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Federal Government Begins First Shutdown In 17 Years (forbes.com)
105 points by ddinh 204 days ago | comments


pkfrank 204 days ago | link

>The bigger issue, he [Vanguard Group Chief Economist Joseph Davis] said, is how much the turmoil raises the “Uncertainty Tax” on the U.S. economy. Policy uncertainty, Davis argues, is already keeping U.S. economic growth down around 2%, when it could be 3% a year.

This is what captures my frustration as well.

It's infuriating that a faction of Tea Partiers is causing such instability. Having campaigned on a promise of doing anything to stop ObamaCare, they've already played their (reckless) hand.

This is bringing a hatchet where you need a scalpel; "ObamaCare" will still go into effect no matter what, and this does nothing more than score political points at the expense of the nation's health.

This is precisely why people hate and subsequently tune out to politics - an unfortunate and dangerous reality.

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kyrra 204 days ago | link

I see it as all parties involved not working together to come to a compromise. Saying it's just one groups fault is not looking at the bigger picture. If there are members of congress that were elected under the notion of fighting a single law (such as ObamaCare), that should be a message that a large portion of the country does not like the law.

I also see it as a failure of our president not getting the 2 sides to play nicely. Obama should be working with both parties to get the government working. From the media quotes I see from him, Obama is playing the blame game, and not actually working to resolve the issues.

The entire federal legislative branch is at fault for the shutdown, not just a select group that you call out. There has always been divide within congress, but the current congress can't figure out how to play nicely together.

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quanticle 204 days ago | link

If there are members of congress that were elected under the notion of fighting a single law (such as ObamaCare), that should be a message that a large portion of the country does not like the law.

Or, alternatively, there is a small fraction of the country willing to do whatever it takes to overrule the wishes of the majority, even if it means shutting down the government. It's childish. President Obama was re-elected in 2012. Rather than acknowledge the fact that they lost this battle, the Republicans are willing to do whatever it takes to re-fight (and re-lose).

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darkarmani 204 days ago | link

> I also see it as a failure of our president not getting the 2 sides to play nicely. Obama should be working with both parties to get the government working. From the media quotes I see from him, Obama is playing the blame game, and not actually working to resolve the issues.

What? Obama had a majority in the senate and the house and still tried to get both parties to work together on obama care. The republicans rejected even the plans that had most of their ideas in them, just because they didn't want obama to get credit. Why would you think he would be able to convince them now?

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invalidOrTaken 204 days ago | link

The power of legislators to delay funding in situations like this should be curtailed.

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001sky 204 days ago | link

It's infuriating that a faction of Tea Partiers is causing such instability

Why is growth not considered a form of instability? Just curious, last time I looked risk and volatility were agnostic to direction.

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icambron 204 days ago | link

Risk is very explicitly directional. E.g. Wikipedia has it as:

> Risk is the potential of loss (an undesirable outcome, however not necessarily so) resulting from a given action, activity and/or inaction

When was the last time you checked?

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001sky 204 days ago | link

Instability is volatility (sigma). check it out.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100630193942AA...

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icambron 204 days ago | link

I didn't even mention volatility or stability. I was challenging your assertion that risk was agnostic to direction. It is not.

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001sky 204 days ago | link

Try this refresher on Risk and Uncertainty

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2010/06/ris...

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wpietri 204 days ago | link

Steady growth is the expected economic baseline. Wild swings in growth, both positive and negative, cause instability. Instability also reduces long-term growth, because the harder it is to predict what will happen, the less people invest.

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dinkumthinkum 201 days ago | link

I don't want to be mean but this is about the worst HN pedantry I could imagine.

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nostromo 204 days ago | link

We all spend so much time focusing on the Federal Government but I doubt many of us will even notice the "shut down."

Compare that with what would happen if your local and state governments shut down: Trash would pile up. Criminals would run free in the streets. Fires wouldn't be put out. Water and electricity would stop. Sewage systems would back up. Schools would close. We're talking about services that are the very cornerstones of modern society.

It really gives you an appreciation for what the state and local governments accomplish.

