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Who shut down the government?

sowell column sig

By
From page A11 | December 29, 2013 | 10 Comments

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 the Affordable Care Act.

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 were laid off were 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 were 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 said that he wanted 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 would 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 a shutdown, and it vastly exceeds the interest that has to be paid on the national debt.

Even if the debt ceiling were 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.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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Discussion | 10 comments

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  • rlw895December 29, 2013 - 5:21 am

    There's a lot of truth in this column. All the president and the Democrats in the Senate had to do was, finally, capitulate to Republican demands that ObamaCare be repealed, effectively, through defunding. But just like the Democrats' refusal to go along with the 40+ times the Republican House had voted to repeal ObamaCare, they refused this time too. And without an appropriations bill or an even more simple "continuing resolution" that extended the previously approved annual appropriations, there was no money available to run the government. The reason there was a shutdown is there was no continuing resolution while the budget was continuing to be debated. The REPUBLICANS refused on that one, and that's the Big Lie in this column, by omission, not commission. I'll leave it to Mike to discuss the debt ceiling issue. All I know is the financial markets really, really didn't like the idea that the ceiling might not be raised when needed for the first time in what, like ever?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielDecember 29, 2013 - 9:03 am

    RW your final anaysis has it wrong, the GOP was merely requesting a 1 year delay for the penalities on Obamacare, something that low-information voters mostly thanks to the lib's lame-stream media do not know. Obama himself as postponed his own penlaities, if the public got wind of this just like all the other news that the lame-stream successfully censors, it would be a blood bath in the next election.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelDecember 29, 2013 - 9:40 am

    Yes. All the Democrats had to do was to sell out America to a small group of right wing fringe tea partiers who care more about raising a stink and getting campaign contributions from billionaires who fund them and media coverage for their future presidential races. And the "debt ceiling" is a false god. As I've stated many times before, we don't have to have "debt money" and we don't have to have a national debt. That being said, the system we currently have does not need some artificial "ceiling" put into place every 6 months or so that needs to be raised so that Congress can pay the bills that come due on things they have already purchased. To use the "family budget" model that Republicans delight in using, and which has nothing to do with the reality of federal spending, it would be like buying a tv, having it in your home for a while, and then when the bill comes, debating on whether or not to pay it. This is just another pile of Sowell.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DanielDecember 29, 2013 - 9:58 am

    Kirchy if the debt ceiling is a merely a red herring why do you libs and Demos make such a big deal out if it willing to play chicken everytime? Is it another game you guys play like playing the race or classwarfare cards every time the opportunity is available?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • http://vidrebel.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/annotated-bilderberg-2012-member-list/December 29, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Note the Bilderbergs are not Racist?.......See Vernon Jordan....also note Peggy Noonan on the list

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • http://www.danielestulin.com/wp-content/uploads/portraits_bilderberg.pdfDecember 29, 2013 - 11:52 am

    PORTRAITS OF BILDERBERG MEMBERS - Daniel Estulin

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Former Satanist Tells All (With A Message For Christians)December 29, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RKsZ5TkzWY

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelDecember 29, 2013 - 5:27 pm

    Danny, Do you live in upside down world? It's the Repubs who use the debt ceiling as a tool to hold America hostage, and it stinks.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Google...December 29, 2013 - 11:18 am

    chief justice roberts blackmailed

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Google...December 29, 2013 - 11:28 am

    Yale, Harvard Law Taking Over Supreme Court By CATHERINE RAMPELL July 16, 2010 economix

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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