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Oct 01 2013

Nice little economy you got here

Countries other than the US are puzzled by the US’s reckless destructive way of governing.

That leaders of one of the most powerful nations on earth willingly provoked a crisis that suspends public services and decreases economic growth is astonishing to many.

American policymakers “are facing the unthinkable prospect of shutting down the government as they squabble over the inconsequential accomplishment of a 10-week funding extension”, Mexico’s The News wrote in an editorial.

In the United States, however, government shutdowns – or the threat thereof – have become an accepted negotiating tactic, thanks to the quirks of the American federal system, which allows different branches of government to be controlled by different parties. It was a structure devised by the nation’s founders to encourage compromise and deliberation, but lately has had just the opposite effect.

Oh I don’t think it’s become an accepted negotiating tactic. Most people see it as plain gangsterish extortion.

“Canadians can only pray their economy won’t be collateral damage,” writes John Ibbitson in Canada’s Globe and Mail. “Anything that drags down the American economy drags the Canadian economy down with it.”

And this could be another reason why the United States has shutdown crises and other countries don’t – because the United States can afford to. At least up until now, the American economy has been able to continue to grind along despite shutdown disruptions that would stagger other nations.

And it also makes it all the more disgusting – dragging down not just our economy but those of other countries too, out of sheer infantile pigheadedness and resentment.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    rnilsson

    At least, in other defunct countries like, oh, say, Greece, Lawmakers have actually recently been arrested for fascist/nazist conspiracies. But that was of course the Cradle of Democracy, not the other end, the Hearst of Democracy.

    k-kkochh h h hello? Pappappappas? … Well feces. Line broken. A fox upon all them boener counters!

    Isn’t it a Ray of Comfort that someone is always listening in, even on broken lines. Or, after the fact.

  2. 2
    Deen

    thanks to the quirks of the American federal system, which allows different branches of government to be controlled by different parties.

    Is that really so uncommon? I was under the impression that two-chamber parliaments were quite common, which generally use different election systems by design, which by definition creates the possibility that one chamber is controlled by a different majority than the other. It might be that the appointment of judges by the president, and the election of some judges in the US is a bit more of a US-specific quirk, though, I’m not sure.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    I haven’t the stomach to read the full Congressional Record to find this out for myself:

    Did any of the shutter-downers claim they were doing Gawd’s work to resist International Blasphemy Day?

  4. 4
    Jenora Feuer

    @Deen:

    Is that really so uncommon?

    Well, sort of, depending on how you define things.

    In Canada, for example, Senators are appointed by the current Prime Minister (who is actually really more like the House Majority Leader in the American system; our closer structural analog to the President, the Governor General, is actually pretty toothless in terms of actual power, and is also appointed to the position). They serve until they retire. Given that the Senate often is a rubber-stamp anyway, Canada is pretty much always just run by the one party.

    The last time the Senate and Parliament seriously disagreed on something and the Senate refused to sign legislation passed in Parliament would have been in Mulroney’s time, 1988 for the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and 1990 for the Goods and Services Tax. Mulroney got around the latter one by using a fallback in the modern Constitution to the earlier 1867 Constitution, got the Queen to sign off on expanding the Senate, and stacked the new positions with cronies of his to tip the vote in his favour.

    The last time Parliament was in a serious fight with the Governor-General was probably the King-Byng Affair back in 1926, and that generally resulted in later Governor-Generals being appointed from within Canada rather than being actively British representatives of the Crown.

    In Britain, one of the few times Parliament and the House of Lords were actively fighting involved the House of Lords actively blocking some of the more over-reaching ‘security’ legislation from Parliament.

    Honestly, (at least in Canada) while the different chambers can and have been controlled by different parties at times, the two chambers actively fighting with each other is rare enough to be news here when it happens. And we don’t have the same sort of system as the U.S. where the two chambers each work on their own version of legislation and then try to match them up afterwards: things always go ‘up the chain’ from Parliament to the Senate to the Governor-General, just like in Britain it’s Parliament to the House of Lords to the Queen.

    (The fact that there was significant fighting while Mulroney was in office is a combination of the fact that the previous Prime Minister, Trudeau, had been in office a LONG time and thus had appointed a lot of the current Senators, and the fact that Mulroney was trying to push through some fairly significant legislation.)

  5. 5
    Richard Smith

    Ah, the Senators, sequestering themselves in Scotiabank Place… Oops, wrong Senators.

    Ah, the Senators, the house of sober(!) second thought(!)…

  6. 6
    Paul C

    The Australian House of Representatives and Senate can be controled by different parties, and the Senate in particular can have enough members from minor parties (or independent members) to swing control either way on contentious issues.

    We have had similar problems in the past, but there are provisions in our constitution to deal with it. It also helps that parliamnet does not have a fixed term (just a maximum term), so elections can be called earlier than expected, if needed.

    If a bill is rejected twice by the Senate (with a 3 month gap between attempts) then a special election can be called where all the places in the House of Representatives and the full Senate (as oposed to the usual half-senate) are up for re-election. There are even provisions to cover the case where the bill still won’t pass after the election.

    This has happened 6 times since the Constitution was adopted in 1901.

    See the entry for Double Dissolution and Loss of Supply in wikipedia for more information.

  7. 7
    sailor1031

    Watching the US congress at work has always been like nervously watching children playing with matches. But now the little bastards have gotten a hold of flamethrowers. They don’t seem to care if they burn their own house down, and the rest of us wouldn’t care either if it were only that; but they don’t even seem to realise that they’ll burn everyone else’s house down too.

    Too bad the biggest kid on the block is a bully, a braggart and a moron.

  8. 8
    Brian E Baxter

    Most American were upset with our near default and the government shut down but don’t really understand how it happened. I wrote a summary of the problem starting with how the Tea party was born in the white hot crucible of the over the top right wing lies about the Affordable Care Act. See it at http://brianebaxter.com/

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