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nhaehnle 204 days ago | link

The truly positive contribution of a federal government (besides the questionable benefit of military protection) comes in the form of automatic stabilizers for the economy.

When there is a shock to the economy, social safety nets dampen the pain significantly. Local and state governments would never be able to provide a reliable social safety net, because they have to operate on the same principles as every other user of a currency. The federal government can operate on the principles of an issuer of the currency. That is a big difference.

In fact, you can see this difference play out in slow motion in the Eurozone, which still has not recovered from the financial crisis. Things would have played out very different had their been a Eurozone federal government that provides at least the basic components of the social safety nets.

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scottjad 204 days ago | link

This is basically argumentation by story. You told one of many possible stories as if it was obviously and indisputably true. You provided no support for it. What about all the other plausible stories that you ignored?

What if these "stabilizers" (i.e. money creation) are doing more harm than good, or even causing the business cycle? What if social safety hammocks decrease growth? What if welfare provided by prudent local governments through savings, or even private means, are sufficient? What if there are a ton of differences between the Europe and America other than the Federal Reserve?

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wpietri 204 days ago | link

And argumentation by loaded, leading questions is better because...?

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scottjad 204 days ago | link

I'm not arguing the position, I was providing a few examples where people can reasonably disagree with the story that was presented as obvious and definitive and educational.

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nhaehnle 204 days ago | link

The fact that you equate economic stabilizers with money creation strongly suggests that you are not interested in genuine discussion. If you seriously believe that equating those two things is in any way reasonable, then believe me, you're just confused - and if you are genuinely interested in learning more, holler (but it might take a while for me to respond in detail because I'm traveling).

One important point though is that welfare provided by local governments cannot be sufficient. Local governments are entirely dependent on tax revenue and the goodwill of creditors. If a local government is hit badly enough by an economic crisis, they will be unable to continue providing this welfare.

This is especially true if other local governments in the same currency zone are less badly hit by the crisis. In this case, creditors will "flee" towards those other local governments, which creates a vicious cycle.

The previous paragraph is exactly what happened in the Eurozone, except that national governments played the role of local governments.

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mooted1 202 days ago | link

What if the government was behind 9/11?!!!11

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nwzpaperman 204 days ago | link

Fact 1: Government current expenditures directly contribute $5.621 trillion out of $16.6 trillion of US GDP.

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/W022RC1A027NBEA?... http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDP

Fact 2: State and municipal governments have subsidized borrowing costs via the federal tax exemption. I don't know where you live, but are your state and local governments borrowers? What about the road money from the Federal Government?

Fact 3: Private savings come from public deficits

http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=mzu

What if, what if, what if...

Well, you will discover in due time what all of this nets out to and no one will enjoy it. The forces of deflation are far mightier than the forces of inflation for inflation requires persistent and exponentially increasing consumption, fueled by net-borrowing of the combined public and private worlds.

As it turns out, the zombie apocalypse isn't triggered by an infectious disease or rapidly mutating virus. Instead, it's capital destruction via chaining debt defaults.

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steve19 204 days ago | link

"questionable benefit of military protection" ...

You may not like the extent of their protection, or how they go about protecting, but it is childishly naive to suggest the country does not need protection.

But I know it is cool these days to pretend that the military is 100% evil and every dollar spent on it is a total waste.

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drill_sarge 204 days ago | link

I think it's not a matter of having a military but it's relevant how big it is and how much people are working for it (direct or indirect). Keeping the balance. There are so many people working for them or dependent through government contracts in the US, it's shocking (don't know another word for it right now; americans often talk about freedom and free market and so on but so many are dependent on this complex, a huge chunk of their economy is. Like in almost no other country).

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nhaehnle 204 days ago | link

I was not overly precise due to time constraints. The "questionable" part refers to the problem of the military-industrial complex that tends to arise.

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nawitus 204 days ago | link

>In fact, you can see this difference play out in slow motion in the Eurozone, which still has not recovered from the financial crisis. Things would have played out very different had their been a Eurozone federal government that provides at least the basic components of the social safety nets.

