Rahm Emanuel, speaking soon after Obama took office in 2009, famously suggested that the Obama administration would not let a serious crisis — the Fall 2008 credit crisis — go to waste:

Republicans would do well to heed that advice, advice which Obama used to his advantage to push through the failed Stimulus and then Obamacare.

Republicans have an opportunity to turn the government “shut-down,” which really is a modest “scale-back,” into a lesson on how we have more government than we need to provide essential services.

While the fight over Obamacare led us here, and the debt ceiling is approaching, the budget is the battle which is winnable, and the current scale-back may be a road map.

We’ve been here before.

In the summer of 2011, just after the debt “deal” that led to the Sequester, I wrote, Dog, Car, Debt Ceiling:

But the debt ceiling was an imperfect device on which to mount the effort to change the direction of government. Unlike a “mere” budget impasse resulting in a partial shutdown of government, the debt ceiling holds more risk. I never bought into the August 2 drop-dead date, but I do accept that with $100 billion per month deficits we could not last long after August 2 before collateral effects were felt. Those collateral effects go beyond a debt downgrade (which probably will happen anyway), and include economic dislocation would be hard to predict politically….

That’s pretty much my approach now.  The budget is the problem, the national debt is the symptom.  Fight the problem, not the symptom.

The Sequester, once viewed with dread by both parties, now mainly dogs Democrats.

Byron York points out that the federal government continues to spend 83% of its total spending authority, Where’s sense of crisis in a 17% government shutdown?  What we are experiencing is a government scale-back, not a shut-down or even partial shut-down.  There are few if any government departments that do not operate at all; some have been scaled back more than others.

The Pentagon even is recalling almost all of its civilian employees starting today.  Republicans in the House already have passed several funding bills for other departments, such as NIH, Veterans Department, FEMA and more votes are on the way in coming days.  The scale-back would scale down, if Democrats would let it.

What started as a fight over Obamacare that Republicans “stumbled into,” now presents a broader opportunity about excessive government.

Contrary to the mainstream and Republican punditry, the government scale-back is precisely the hill to fight on because it causes the least impact on the nation.  We have had 17 prior government “shutdowns” including 12 when Tip O’Neill was Speaker, and the long-term effects were minimal.

The extensive efforts the Obama administration has made to make life as difficult as possible for Veterans and others seeking to visit high-profile monuments and memorials reflect the reality that a government scale-back does not impact most people.  Obama needs to show the public some horrific effect of a scale-back, even if it means contriving the horror (which has backfired).

The limited effects of a scale-back also are why Democrats from the President on down have used increasingly shrill and demeaning taunts at Republicans and particularly the Tea Party.  Me thinks the name-callers doth protest too much.

John Boehner stated yesterday that he is prepared to stand and fight unless Obama negotiates.  That’s the right way to frame the problem. The problem is a President who has trapped himself on a no-negotiation ledge.

We need to let the public know that we are willing to help Obama get off the no-negotiation ledge, but we can’t force him.  Only Obama can get Obama out of the trap he set for himself.

Where does Obamacare fit into all this?

The changes demanded of Obamacare by the House — while meaningful and fair — would not defund the program.  Obamacare should be part of the mix because the program is such a big cause of our job creation problem, but it’s still about the budget.

Bend the curve some more.  Or rather, scale-back.

In August 2011, as the dust was settling, I wrote Please, let’s go through this again:

One of the consistent media talking points is that the nation “should not have to go through this again,” meaning the debate over raising the debt ceiling.

I could not disagree more, and look forward to going through this — or something like this — when the “super committee” makes its recommendations (assuming the deal goes through), when we argue over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as part of the presidential campaign, and all next year. This has been one of the most informative and nationally enlightening debates we’ve had.

People have become educated as to the dangers of deficits and the debt.

By all means, we should have to go through this again, soon.

We’re here again. Don’t let it go to waste.

Update: Ed Morrissey reports that the White House indicated today it would take a short-term deal on the debt ceiling:

Why reverse course and agree to a short-term debt ceiling lift now? I’d suspect that the White House has discovered that its shutdown strategy is backfiring in a spectacular manner, thanks to the spiteful attempts to impose unnecessary and arbitrary pain on Americans for the last several days. It might also be that the statement from Moody’s CEO this morning undercut their messaging to Wall Street, and the utter lack of panic among investors has killed the Obama administration strategy to force the GOP to knuckle under to Harry Reid and Obama.

Yup, the scale-back is the battle Republicans can win, and it goes to the heart of the budget problem, not just the debt ceiling symptom.


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