Starving the Beast ~ Government Shutdown and the ACA
If you are an American citizen you might be wondering if there is any political gain to be had by the current shutdown. It would seem like the answer is obviously no. You kill dozens of services, cut off food to impoverished women and children, and put almost a million people out of work and something like another two million out of pay. This sounds like political suicide.
That is unless you understand the policy of starving the beast.
“Starving the beast” is a political strategy employed by American conservatives in order to limit government spending by cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force the federal government to reduce spending. The short and medium term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States public debt rather than reduce spending. – Wikipedia
The idea is simple and I’m going to try and illustrate. Let’s say that you just found out that your school is getting a new soccer program. You hate soccer (in this story) and you want this unamerican tripe out of your school. You want to prove that nobody likes soccer and that it will be a waste of funding so you block any source of revenue for the program. The school can’t afford to get balls, can’t afford a coach, if they need a field or field trips they can’t afford any of these things. Because of this nobody signs up for soccer because there is nothing to sign up for.
Then you come back around during the next funding commission and you say “See! Nobody likes soccer! Soccer is Nazi socialist propaganda sent to our school to make our kids gay!”
Since I’ve been alive I’ve seen the tactic used many times. Dozens that I’m aware of and likely hundreds of major examples in 27 years. It requires you be heartless and single minded in your beliefs but as a political tool it is unusually effective.
Now imagine someone comes along and introduces a new healthcare program. This program puts pressure on the insurance companies and other interest groups that are giving you many times your congressional salary a year in “gifts”. Because you lack any semblance of a soul you naturally look for ways to kill this program. Problem is that if people find out how it actually works they’ll end up liking it. So what you need to do is mislead them heavily.
If that’s not working you move onto the next plan. You try and defund the program. Because if there is no money going to the program they will be unable to actually do all those good things that you don’t want happening. This is part one of a two part process.
An effort to pass a stop-gap bill to provide temporary money has stalled in Congress: Republicans have insisted they will not approve the stop-gap measure unless Democrats agree to block money for President Obama’s healthcare law, and Democrats have refused to do that. – LA Times
Notice the wording. They aren’t trying to change the law or protest that it is illegal. They are trying to block funding so that it fails. The reality does not fit their narrative so they are changing reality. Somewhat like gay cure camps but possibly even more nefarious (though I don’t think there should be a contest).
The next part is you need to calm people down while you gut something they would or do like. You will initially get some blowback because people remember things that are immediately impacting them.
Watch this episode and listen to all the soundbites from Fox. A bunch of privately employed people speaking to statistically mostly privately employed viewers about how the government shutdown isn’t hurting them or anyone. The idea here is to muster support behind the starvation. To make light of cutting WIC funding (cause feeding babies is lame) and other major service cuts as if its all as simple as not being able to visit a national park.
After this it is a bit like making a good cup of tea. You just wait. If you keep the message going strong that it was not your plan and that you are sad by this starvation you will, with time, alter the history people remember and your message will become reality. This won’t work with everyone, it never works with everyone, but it will work with the people currently most likely to vote. With the incredible efficiency of gerrymandering this is further enhanced.
In this particular case I do suspect that politicians against the ACA will lose. It’s a bit like fighting against homosexuality or minorities. There are some things that are just so far on the side of rationality that even crazy people just buck up and accept them after a while.
Curiously the government has been shutdown and yet people still need to pay taxes for the days it is down. That is probably the most interesting ramification. I say interesting because I find most everything else unfortunate and sad rather than interesting.
There you go, a simple political tool that is used every single election cycle. Planned Parenthood and Acorn were two very popular examples of this in the “recent” past. You can find dozens more with minimal effort. The tactic requires the audience be stupid and gullible though. If you feel you are neither it most certainly is something to be offended by.
PS. A careful eye will also notice that they made exceptions for all services that had a high likelihood of hurting them politically. The military is safe, Medicare is safe, Social Security is safe, as are most entitlements. If anything this should be a strong reminder that you should vote and vote often. If this is effecting you it is because you don’t endanger them.