I don't understand this argument. Are you claiming that there's no social safety nets in Europe? There are and have been and will still be without a federal government (although I like to argue we already have a defacto federal government).

Just because individual member states provide their own social security and finance it through borrowing money from the central bank(s), doesn't really seem that different from a federal government directly providing social safety nets. In fact, most member states have a way better social security net than United States. I could, in theory, just stop working today and get paid about $1200/month in addition to things like practically free health care and university education. Of course, there are poorer member states that have worse social security.

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pyoung 204 days ago | link

The issue is with the ability to issue currency, not with the social safety net. The sentence that you reference is a little misleading. What was implied, was that if the Eurozone had a federal government with the ability to issue currency, and that same government was also in charge of the social safety net (among other programs), then there wouldn't be as much of a crisis because they could print money to pay for the programs. Because the social safety nets are implemented by the individual countries, and those countries cannot print their own currency, they are currently forced to implement austerity measures. This is why recovery has been so difficult. The last thing you want to do is to cut spending during a recession.

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nhaehnle 204 days ago | link

Thank you for helping with a clarification.

I would add the following: If there had been a federal government, then that government would not even have had to do anything that looked like "printing money" in public discourse.

This is because this federal government would not have had any trouble issuing new debt in the form of bonds. Why not? Because everybody would have known that the European Central Bank would effectively guarantee those bonds under any condition, and therefore there would not have been a panic about the debt in the first place. It's all a psychological game.

As evidence, consider that the fiscal policy part of the US federal government has not done anything that looks like "printing money" up to this point. All they have done is issue bonds, i.e. get loans from creditors.

Yes, the Fed has done things that look like "printing money", but that's monetary policy which has nothing to do with social safety nets.

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nawitus 202 days ago | link

You can "print money" by loaning it from the central banks, which individual member states certainly can do. In fact, that's what all EU members are doing.

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adventured 204 days ago | link

This is a particularly massive point right now.

With 46 million people dependent on food stamps, the only thing separating the US from great depression style bread lines right now is that single program. Especially with the huge plunge in the labor force participation rate and the U6 being at 14%.

The downside to that is program is, the Federal Government is masking just how bad the US economy really is, with a trillion dollars a year of stimulus help from the Fed. Many people believe the economy is healthier than it really is when they read the fake unemployment number of 7.3%.

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NoPiece 204 days ago | link

According to numerous articles, food stamps (SNAP) aren't affected by the shutdown.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/29/20745618-a-govern...

The USDA said food stamps would not be affected in October.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/28/government-shutdown...

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jbooth 204 days ago | link

One facet of the 'shutdown' is that they're not authorized to hand out federal money to states anymore. The states and municipalities are feeling it for every day that this stupid theatre persists.

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cantrevealname 204 days ago | link

If what the state government is doing is useful and wanted, then the state should tax more and the federal government should tax less. This is yet another inefficiency of federal government to act as a middleman.

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quanticle 204 days ago | link

One of the roles of the federal government is to redistribute funds from states that have populations to tax to states that don't. It's difficult to "tax more", if there's no one to tax (e.g. Montana).

It's no coincidence that the most rural, most Republican states are massive consumers of federal funds (via farm subsidies and transportation subsidies, mainly) and the most urban, most Democratic states are net producers of federal funds.

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ars 204 days ago | link

> via farm subsidies and transportation subsidies, mainly

A transportation subsidy might be local (maybe - interstates are national, not local), but farm subsidies end up being distributed nationally since they basically just mean that certain types of food are cheaper than they otherwise might be. So you can't count farm subsidies as "consumers of federal funds".

(It's definitely an artificial distortion of the market, but that's a different argument.)

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quanticle 203 days ago | link

A transportation subsidy might be local (maybe - interstates are national, not local), but farm subsidies end up being distributed nationally since they basically just mean that certain types of food are cheaper than they otherwise might be. So you can't count farm subsidies as "consumers of federal funds".

