James Poulos | More Shutdowns, Please

Many people are beyond frustrated with Republicans right now. They just don’t get it. It seems to be inadequate for today’s Republicans simply to do the intransigent, useless thing. They have to do the thing that also “holds us hostage,” putting the whole government and its functions on the line in order to gratify their sense of ideological correctness. WHY??? Because they’re jerks, comes the answer. They’re mean people.

That’s a judgment that would make a lot more sense were it not the case that, every day, on a myriad of issues right and left, it’s the government that’s holding us hostage — hostage to one-time votes made in Congress for the usual farrago of not-so-idealistic reasons.

Here’s how it works: a bill comes up for a vote. Round after frenetic round of lobbying and whipping has pretty much guaranteed the outcome. The bill passes, but more importantly the funding for the bill passes, and no matter how much of a dog the law turns out to be, it stays funded. Once one chunk of the budget is on the table, every chunk of the budget there’s a consitutency to alter is on the table, conceptually speaking. Defunding anything occurs to us as a slippery slope — a slippery cliff. If you defund this, what’s to stop future crazy Members from trying to defund anything they don’t like?

What indeed? How else are bad laws to be disposed of? Repeal? Debates around repeal are the same debates: repealing a law that is a budget item is defunding it (and then taking its penniless body out back and hitting it with the shovel).

Our fear of a Congress consumed by efforts to defund disliked laws has inspired us to think that nothing should be defunded. In fact, we are so convinced that everything should be funded that we fear the only way to make good on our conviction is to always fund more than everything, a.k.a. increase the debt ceiling.


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