Party Like It’s 1995

We’ve seen this movie before. This time, the role formerly played by Newt Gingrich is covered by John Boehner. Bill Clinton has become Barack Obama.

The script is a little bit different, though. The spending cuts proposed are three times the size of that in 1995, as a percentage of the discretionary budget. The amounts in dollars are, naturally, much larger still. But there are some other key changes this time around.

Boehner has nowhere near the charisma that Gingrich had. The 1994 election was led by Gingrich, and the Georgia Representative had very clear control over the Republican membership in the House. I’m sure dissent existed, but it was never in public, with the 11th Commandment in full force. Today, the Tea Party is fighting with the O part of the GOP over the party priorities, in full view of the public.

On the other side of the aisle, Obama, while a better orator, seems less politically savvy than Bill Clinton. While it’s true that health care reform passed during Obama’s first two years, and homosexuals are now likely to be able to openly serve in the military, Clinton had a more clearly (or perhaps more openly) directive relationship with Democrats in Congress.

Will this mean a different outcome this time? After all, the shutdown of 1995 was during a different time; things change. And Gingrich forever lost what little support he had when he publicly announced that he shut down the government because Clinton had made him sit in the back of Air Force One. One can assume that Boehner, at least, won’t be in such a position to torpedo the effort.

But Gingrich was already on the losing side before his gaffe. The public can be counted on to hate government…until it’s not there. As Joni Mitchell put it, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” The sudden disappearance of all “non-essential” government services is far more shocking to witness than is the slow erosion that happens via stepwise decreased funding over time. There is no doubt that the public will be upset by a shutdown. But who will get the blame?

In 1995, Clinton effectively used the bully pulpit to make it clear that it was the Republicans’ unwillingness to pass a continuing resolution that was the ultimate cause. This year, Obama should have a similar upper hand. I’d expect Obama to have a greater advantage in that he has publicly been willing to discuss spending cuts.

In the end, I predict that a shutdown will damage the Republicans again, as it did in 1995. We’ll probably have spending cuts, but they’ll be smaller than what the Tea Party wants, and not as partisan in their targeting.

What I’ll be most interested to see is the impact on the relationship between the two primary factions of the Republican Party. Given that the Tea Party candidates are especially unwilling to compromise, could we find a portion of the Republican Party voting with the Democrats against the Tea Party Caucus members? If nothing else, it could be very entertaining to watch.

If only the stakes weren’t so serious.


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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36 Responses to Party Like It’s 1995

  1. rgbact says:

    Good post. The media is definitely pushing the tale of what a disaster 1995 was for the GOP. I guess gaining 2 Senate seats in 1996 means a rejection of GOP tactics, but when the Dems lose 60+ House seats, it means people love Pelosi’s leadership.

    I hope the GOP sticks to the cuts. In 1995, the Dems were far more reasonable with Clinton, a moderate governor and Dick Gephardt, a midwestern House leader–it was tough for Newt to paint them as unreasonable . Today’s Dem party with Obama/Pelosi is so out on the fringes—they should not be compromised with. We wouldn’t even be having this discussion had the Dems done their job and passed a budget.

  2. shortchain says:

    rgbact,

    I’ve read your comment three times now and I just don’t understand: on what particular issues are Obama or Pelosi “out on the fringes”? (Please note that they are not joined at the hip — and you’ve forgotten that raging left-wing ideologue Harry Reid, who will have something to say as well in legislative agendas).

    I’m out here on the left fringe myself, as I will freely admit, but, although I can see Pelosi from here (she’s not close), Obama is nowhere in sight.

  3. mclever says:

    shortchain,

    Conan joked last night that Obama drives down the center and pisses everyone off. (He was using it as a basketball analogy, but it fits in more ways than one.)

  4. Brian says:

    I was only 8 years old when this happened last time, so can someone fill me in on what it was like when it happened in 1995?

  5. rgbact says:

    SC-

    Just from their background–Obama is a guy from the Chicago south side with no executive experience and Pelosi represents one of the 10 most liberal districts in the country. Contrast that with Clinton, who was a ex-governor from a red state who had to balance budgets and Gephardt who was also from a red state. Clearly Dem leadership is far more liberal than in the mid 90′s and it should be much easier to paint them as not dealing in fiscal reality.

    Clinton ended up caving to alot of GOP ideas, but I think the 2 sides are too far apart now to make any deals. Not sure how a shutdown is avoided. Just having Obamacare is almost too much to get past.

  6. shortchain says:

    rgbact,

    No, I asked you for specific issues and positions on those issues, not a regurgitation of backgrounds. I’m quite familiar with the backgrounds in question, thanks.

    The “Chicago politician” theme is merely an attempt at guilt by association, not a logical argument.

