Negotiating the US Government Shutdown

Congress doesn’t want to negotiate, even after holding meetings on Wednesday.  Now, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein says we have “precedent for a government shutdown” but “no precedent for default.” The stakes are growing.

Mitt Romney opposes the shutdown–illustrating the split within the Republican Party. But in political terms, who is winning/losing in the standoff ?  The players are two groups of Republicans (Party Leaders + Tea Party rebels) and two groups of Democrats (Senate majority + President Obama). On the conservative side, the NYT provides a who’s who graphic worth seeing the players.

In tactical terms, some Tea Party Republicans see their position as a winning one:

Mr. King is part of a hard-core group of about two dozen or so of the most conservative House members who stand in the way of a middle path for Mr. Boehner that could keep most of his party unified while pressuring the Senate to compromise. Their numbers may be small, but they are large enough to threaten the speaker’s job if he were to turn to Democrats to pass a spending bill that reopened the government without walloping the health law. Their strategy is to yield no ground until they are able to pass legislation reining in the health care law; if the federal government stays closed, so be it.

And they believe they are winning.

“It’s getting better for us,” said Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “The moment where Republicans are least popular is right when the government shuts down. But when the president continues to say he’s unwilling to negotiate with the American people, when Harry Reid says he won’t even take things to conference, I don’t think the American people are going to take that too kindly.”

via Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders –

While others, such as Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IND) observes “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t even know what that even is.”

What are the larger issues here? Is it ok to play this parliamentary tactic to support someone’s ideological position (opposition to Obamacare) or to support one’s base (shrink government by any means necessary). Thomas Friedman writes in this must-read column that what is at stake is our democratic system of majority rule through three steps that led the US to this point:

  1. gerrymandering of Congressional districts (ensuring Republican dominance)
  2. the Supreme Court Citizens United case adding unprecedented money to politics, creating forces of nature (e.g., Sheldon Adelson)
  3. the “rise of a separate G.O.P. (and a liberal) media universe”  that leads to myopic and self-reinforcing media

This is the political-econ negotiation of the century:

Obama faces classic problem in game theory of bargaining – convincing other side of the costs to you of backing down

Is this a teachable moment for the world or how to they view the US shutdown? The debating program Intelligence Squared shared this today on Facebook:

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11 thoughts on “Negotiating the US Government Shutdown

  1. ryannewell says:

    This whole thing has left me baffled. I am a proponent for standing up for what you believe to be right. What I am not a proponent of is using this pretense to further your platform at the cost of the average citizen and future generations. Thomas Friedman makes a very good point when he says that this hijacking of the government by an extremist minority could endanger our very democracy. As a life-long resident of Utah, I was raised in a very conservative community (the very same community that Mr. Chris Cannon, long time hard-line republican congressman lives in). That being said, I am not the biggest fan of Obamacare. However, I am even less of a fan of the band of congressmen who are holding up the entire nation over the issue. I get that they disagree with Obamacare. So do I. But there are better ways to go about this, and scuttling the federal government to get their point across is unacceptable.

  2. haleyroberts says:

    I agree with the comment above. I believe the government shutdown is hindering our progress as a nation. Negotiation is inevitable and while this is a good tactic, this minority does not take precedence over our foreign relations. Obama canceled his Asia trip for the third time ( and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that American focus on Asia should be our priority. Maybe America has become stretched too thin, but either way action needs to be taken.

  3. clintkunz says:

    I would like to bring in a quotation from “Remember the Titans” that sums up my thoughts here, “What are y’all doin? 44 stack! You’re supposed to know your jobs! Campbell (politician), you’re playing selfish, show-off football.” My opinion has changed recently and I do agree with Thomas Friedman, the majority has spoken on Obamacare and the minority cannot and should not hold a ransom to change things that they do not like. The american revolution was a minority that succeeded, but I believe their motives were justified. I think that the the GOP is acting out of selfishness which makes for negative outcome for all.

  4. madeleineary says:

    I have not met a single person who has thought that this shutdown was a good idea. Even the most conservative people I know concur with the above comments. How this happened seems highly peculiar. If there have been cries for government shutdown before this, they’ve been fairly fringe. This reminds me of the Israeli government and how the way the parties are divided allows for certain smaller parties to have disproportional strength. Is the a sign that our bipartisan system is less bipartisan than we thought?

  5. eebashaw says:

    I will admit that at first when the government shutdown, my thought was “GOOD! Maybe now they will force themselves to negotiate and compromise like politicians are supposed to.” Well, as this has not happened in even the smallest way and we are well into our fourth day of shutdown, I just shake my head in embarrassment at the Republican party. What are they doing? This is clearly getting America nowhere. Everyone else in the world thinks it is ridiculous and it absolutely is. That being said, there is a reason that the extreme conservatives were elected into congress the last go around — the government had become outstandingly liberal and America, a country that is so politically divided, demands balance. The two parties need to just be able to work it out. This is a moment where American politicians can prove that they do have American’s best interests at heart and work towards an agreement that is best for as many American people as possible (including ending the shutdown sooner rather than later…) instead of just stubbornly sticking to their side, because that is NOT what America was ever about. It is easy to have opinions, but it is so much more worth it to compromise and grow.

