threat to our Republic? After all, both parties have given the current House plenty of entitlement reform opportunities.

According to a fiscal analysis by the Office of Management and Budget, over the next decade:

  • Social Security will cost U.S. taxpayers $11 trillion
  • Medicare will cost a whopping $8 trillion
  • And Medicaid will cost U.S. taxpayers $4.3 trillion

In comparison, the nonpartisan CBO has projected that, over the next decade, Obamacare will cost taxpayers $1.8 trillion.

So, the basic arithmetic suggests that these “sudden fiscal conservatives” are picking on the littlest guy in the room.

Obamacare is an easy target for the GOP simply because they don’t have to take away benefits from anyone. Why? Because the plan is just now being implemented.

Can you imagine if these “sudden fiscal conservatives” were to apply the same political strength to an effort to defund Social Security, which currently send checks to 62 million beneficiaries? Or what about defunding Medicare which provides health coverage to over 48 million Americans?

These “sudden fiscal conservatives” won’t even touch their own Republican-inspired entitlement programs. They seemingly ignore President Bush Jr’s disastrous Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which will cost U.S. taxpayers $1.1 trillion over the next decade. In fact, several of these GOP con-men were standing, all grins, next to President George W. Bush as he signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Act into law.

The sheer fiscal insanity and spineless leadership that infects Washington is only exacerbated by the American people’s defense of these thugs based upon their team colors. When will the American people realize that they themselves are the butt of a bad joke?

Deficits (and Defaults) Don’t Matter?

Another interesting talking point that the GOP has concocted is that the U.S. will not default if the debt ceiling is not increased. This logic is rooted in the fact that America would only “technically” enter a state of default if it somehow failed to pay the interest on the existing national debt.

As Sowell explains:

“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.”

At first glance, this may sound great to fiscal conservatives. However, the logic of this argument is terribly flawed. While it is true that the Federal government currently collects just over $200 billion per month in tax revenue, they spend more than $300 billion each month!

Do you really trust these inept political leaders to manage this situation, if it were to occur? And what 1/3 of our current spending would politicians cut? It’s a guarantee that if any of these cuts occur to anything near and dear to the hearts of the GOP, they will be the first to claim a “default.”

As an economist, I can tell you that it is absolutely absurd to think that if the Federal government experienced an immediate 35%+ spending reduction everything would be just “fine.” Those who buy this flawed argument obviously do not understand that America is nothing more than an economic house of cards. The American economy runs on “confidence.” (Consumer “confidence,” business “confidence,” investor “confidence,” etc.) Because the U.S. dollar has no real backing (except for the “full faith and credit of the Federal government”) all that remains is “confidence.”

Put simply, if America’s political leaders do anything to tamper with, let alone destroy, the “confidence” that America is able or willing to pay all of its obligations, it would immediately send financial shockwaves around the world.

No matter what the GOP may say publicly, this government shutdown has little to do with “taking fiscal responsibility” or “protecting the economic future of our kids and grandkids.” If it really did, then Republicans would have taken the axe to government entitlement spending long ago. While those phrases sound good and get votes, in reality they do not motivate the 99.9% of politicians.

A Revolution is Brewing

Finally, I question the wisdom of Mr. Sowell, a champion of the right, delivering such plain civic lessons to a nation that is clearly on the verge of a new revolution. In his article, Sowell attempts to blame the Democrats by pointing to the Constitutional spending powers bestowed upon the House. However, his myopic argument inadvertently exposed openly that the GOP has the right “to fund or not fund” whatever they wish. Oops. To the millions that are just now waking up all around the country to America’s true financial situation, perhaps this knowledge may be better left unspoken.

After all, if the masses ever fully realize that it is the House Republicans that hold within their power the ability to “defund” the military-industrial complex, the NSA, all of the wars, along with a myriad of government programs that threaten to bankrupt the Republic, it could spell trouble.

If America’s fiscal patriots were ever to grasp that it is the “small government conservatives” in the House that wield the authority to “defund” bailouts, the failed drug war, the bloated Department of Education, the IRS, Washington’s massive military expenditures, and the growing American police state, they may just finally understand how similar Washington’s political parties really are.

The ironies are almost too great to bear. The Republican party’s choice for President in 2012? Mitt Romney, who provided the inspiration for Obamacare through his own Romneycare.

Or what about the Republican party’s choice for President in 2008? John McCain, the completely out-of-touch global military adventurist who claimed the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were “very strong” and “entirely sound” just weeks before the deepest U.S. economic collapse since the Great Depression.

That the American people continue to allow their emotions and intellects to be hijacked by Washington’s antics in 2013 is simply astonishing.

Perhaps this all explains why it is so often said that “Republicans campaign like Libertarians and govern like Democrats.”