  7. Bartbuster says:

    Just from their background–Obama is a guy from the Chicago south side with no executive experience

    What has that got to do with how liberal he is?

  8. rgbact says:

    SC-

    All I can do is compare them to other leaders. There are many issues—I’m just trying to see how your average “good government” moderate voter will perceive things. Heck, even the Wisconsin unions have readily agreed to givebacks and the Feds are in way worse financial shape than Wisconsin. Not agreeing to some givebacks when we know we have record deficits and spending has jumped recently just seems like a tough sell to a moderate voter.

  9. shortchain says:

    rgbact,

    I’m not convinced that you are in a position to see how your ‘average “good government” moderate voter’ sees things, not when you spout the “Chicago politics” slur. I also observe that you don’t specify which “givebacks” Obama or Pelosi have not agreed to.

    I’m wondering when the wealthy are going to give up the “givebacks” they’ve enjoyed under the Bush tax cuts in order to help balance the budget.

  10. rgbact says:

    SC-

    I admit I can’t identify with a moderate.

    As for the Bush tax cut give back, maybe that becomes part of a deal. It would have to be part of entitlement reform in April though. Heck, I would agree to Cap and Trade if we could scrap Obamacare/get real entitlement reform. I wouldn’t be for a tax hike in exchange for some general cost cuts. It’d have to be a structural reform.

  11. shortchain says:

    rgbact,

    Wouldn’t we all love to have real health insurance and entitlement reform. But first we have to get through the next two weeks without a government shutdown. Personally, I don’t think the prospects look good, because I don’t think the House GOP caucus is sufficiently unified to come to an agreement with itself, let alone the Democratic caucus.

    They’ve been handed power, but it doesn’t seem like they really know what they want to do with it.

  12. rgbact,

    I guess gaining 2 Senate seats in 1996 means a rejection of GOP tactics

    Really? That’s where you’re going to go with this? OK, then…
    The target of the Republican Party in their 1995 shutdown was to gain the Presidency in 1996, and hold or increase gains in both the House and Senate. Republicans lost nine seats in the House (a respectable showing, IMO), which wasn’t enough for Gingrich to hold his position as Speaker of the House. Rather than fight that battle within the party, he resigned. Do you honestly think he would have resigned had it all been considered a win for him?

    but when the Dems lose 60+ House seats, it means people love Pelosi’s leadership.

    And I said something to that effect where? Go ahead, you can search this site…

  13. dcpetterson says:

    rgbact,
    In 1995, the Dems were far more reasonable with Clinton, a moderate governor and Dick Gephardt, a midwestern House leader–it was tough for Newt to paint them as unreasonable .

    You do realize, the Republicans demonized Gephardt for being a radical leftist, and accused Clinton of being a socialist, for the entire time the two of them were in leadership positions, right? I mean, you knew that, didn’t you?

  14. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    I seem to recall that the more Bill Clinton co-opted traditional Republican positions, the more they screamed that he was a raging liberal socialist French-sympathizing commie.

  15. dcpetterson says:

    rgbact,

    The PPACA is not going to be repealed, neither on its own, nor as part of any deal. It is certainly hypocritical to argue for its repeal as part of a “deficit cutting” measure, when it reduces the deficit by a couple of hundred billion dollars over the next decade. Furthermore, people already like the aspects which have already been put into place — children can’t be denied insurance for having pre-existing conditions, insurance companies can’t drop you on a whim, their rate hikes are being monitored and must be approved, kids can stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, there are no more annual or lifetime maximum benefit payouts, etc. etc. etc.

    Insurance companies like the PPACA too — 30 million new customers coming soon. Insurance companies contribute heavily to GOP candidates.

    No, the PPACA will never be repealed. And the House Republicans’ kabuki theater of the absurd as exercised in their melodramatic attempt to de-fund it is simply laughable — it may briefly delay some of the other provisions that Americans want, and thus continue to piss off the voters, but that’s about it.

    A sizable plurality — in some polls, an outright majority — want the PPACA to remain as it is, or to be kept and expanded. A shrinking minority wants it repealed. A smaller minority wants it de-funded. If the Republicans continue to push this, they’ll pay heavily in 2012.

    And by the way – the 2010 election was all about jobs, which the Republicans have been ignoring ever since the 112th Congress got sworn in. Mr. Boehnor, where are the job? I’ll tell you where — when the Republicans shut down the federal government, there will be still more people without a paycheck. If the Republicans get their partisan spending cuts, there will be tens of thousands more unemployed people.

    For the sake of ideological theater (the Republicans’ suggested cuts are about a social agenda, not about the deficit), they’re willing to throw tens of thousands of American voters into the streets and under the bus. That’ll play well in 2012, too.

    Not to mention having the public once again learn why they actually love government services when they stop. VA checks, social security checks, access to Federal parks, food inspectors off the job, Medicare and Medicaid shutdowns, the list will be frightening. And the Republicans will get the blame.