I'm not sure how the conclusion follows from the premises. Farm subsidies do consume federal funds. Where do you think the funding for the massive pork-barrel farm bills comes from? Moreover, those dollars aren't necessarily passed on to consumers. In theory, the market for farm products is a perfectly competitive market and any subsidy to the market would result in cheaper prices for everyone. In practice, well, Cargill exists. Large agribusinesses are quite capable of taking subsidy rents and stashing them away as profit rather than using them to compete on prices if their market is more like a cartel and less like a perfectly competitive free market.

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ars 203 days ago | link

> Large agribusinesses are quite capable of taking subsidy rents and stashing them away as profit rather than using them to compete on prices if their market is more like a cartel and less like a perfectly competitive free market.

What does this have to do with a subsidy? You can do this identically without a subsidy (assuming you can do it at all). The subsidy just lowers the starting price.

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jarek 204 days ago | link

State politicians and voters in state elections, particularly in states that are net beneficiaries of the federal contributions, are sure to like the idea.

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darkarmani 204 days ago | link

It shouldn't be that hard right? I'm sure we can make those changes in a few days. We'll feed people idealism in the meantime until we have it all switched over.

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superails 204 days ago | link

They don't hand out money everyday to the same people.

And it is not stupid theater. It is our government NOT at work. We may temporarily recover some of our debt. In fact, if they keep this going for an extended period of time, it might actually help- a lot. Our country has become much too dependent on our government, and now that the two political parties can't get along, there may actually be room for another socially moderate, somewhat fiscally-conservative, deficit hawk, constitutionalist, semi-libertarian party with common sense to come along and bring the country together. Unfortunately, it hasn't organized yet (and no, it isn't the Libertarian party- not with its current leaders- and even with better leadership, Libertarians are incapable of getting the debt under control because they won't allow raising taxes to cover for past debt).

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quanticle 204 days ago | link

And it is not stupid theater. It is our government NOT at work. We may temporarily recover some of our debt. In fact, if they keep this going for an extended period of time, it might actually help- a lot. Our country has become much too dependent on our government,

And tell me, when was the nation not dependent on its government? When did this era of "rugged individualism" you speak of exist? Right from its very inception, the US government has been intervening in the economy and subsidizing things that the voters deemed desirable. If the US government has grown, it is because the US has grown. You need a larger government when there are 300 million people in the country than when there are 30 million.

there may actually be room for another socially moderate, somewhat fiscally-conservative, deficit hawk, constitutionalist, semi-libertarian party

So... you want a party of magic faerie unicorns to come along and set everything aright. Er, well, good luck with that.

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true_religion 204 days ago | link

I think many people understand the need for government at the local and state level, its when we get to the federal government that there's problems.

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voxmatt 204 days ago | link

One of the many ironies of a government shutdown is that it always increases debt (unless it were unprecedentedly long, which wouldn't necessarily decrease the debt either, it's just unknown). Think of it like a car on the freeway — you waste gas by slamming the breaks and then stomping on the gas to get back up to speed. Plus, the economic damage a shutdown does will result in suppressed tax incomes at the end of the year.

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singlow 204 days ago | link

No debt will be recovered. They will include a back pay clause when the funding is finally passed and everyone will get payed as if they had worked anyway.

Edit: spelling

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jbooth 204 days ago | link

Actually, I'm pretty sure it costs us money to shut down the government, what with all the disruptions. Less efficient.

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clumsysmurf 204 days ago | link

Mother Jones has a good summary of what this means for us

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/who-gets-screwed...

Some things that surprised me:

* Campers: People living (or vacationing) in national parks and forests will have 48 hours to relocate.

* People who make money off tourists: Shuttered national parks are bad news for the hotels, restaurants, and other attractions that feed off them.

* Employers: The Department of Homeland Security's e-Verify program will be offline for the duration of the shutdown.

* @CuriosityRover: 98 percent of NASA's staff will be furloughed, and the agency's website and live-streams will go dark.

and plenty of more serious things mentioned in the article like

* People on food assistance: The USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will stop making payments on October 1.

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joeyo 204 days ago | link

Also NOAA: http://governmentshutdown.noaa.gov/

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base698 204 days ago | link

I keep wondering if the campers have to leave but the rangers aren't working, then how do they force them to leave?