  6. simonliuu says:

    For me, personally, the most agitating part of the shutdown is that the Tea Party has to “get something out of this, and (they) don’t even know what that is.” The idea that they have already cost the country incalculable productivity, and they don’t even have an end game in mind, is absolutely intolerable. You might think that with an approval rating less than cockroaches, traffic jams, and Nickelback (, Congress would start making productive policy. Then again, I would probably self-destruct as well if I found out people preferred Nickelback.
    To answer one of the questions raised in the post, I do not think that the Tea Party is justified in defending its base to this extent. A strong majority of the American people are against the government shutdown, according to recent polls. The Tea Party is absolutely justified in attempting to repeal the ACA. It didn’t have enough votes to repeal the ACA, so they are justified in trying to gain the votes necessary to repeal it. Unfortunately, the people have spoken and they are going to have to deal with it.

    Following the spirit of General Conference, “If the bitter cup doesn’t pass, drink it and be strong.”

  7. trawson7 says:

    Although I am anti-government shutdown overall, I cannot help but appreciate what this gridlock is doing for the American economy. I think that it is entirely beneficial for the American public to realize that this country can survive without the government pumping billions of dollars into it. Perhaps fiscal conservatives can point to this shutdown in the future as evidence that the United States can survive a budget cut or two.

    Having said that, I think this shutdown is absolutely ridiculous. I am fundamentally against Obamacare; I think it is poorly organized, inefficient, and a step away from everything the United States of America was founded to be. However, I don’t even think a government shutdown is going to get Obama to negotiate, and it’s already evident that the Republicans are unwilling to negotiate. As a conservative, I cannot see much good coming from this shutdown; the Republicans are being blamed (and to be honest, it already was in shambles), and the entire conservative end of the political spectrum is polarizing. The success and progress of this country is arguably dependent on negotiation; we need to be able to work together and step across the aisle every once in a while. It saddens me that our elected leaders are fighting like a bunch of school kids. I support attempts to block the passage of Obamacare, but really? Kicking back and waiting for liberals to cater to our every desire is sure to prove fruitless, and frankly- it’s just a pathetic, childish attempt to solve the problem.

  8. For someone who didn’t even know that a government could shut down, I personally found that Ellen Degeneres explained the whole shutdown affair the best.

    Anyway, it’s already been a few days of this gridlock but I still can’t get over how remarkable it is that one fraction of the government can make a unilateral decision like this that affects not only the way the government is run, but it also affects thousands of peoples’ jobs and economic situations, as well as the lives of many other people who need public services. Total unwillingness to compromise between the parties in government has never led to any productive and satisfactory outcome. I agree with the comment above—the whole thing does seem childish.

  9. I feel like I am being generous by labeling the shutdown move as simply tactical. It reminds me a lot of the board game “Settlers of Catan,” which is exciting and fun until someone decides to be a punk by refusing to finish his or her turn until another player will negotiate with them.
    There is one major difference here, in the board game, refusal to move on is just as much of a hurt to the instigator as it is to all the rest of the players, but in the government shutdown the reverberating pain sears not through the members of congress but through those who have been displaced from work or unable to access government resources (websites, parks, workplaces, and so on). Unless the tea party republicans or the hard-liner Obamacare supporters have tried to take their grand kids to see Mount Rushmore, their lives have likely not skipped a beat.
    I am anxious to see the effects in the next congressional elections: how do constituents feel about their elected officials playing games at the literal expense of the government and taxpayers?

  10. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed before me. A most Americans are against a government shutdown, yet those who are elected to represent them insist on doing so. I think what we’re seeing is representatives putting party politics before the desires of their constituents. The conservatives behind this shutdown insist that they are being reasonable, but they’re the only ones who see it that way. The majority has spoken. This issue can be brought up again should public sentiment go in that direction, but for the time being our leaders should do their job and get back to work representing the real sentiments of the American people. Even if they don’t conform to platform of the party to which they belong.

  11. “If it turns out that President Barack Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent, hardline, unreasonable, totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not with Republicans, maybe he’s not the problem.” (Jon Stewart ––shutdown-eve)

    Tea Partiers may have a set of respectable beliefs that they value, but their way of implementing their agenda is not helping them.

    Among other things, they said that the gov’t shutdown was meant to save the US money. However, Congress ended up paying all nonessential personnel who was out of work during the shutdown (the decent thing to do)… which made the shutdown into a paid vacation that does not reduce gov’t personnel’s regular set of paid vacation days. I’m happy for all the employees who were able to thus take some time off and still get paid. Nevertheless, wouldn’t the gov’t have been more efficient if these people were working instead of staying at home?

    So, the shutdown was not meant to save money. It was meant to twist the opposition’s arm. In my personal view, the Tea Party is political scum. They should go buy themselves an island, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, install their own state and gov’t on it, and not bother us any longer.

    Good thing there are state gov’ts to lift some of the weight… otherwise the US would have been even worse off in the end.

    Another “smarty pants,” Glenn Beck, said: “Why don’t we fire all ‘nonessential’ personnel?”
    Unless he was being sarcastic, he is beyond the need for therapy…

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