Several Things That Aren’t Happening Here.

Aidan writes:

It’s pretty easy to oppose government spending when the budget is just an abstract concept. When actually faced with a government shutdown or severe cuts, people with libertarian views on spending are actually faced with examples of how the government helps support their daily lives. The veil of ignorance would be useful if we weren’t talking about budget negotiations that are going to negatively impact actual people.

People always support spending cuts until they realize what it means to them.

That would be a problem. But it’s not remotely the problem I’m experiencing.

Now look. If my husband (1) lost his job because of (2) substantial budget cuts and he (3) had to find work in the private aerospace sector, I’d probably just have to shut the hell up — provided of course that we had (4) already cut the truly odious government spending first.

In a case like that, I’d be brushing up on Stoic virtue. There wouldn’t be much else to do. But that’s not what’s happening. Not even close.

Instead, my husband likely (1) keeps his job, but not his pay, because of (2) empty posturing over trivial budget cuts and he (3) can’t legally work anywhere in the private aerospace sector. Meanwhile the government is (4) spending a whole lot more money on some very odious things, like an illegal war.

Oh yeah, and my husband can’t even volunteer at NASA, which he almost certainly would do, because he’d really like to get some research to the publisher before a deadline. That, too, is against the law.

By my lights, this is wrong on every single dimension. I know you’d love it if the chickens were coming home to roost, but they’re not. Not for me anyway. For Republicans? Well… take it up with them. I haven’t voted Republican in many years, and I don’t see myself starting anytime soon.

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31 thoughts on “Several Things That Aren’t Happening Here.

  1. I can, at least, say that none of the people responsible for the mess are people who I voted for.

    Don’t blame me; I voted for Thompson.

    *****

    This whole situation seems like…Jesus, I dunno, it’s like if a mugger threatened me with a gun, and I responded by shooting myself and saying “So what are you gonna threaten me with NOW?”

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    • Actually, the situation is more like if the troll at the bridge wanted five virgins to pass the bridge and you agreed to that, but the really insane trolls on the bridge got greedy and wanted ten virgins and the head troll was too busy crying to stand firm on the deal.

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    • I think that analogy is close, but you would have to shoot something that doesn’t cause you any direct pain. How about: a game of chicken but both players are remotely controlling two school-buses filled with other peoples’ children?

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  2. Sorry, that was poorly worded, but I think you misinterpreted my point and I think we may be arguing about separate things. I didn’t mean to imply that you were on the side of the Tea Party or favored a government shutdown or thought that government funding shouldn’t go to NASA. It probably came off as more of a cheap shot than I intended.

    I’ll admit that I did get an initial chuckle over the idea of a Cato scholar talking what will happen when government checks stop showing up, but it’s not like I don’t see your point.

    My point was that your idea that the “veil of ignorance” is the optimal position when considering issues of government spending is bizarre. I’m just very puzzled by the fact that you seem almost embarrassed by the fact that you have a personal bias here. I think personal bias can be a good thing! It’s important to discuss the shutdown in terms of how it affects normal Americans, not just whether it benefits Republicans or Democrats politically. There are a lot of people – I’m not accusing you of being one of them – who see government spending as a symbolic moral issue and don’t consider what happens when hard-working Americans stop getting their tax returns and paychecks and disability benefits. Republicans have approached the debate arguing for fixed targets, not examining which agencies can afford cuts to which programs and where money can be cut while minimizing the damage. To top it all off, they’ve made passing a budget continent on either defunding Planned Parenthood and the EPA or seeing how much more they can get Democrats to agree to in spending cuts in exchange. I think that’s an irresponsible approach to budgeting. There’s posturing and politicking on both sides, but I disagree that these budget cuts are “trivial”.

    The “People always support spending cuts until they realize what it means to them” wasn’t directed toward you, but toward regular people anticipating a shutdown because they think a) it’s a symbolic victory for proponents of limited government and b) they think it’s the only way to get spending under control and they think that the optimal policy is reducing spending to some abstract number that has no relation to reality and no concept of the consequences in relation to specific agencies and programs and the people affected by them.

    Again, not trying to say that you’re on the Republican side here – I didn’t make enough of a distinction between a) my problems with your “veil of ignorance” idea and b) my problems with the Republicans’ approach to the budget debate.

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  3. I’ll also add that I don’t disagree with anything Mark Thompson wrote in his response to my original comment, and that while I think the veil of ignorance is a useful concept in relation to the Rawlsian social contract, I interpreted your use of it slightly different. We aren’t starting from scratch and devising a social contract here, we’re talking about which functions of government will shut down and which people will stop receiving income they depend on. But I’m not a philosophy guy, so there’s a good chance I misinterpreted it and attributed things to you that you weren’t arguing, in which case I apologize and will just shut up.

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  4. The war isn’t illegal and besides I don’t remember you complaining about Iraq and, even if you did, you still are someone who gives cover to libertarians who vote Republican which is even worse than the townies voting Republican because they can at least hide behind their not knowing any better.

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  5. To clarify further, I don’t think that self-interest should be the only determining factor here. It would be just as easy to use my argument to say something like “Raising my top bracket income taxes to pay for public schools is wrong and a net-negative for society because I’m rich enough to send my kid to private school”. I don’t want to seem like I’m opposed to Rawls here or anything.

    The way you seem ashamed to be arguing about something based on your personal stake in it just struck me the wrong way. I guess it’s a pet peeve of mine when people attempt to discuss the budget and functions of government as an abstract concept when the numbers involved mean real things to real peoples’ livelihoods, including yours.

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  6. I am waiting with baited breath, am i essential or not?

    I have already heard that as, a fed employee, if i i am deemed essential, i will still have to work , without pay, and that i will probably not receive my paycheck. i am pissed. i can quit…i have savings and 401k.
    I have saved rather than spent. Alot of my coworkers have not. But We all try to do the best we can to serve the American public.

    The thing i am most upset about is that the POS would stop checks to soldiers, serving, coming home with ptsd, and stop funding. This is an outrage.

    if the Democrats wanted to make an impact (with their irrational thinking, they would have passed a budget in 10/2010)

    And shame on you , barack hussein obama, for using soldiers very well earned pay for your political aspirations.

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    • As a government employee in my own country, you have my sympathies. As always the politicians play their ego games and those of us further down the tree get caught in the crossfire.

      It’s times like this that I’m glad that my country has a Parliamentary System where government shutdown over Budget wrangling is severely unlikely.

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  7. Myth: The government will shut down.
    It will not. The military and all other operations will continue as they are. There is still money in the bank and there are checks in the checkbook. This is more a question of how much and how long, not if, operations continue.
    Expect some serious theatrics: Obama goes back to Chicago, or something similar, pretending that he cannot work in the White House without a budget deal.

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    • No, it doesn’t really work like that. Money in the bank or not (either way… we run a deficit, chief), funds can only be released if authorized by Congress. Essential services don’t stop not because there is money, it goes on because those workers are mandated by law to work during a shutdown. BUT, that doesn’t magically mean nothing is happening. It just means that people like me spend the period working for free and everyone else gets furloughed. In general, this is no problem because Congress usually awards back pay for these things. But it still happens.

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