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jlgreco 203 days ago | link

Rangers are technically law enforcement right? They are probably "essential personnel".

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xerophtye 204 days ago | link

I thought the functions like MediCare and veteran's support program etc were still in effect because the yare paid out in advance. So doesn't that cover food assistance?

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gizmo686 204 days ago | link

Some people actually get paid by the federal government. When these people don't get paid, they are much less likely to spend money, hurting non-government businesses. And the parts of the government that are shutting down also won't be consuming from private business either, again hurting business and the economy.

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cantrevealname 204 days ago | link

Your making the broken window fallacy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

If we didn't have these unwanted government services (or wanted services provided very poorly or at excessive cost), then the taxpayers would spent their money on something else -- something that is wanted -- and it would generate just as many jobs or economic activity in some other way.

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gizmo686 204 days ago | link

Over a sufficiently long term (and assuming that the government is actually less efficient than the market). In the short term, one of the biggest employer and consumer is shutting down for an undefined period of time. That causes real short term economic hardship.

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rob05c 204 days ago | link

The broken window fallacy is only applicable in an economic environment where there is sufficient labor demand and insufficient product supply. America produces more than enough goods for everyone, but there aren't enough jobs.

Besides, which services do you believe are "unwanted?" I agree there are many unnecessary "paper pushers" and managers, but the shutdown affects entire departments. One can't simply stop paying the redundant middle managers, and continue paying prison guards and air traffic controllers.

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pandaman 204 days ago | link

There are no federal firefighters and beat cops outside DC.

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rob05c 204 days ago | link

I stand corrected. I've updated my post to note more common federal positions.

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darkarmani 204 days ago | link

Isn't gov't breaking down actually the broken window? We have to spend more money because of backpay and inefficiencies of a sudden stoppage.

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mayneack 204 days ago | link

I don't see what that has to do with noticing the shut down over the next hours/days/etc

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clarky07 204 days ago | link

well, this is the case for DC. Also, there are a few things you might notice. If you are house hunting hoping for a FHA loan you are screwed for now.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/23/politics/government-shutdown-d...

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singlow 204 days ago | link

Or any loan. The IRS will not be providing your lender with a tax return transcript and your closing will be delayed. I just closed on a conventional loan and the sequester already was delaying the process.

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jMyles 204 days ago | link

Or, for students, their student government. For most US College Students, the student government likely makes more important decisions than any other.

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anigbrowl 204 days ago | link

Oh, you will if it goes on more than a few days. I remember the 1995 one quite well; you may be surprised by the ripple effect.

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mkr-hn 204 days ago | link

I was 11 and busy with more important things (like video games) then, so this is all new to me. Exciting.

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hellcow 204 days ago | link

If the state and local governments gave sufficient notice, private businesses would snap up the new market opportunities. Everything worthwhile would continue as usual, albeit with less waste.

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asabjorn 204 days ago | link

This needs serious backing as evidence seems to show the opposite. For instance, if we pick firefighting as an example what is there evidence that private firefighting is a good idea? In recent history this kind of thinking have led to disasters like in Tennessee:

  - http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39516346/ns/us_news-life/t/no-pay-no-spray-firefighters-let-home-burn/#.UkpUgGSidTp
and during the 1800s private firefighting was a true disaster for homeowners:

  - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tina-dupuy/firefighting-in-the-1800s_b_247936.html
Private companies are great for a lot of things, but I am not sure that I would trust someone that might decide to prioritize a quick short-term profit over a long-term maintenance goal to provide all essential city services (fire, police, sewer, roads, etc).

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tptacek 203 days ago | link

The Tennessee firefighter story has come up on HN before, probably because it was used as an allegory in discussions about the Democratic PPACA health care plan (which I support, ftr).

Some addition fun facts you want to know before making up your mind about what happened in this "disaster":

* The structure that burned down was on unincorporated land outside the tiny town of South Fulton, which is about as far as you can get in Tennessee away from any major metro area (it's approximately equidistant from Memphis and Nashville, near the equally rural southern tip of Illinois and Indiana).