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Jerry Robinson
Jerry Robinson is the author of Bankruptcy of Our Nation: Your Financial Survival GuideIn 2010, Jerry created FTMDaily.com with a mission to wake up Americans and share with them the principles of true financial and spiritual liberty. Every Tuesday he hosts the FTMWeekly Radio, a podcast covering economic and geopolitical topics.Jerry has been blessed to be able to lecture around the globe on the topic of economic and geopolitical trends. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of Tulsa and resides in the beautiful Ozark mountains with his beautiful wife and son. Jerry is a licensed life insurance agent. See more
Jerry Robinson
Jerry Robinson
  • John Fitch

    Excellent article! Every American needs to read this right now! Wake up people!

  • Lori

    Ted Cruz 2016!

  • George A

    America is a thuggish nation. Bravo!
    America’s ills will never get a cured unless term limits are in place for all politicians.notice Obama after first term-coasted in and the 2nd term-put the boots to ordinary folks.Cause he knows,the Republickings will take over in 2016. Notice ever 8 year cycle each take a turn in office? Except poor Jimmy Carter who got canned because he supported the Palestinians. How did he get kicked? High interest rates and oil prices.then Bingo-Reagan/Bush took over–Gas interest rates prices down

    • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

      Term limits would go a long way in changing incentives in Washington.

  • http://texasladyjuanita.com texasladyjuanita

    You lost me at your Social Security remark . . . I paid into that system for 40+ years. I didn’t want to, I was forced to. I needed that hard earned money to raise my kids. SS and Medicare is owed to every Baby Boomer – plus interest – – – our parents paid in and received their funding – the nation must meet this obligation, and if they would keep their mitts out of the funds coming in, they have plenty to pay out. It is a matter of honor to pay what is due to those who paid in – in direct proportion to how much the paid in. i paid in my entire working life. I have a sibling that paid in very little, since that sibling worked very little – and is receiving very little. The 81 entitlement programs are what must come to an end immediately. The enemies around the world whom we send millions of dollars and equipment to must stop. The government must stop being a mortgage company still giving loans to those who cannot pay the mortgage payments. The government must stop being a train company at a loss – always. The government must stop the dept. of education – it needs to be done locally. Charity must be done locally – and then you will not have billions in fraud each year at the federal level. and on and on and on – The federal government should handle our military, and bring the troops home. Put the Marines on our southern border which is in a state of war on our sovereign land. I am just sick of all you paper tigers who think you can ignore right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, honorable vs. dishonorable . . . it is disgusting.

    • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

      We agree. This article was not about the nature of Social Security. It was meant to confront Washington’s consistent failure to act in the best interests of the American people. But your comment reminds us all of the fact that Social Security remains this country’s third rail.

  • J. B.

    Mr. Robinson: For your information, Social Security and Medicare are PAID-IN programs, which means that American workers have been PAYING IN to these programs their ENTIRE LIVES. Congress STOLE $70 TRILLION from these PAID-IN programs, and now want to re-name them “entitlements”. And YOU have the nerve to say they need REFORM.

    The REFORM Americans need is for the $70 TRILLIION STOLEN BY CONGRESS to be REPAID to the Social Security and Medicare Funds IMMEDIATELY. In addition, all those monies PAID TO ILLEGALS from Social Security should be recouped. These illegals did not pay one penny into the Social Security Fund from which they are being paid. Last, a few illegals are using other people’s social security numbers. The Social Security Administration and ICE know full well about this; yet, the perpetrators are NOT arrested or deported. In addition, those monies are NOT deposited to the social security account being used ILLEGALLY. SO WHAT IS THE GOVT DOING WITH THAT MONEY???? So……PLEASE lay off America’s poor Social Security recipients who have paid into this fund ALL THEIR LIVES. You CAN pick on the ILLEGALS getting funds they don’t deserve.

    Most Americans on Medicaid NEED the money. BUT about half of that is being paid to ILLEGALS. Take them off!

    I agree with your paragraph regarding what IS being funded during the shutdown which should have been CUT: NSA, DHS, Military-Industrial Complex. ADD – Ongoing WARS + SOCOM’s 80 more SECRET wars, Guantanamo, Obama’s vacations, his dog Bo’s solo airplane trips, DOJ, State Dept, TSA, FEMA, CIA, FBI, DIA, DEA, ATF, NTSB, FDA & CDC’s “toxic vaccine” campaign, EPA, Dept of Ed, Fed Courts that prohibit prosecution of cover the crimes, all 17 Intel agencies, NASA which is obsolete, Dept of Energy, the 65 ILLEGAL Czars and their staffs, and on and on. Shinseki at the VA should be FIRED because of a year’s backlog of disability claims. And the IGs of all those Fed Agencies should be dissolved because it’s OBVIOUS they aren’t doing effective internal audits. CONGRESS should ENFORCE the requirement for an annual budget, and should perform their OVERSIGHT RESPONSIBILITIES.

    Better yet, the Fed Govt has become so corrupt, lawless, out-of-control, warmongering, and Fascist oriented, that the people need to ABOLISH the entire Fed Govt & bring the troops home to the State Natl Guards. Americans don’t “NEED” the jack-booted THUGS. The States already do the EXACT same functions plus highway maintenance.

    • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

      I have written and spoken extensively on the fact that Social Security is not an entitlement. I couldn’t agree more. The system, however, must be reformed to be sustainable for future generations. That will require Washington to get its fingernails dirty and even risk losing a re-election. But agreed on Social Security. I am paying in like everyone. And like everyone else, I expect a paycheck. But when the game of musical chairs finally stops, the money will run dry.

      • keirmeister

        Raise the Social Security maximum rate. Sustainability problem solved.

      • http://ftmdaily.com Nancy Ardrey

        Yet, you specifically listed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after mentioning entitlements. You also listed their costs and compared then the cost of Obamacare. How can one help but conclude you are directly calling them entitlements? I understand your explanation as to what you meant but that is by no means the way it impacted the reader! Our money was required to pay into the system and we have earned what we receive. The only true entitlement programs, in my opinion, are those receiving welfare and food stamps. My understanding is these programs are to help people through difficult financial times. I have absolutely no opposition to that. However, it seems the recipients of these programs have made it a steady income…that I agree with nor understand how that continues.

        • http://ftmdaily.com Nancy Ardrey

          Excuse me, the last sentence should state ” that I DO NOT agree with nor understand how that continues.

        • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

          Hi Nancy, great question. My point in listing these other programs was to show that they too are in desperate need attention. In their current forms, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are entirely unsustainable. Obamacare, too, will become unsustainable. I support a repealing of Obamacare. But this action alone will do nothing to prevent the eventual bankruptcy of these other programs. My point is by focusing strictly on Obamacare and ignoring the other gargantuan programs that are growing exponentially, America’s politicians are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. If they are going to confront one of these programs, they should confront them all. So why are the ‘fiscal conservatives’ silent on these other programs? In my opinion, it is because they value their next re-election much more than they value America’s future fiscal solvency.

  • Caretaker

    I consider this an excellent analysis of the polarization blinders that have affected people that identify with either party. The flow is rather broken when you go from a 35% reduction (roughly 2000 spending levels?) will crack the con game to listing specific programs that would make this achievable, but I agree on both accounts…. When was the last time we passed a budget, not an omnibus? Isnt there a legal tender law, why do the Feds need to borrow any money (not that this would remove the need for fiscal conservatism)? What shocks me more is that the democrats aren’t pushing for a single payer amendment while keeping the joke going. I wonder how non profit insurance co.s would fair if they weren’t outlawed through free trade agreements…. Lobbying, cost of campaigns, the idea that free speech equates to money spent, range voting, but NOT term limits for congress. Study the state legislatures that have adopted them. Congressional rules of order are not a simple thing, everyone would be looking for appointments, lobbyist, beauracrats and staffers would gain power….. Did you stop practicing Econ after year eight? Term limits in congress would also take an amendment….. Even though I haven’t voted major party in a federal election and generally not in state races given any third party/Indy choice, I have joined a party and been to a state convention. I could probably be effective if I went to three or four more, such is the learning curve of politics and procedure. I would have resigned finding it vile, but i wield more power in choosing who gets to the ballot. The parties have voted themselves a stranglehold on the system through election law. The media is the biggest joke in all of this.

  • Howard T. Lewis III

    How dare you talk that way about our mewling congress. It takes real courage to mewl like that for campaign contributions before screwing the American public and then showing their face for all of ten seconds while sprinting for their armored limos and safety..

  • Big M

    I’m confused about the statement that the IRS is funded by the House of (Non)Representatives. Since the IRS is NOT a federal government agency, or a federal enforcement agency, but rather a private, for-profit collection agency for the private Federal Reserve System, why would it be funded by the “feds,” and exactly how much taxpayer money is going to that criminal syndicate?

    • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

      The IRS is just another bureau of the Department of the Treasury. It gets around $11 billion annually. Some in Washington want to increase this budget. Others don’t. You can read about that debate here >> http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/07/23/senate-house-at-odds-over-irs-funding/

      • Big M

        No, the IRS is NOT part of the US Treasury Dept. In fact, the IRS was not created by any act of CONgress. It is incorporated in the state of Delaware.

        • http://ftmdaily.com/about Jerry Robinson

          Be careful Big M. There are a lot of people living behind bars who agree with you.

    • bobbydale

      Since the IRS is NOT a federal government agency WTF ??????????

  • bobbydale

    “The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare” if you like Obamacare blame Republicans if you don’t Blame Democrats ! pretty simple !

  • keirmeister

    An interesting article, but one thing specifically struck me:

    “I would love to see Obamacare defunded and replaced with a free market solution.”

    A free market solution is EXACTLY what we had before Obamacare! That’s why the costs have gone up with decreasing benefits. Heck, the government had to FORCE insurance companies to insure people with pre-existing conditions! The Free Market is not a golden solution to every problem in our country – and it definitely has NO PLACE in basic healthcare. We’ve seen how that works out…that’s why people have been screaming for reform in the first place.