* The owner of the structure deliberately chose to live in an area that had no fire coverage, unlike people who live in incorporated South Fulton and thus contribute directly to the South Fulton FD.

* The owner had no fire coverage because they refused to pay a $75 annual fee to extend coverage to their property.

* The structure that burned down was a doublewide trailer whose value might not have been that much higher than the assessable cost of firefighting service (when this discussion last came up I found numbers ranging from 20k to 50k). You can find estimates on the internet of fire department costs for one incident hovering in the mid-thousands, assuming no complications, and that's the FD's cost basis, not the chargeable cost.

Ultimately I don't think there's much to learn from what happened in Obion County. It will always be possible to situate your home far from the reasonable service area of a fire department, and it seems unreasonable to suggest that merely by doing so, the nearest municipality should be on the hook for providing coverage.

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nknighthb 203 days ago | link

"Individuals make catastrophically bad decisions that the collective can avoid" is a perfectly reasonable lesson to learn from it. Another reasonable lesson is how easily money corrupts people. For want of $75, supposed "firefighters" already on-scene would not even turn their hoses a few inches. I don't know how they sleep at night.

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tptacek 203 days ago | link

What collective? We're talking about people who deliberately excluded themselves from "the collective".

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hellcow 204 days ago | link

By "disasters like in Tennessee," you're referring to a family that lost their home in a fire due to not paying a business for their fire-fighting services.

It's not as if they paid the firefighters, but the firefighters refused to act--if that were the case, there would be a serious civil lawsuit to recoup the cost of the lost home, its sentimental value, and punitive damages.

He didn't pay for fire-fighting. He didn't have enough insurance. And somehow, this is someone else's fault.

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asabjorn 204 days ago | link

Yes, the family had not paid the insurance. But why does that matter in the context of the blanket claim that private companies can always do at least as good of a job as a government organization with less waste?

A city firefighting crew would not refuse to put out this fire so it is an example of a service that was provided at a lower quality in the private market due to market incentives.

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tzs 204 days ago | link

The firefighters in the Tennessee case you cited were city firefighters. There were no private firefighters or private firefighting companies involved.

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jbooth 204 days ago | link

That's gotta be about the least justifiable statement in political-economic commentating history.

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hellcow 204 days ago | link

1. Government is less efficient than a privately owned, profit-seeking company--at least in most cases. If a business is inefficient, an efficient competitor will wipe them out. The same cause and effect doesn't exist for governments, except in the most extreme cases (revolution).

2. Markets that state and local governments dominate are large. Do you really think Waste Management would hesitate to take new markets that were previously controlled via government contract? Or that private prisons wouldn't purchase and run ones that were previously state-controlled? Or that power and water companies wouldn't realize the incredible opportunity to expand into new areas that were previously monopolized through government interference?

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jahmed 204 days ago | link

Your first point is true in idealized situations. There are many circumstances which contribute to the benefit of incumbents. Regulatory capture, first-mover advantage, cartels, price collusion, asymmetric information are just a few tools inefficient incumbents use against new efficient competitors.

Your example of waste, power, and water are a few cases where people, I think, support the government granted monopoly status. These industries have huge fixed costs and generate large externalities. Reliable waste management is a communal concern with clear risks to public health. I'd rather not have the trash company decide my neighborhood is too far to service weekly and switches to monthly pickup.

Government exists as a function of the people to balance externalities. Does it go to far sometimes? Sure. But when people are actively engaged though government can be a force for good.

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mehwoot 204 days ago | link

Do you really think a private police force paid for by a particular group of individuals would be a fair and neutral enforcer of laws?

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mehwoot 204 days ago | link

Yeah I'm sure private policing would work great.

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jMyles 204 days ago | link

Are you suggesting the state policing is working well?

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zalzane 204 days ago | link

Yes, because privatization worked so well for the prison system.

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drill_sarge 204 days ago | link

I also recall something about private tax debt collectors who basically took peoples homes. Some things should not be privatized or "optimized" for maximum efficiency.

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throwaway420 204 days ago | link

I really hate that the media has labeled this a government shut down.

Is the NSA going to stop spying on us? Are they still printing money? Are corporate subsidies still proceeding as normal? Will they stop taxing us? Will they stop giving out checks to the military industrial complex? Will they stop military attacks? Will we still be felt up at airports? Are they still going to throw people behind bars for illegal plants?

The reality is that all of the worst parts of the government are still running.

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Aloisius 204 days ago | link

About half the DoD is going home (civilian side). Also the IRS will stop all audits since it is losing a huge chunk of its staff.

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ewoodrich 204 days ago | link

I'm sure that the 98% of NASA staff that will be furloughed will consider it to be shutdown.

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jMyles 204 days ago | link

Nailed it. I'm surprised there isn't more talk about this.

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Q6T46nT668w6i3m 204 days ago | link

Yeah! Treasonous National Parks!

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vacri 204 days ago | link

Will they stop taxing us?

Taxes are not evil, bad, or wrong. Excessive taxes are something you can argue about, but the mere existence of them is not evidence of evil.

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throwaway420 204 days ago | link

Thanks for clarifying for me what opinions I'm allowed to have.

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vacri 204 days ago | link

It appears that you don't think I should be allowed to share opinions of my own. This is curious, given your clear opposition to the trappings of oppression.

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aroman 204 days ago | link

I think he was objecting to your presentation of your opinion as axiomatic fact.

(Notice, for what it's worth, that I said "I think" and not "Actually, he was". The core meaning is the same, but the former phrasing makes it more clear that I am aware the statement was my opinion. Acknowledging that something you say is an opinion is an important part of having a healthy discussion, I think.)

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throwaway420 204 days ago | link

> Excessive taxes are something you can argue about

* I mainly took objection with the implication of your use of the phrase "you can argue about". To me, that phrase either implies that you're saying that I'm not allowed to argue some alternative position, or that somehow my position is the logical equivalent of 1 + 1 = blue.

* I don't have a problem if you disagree with my political viewpoint. In fact, I welcome interesting objections because I usually learn more about peoples' motivations and that helps open up my mind and sharpens my own positions.

* I don't fear a debate about the ethics of taxation and would gladly engage in one with you if you wanted, but I think that would be a further derail from this thread. My main point in posting my original statement was to point out how inaccurate the media is in calling this a shut down when many of the biggest parts of the underlying system keep on trucking.

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ThomPete 204 days ago | link

Claiming that taxes are evil or good is hardly HN material. You are entitled to your opinion but please focus on factual matters, not just opinion pieces. I am sure we all have ours.

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davidw 204 days ago | link

This whole article is not HN material, really. You can see why, too: most of the comments are extremely predictable, and predictably bad.

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001sky 204 days ago | link

Claiming that taxes are evil or good is hardly HN material.

There was no such claim. Irony is not logic. Have the thought police out-lawed it on HN?

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rhelmer 204 days ago | link

Not sure who counts as "military industrial complex", but the Pentagon has already said that troops will not be paid: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gC5rwPOPz...

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chaz 204 days ago | link

Hours before the shutdown, Obama signed a bill that granted an exception to the military, ensuring it will continue to operate and troops will be paid: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/government-shutdown-se...

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icambron 204 days ago | link

Which is also in the article:

>But 1.4 million uniformed members of the military will stay on the job and will be paid, thanks to a last-minute bill unanimously passed by both houses and signed by Obama on Monday night.

Which goes to show that no matter how dysfunctional our government becomes it will go to any length to ensure that it's still capable of killing lots of people.

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tedunangst 204 days ago | link

Someone else might rephrase that as "no matter how dysfunctional our government becomes it will go to any length to ensure that those people who are asked to die in its name still receive the token remuneration promised them."

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icambron 204 days ago | link

"...and thus can continue being asked to die in its name."

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twoodfin 204 days ago | link

Not so: The House, Senate and President got a military pay bill in under the wire.

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/government-shutdown-se...

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selmnoo 204 days ago | link

It is worth noting, incidentally, that the DoD is the largest employer in the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_employers

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icambron 204 days ago | link

Which I think says something very sad about our national priorities.

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ars 204 days ago | link

That we prioritize jobs?

The DOD is a jobs program, with a side benefit of being a military. But mainly it's a jobs program that also does basic research and engineering.

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icambron 204 days ago | link

All the other jobs being furloughed are also jobs. Why not prioritize them instead?

It seems crazy to say, "yeah, those people we hired because we actually want them to work should go unpaid first, and the people we hired just as a jobs program should be kept hell or high water."

Edit: s/laid off/go unpaid

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ars 204 days ago | link

I misunderstood you, I thought you were talking about the DOD being the largest employer, and our priorities about it existing.

As for funding it, it's just because it was an easy vote, not because of priorities.

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icambron 204 days ago | link

Er, right. Reading back through the thread, I can see how that was confusing. My fault.

As you've now surmised, I was just complaining about the military's special status vis-a-vis the shutdown, for which "that's a lot of jobs!" is inapposite. But while we're on it, I guess I should say this: I'm for the government providing jobs, but I am against them being in the military, and strongly believe they should be employed more productively and less violently. I can think of a lot of things a make-work program could fix but I can't think of anyone I want to kill.

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ars 204 days ago | link

These days the military is violent very very rarely. And it could be just as violent even if it's was a 1/10 of the current size.

Most of the money goes toward hardware, which means engineers, construction, and the like. And toward eduction - of all sorts, from simply paying tuition to basic training to self discipline.

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icambron 204 days ago | link

> And it could be just as violent even if it's was a 1/10 of the current size.

While the number of people actively shooting other people is in relative terms small, to the extent it does happen, it happens because we have a large enough force to occupy other countries and make the absolute numbers pretty high. For example, almost half the active military from 2002-2005 was at one point deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan [1]. We just couldn't have had those wars without 1/10th the military without significantly changing how we wage war. At some level, it's possible that we could be equally violent with a tiny fraction of the military manpower and budget, and the same is true of, say, the Netherlands. But it would be wildly impractical, so in practice countries like the Netherlands don't do it. We're violent because our budget makes being violent easy for us.

> Most of the money goes toward hardware, which means engineers, construction, and the like

I need to be convinced of two things there. First, that it's actually true. The two largest categories (which together make up a solid majority) are "Operations and maintenance" and "Military personnel" [2]. I don't understand what's in that first category, but since there are separate categories for procurement, R&D, and construction, it's not those (education does presumably fall under "military personnel"). (In general, I've always found good numbers on exactly how the military spends its money hard to come by.)

And second, I'm very skeptical that as far as job programs go, the military is a very good one compared to other ways of spending that money. To begin with, the military doesn't create nearly as many useful things. Designing and building bombers might have ancillary positive effects in terms of R&D and employment, but the bombers themselves are only useful for bombing, and mostly just sit around and being ready to bomb things. But what if we made really fancy civilian aircraft instead? It would have those effects and we'd end up with all these really useful planes! Similarly, a lot of the infrastructure the military builds is in far-away countries, or is of transient or at least limited use. Soldiers are getting paid and engineers are building, but they're not really adding much value. Compare that to building bridges or researching solar panel technology.

Next, the primary reason for having make-work programs is that the people receiving all the money are also consumers, meaning the money is fed back into the economy and stimulating further economic activity. The military is terrible at that because a lot of the money is actually spent overseas developing other country's economies.

All of that is to say: assuming we want to spend a few billion dollars on construction, training, R&D, and personnel, why do we prefer to spend through the military instead through other stuff? My guess is that we do it that way because we've always done it that way, and not because it's optimal or even rational.

[1] http://usmilitary.about.com/od/terrorism/a/deploymentrates.h... [2] http://medillonthehill.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/DOD-Bu...

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wavesounds 204 days ago | link

I think he means the contracts are still in place for building more weapons and those weapons will continue being used despite the fact that soldiers and their families will not be receiving their pay.

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drill_sarge 204 days ago | link

bill was passed right before to pay them. I don't think they want to risk not to pay the biggest police/military complex ever.

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