  16. Brian,
    That’s a very general question. My recollection (probably colored by time) is that each side tried to paint the other side as responsible for the shutdown, but that the shutdown itself highlighted to many the value of government services, which weakened the Republicans’ position. That might have been something they could overcome, but then Gingrich made his back-of-the-airplane statement, and it was all over. The general consensus became “He’s hurting all of us because he felt snubbed by the President???” From then on, there was nothing the Republicans could have said to avoid a loss.

  17. VA checks, social security checks, access to Federal parks, food inspectors off the job, Medicare and Medicaid shutdowns, the list will be frightening. And the Republicans will get the blame.

    The checks won’t stop (they didn’t stop in 1995, and there’s no reason to believe they’d stop in 2011), but the rest will happen. And the reason Republicans will be most likely to get the blame is pretty simple. Republicans consistently publicly state that they don’t like these programs, while Democrats consistently publicly state that they do. So when they stop, it looks like a Republican outcome.

    That the blame is assigned based on incomplete information doesn’t change the political outcome.

  18. rgbact says:

    DC-

    If you think PPACA will reduce the deficit…..it confirms that the 2 sides are so far apart that there is no way to compromise. I’ll be suprised if any moderate believes that. Some of us actaully reveiwed CBO’s projections and aren’t just swallowing talking points. Please read Richard Foster’s (CMS’s actuary) report which highlights many faulty PPACA assumptions.

    Get ready for failed govenment! Or a Chinese repo.

  19. rgbact,

    I’ll be suprised if any moderate believes that. Some of us actaully reveiwed CBO’s projections and aren’t just swallowing talking points.

    Funny, you don’t write like a moderate. Were you intending to claim to be one?

    Get ready for failed govenment! Or a Chinese repo.

    You sound excited at the prospect. Would you care to elaborate? And, while you’re at it, you can explain what you think a “Chinese repo” will look like.

    Oh, and while you’re at it, you can explain what’s wrong with the Federal Reserve system, and with what it should be replaced. I’ve asked you twice, nicely. This is the third time.

    (Meanwhile, I’m reading Foster’s report.)

  20. shortchain says:

    rgbact,

    A lot of us have read Richard Foster’s report. Carefully. Including the conclusions and caveats.

    Nobody can predict the future with perfect accuracy, and Foster is not special in that regard. He’s not more credible than the CBO, for instance, which remains the producer of the best predictions we have, in general.

    The PPACA may or may not reduce the deficit — but the bottom line is that it will allow us to reduce pretty drastically the number of uninsured people in this country, and at pretty small cost, even taking Foster’s warnings verbatim.

    And there remains the quite probable outcome that he’s unduly pessimistic, and the result will turn out better.

    I don’t know where the suggestion of a “Chinese repo” or “failed state” comes from, but I think those are highly unlikely, at least in the next ten years.

  21. shortchain says:

    I didn’t see Michael’s comment until I hit the button. Didn’t mean to pile on.

  22. shortchain,
    Your comment came from one who had read the report. I haven’t finished reading it yet (it’s big, unsurprisingly). From what I’ve seen thus far, though, I think my position would be similar to yours on this…though I’m less convinced that he is unduly pessimistic. Until we, as a nation, have a rational discussion about how much we (both collectively and as individuals) are willing to spend to extend someone’s life, we will be unable to get costs under control.

  23. dcpetterson says:

    shortchain, you raise an important issue. Presenting the PPACA merely in terms of its effect on Federal spending misses the point. The reason it exists is that in America we’ve got over 30 million uninsured people, and none of the rest of us can count on our insurance actually paying for anything. There is a health care crisis, the private sector has failed miserably, and it is past time to repair it. The PPACA does not fix everything — and gods know, it’s got flaws. But it’s a giant leap in the right direction.

    George Lakoff’s recent article, which is discussed here, provides the reason for the Republican opposition — and it has nothing to do with the budget.

    Repeal PPACA — and replace it with what, exactly? And what has this got to do with the deficit?

    The answer to that second question is, “nothing, really,” which is the same answer as applies to the other cuts the Republicans are willing to shut down the government over. Seriously, even if they get their way, and they gut these programs they’ve been trying to kill for decades — our deficit for next year will go from about $1.5 trillion to about $1.44 trillion. It’s less than a drop in the bucket. It’s about a far-right radical social agenda, not about the deficit. It’s hypocrisy on the hoof.

    And by the way — Where are the jobs?

  24. rgbact says:

    MW-

    The Fed replacement is above my paygrade. Its obviously a tough/complex issue. Peter Schiff has some interesting ideas. My only point was that the Fed and loose money are the biggest corporate welfare programs we have today. Loose money is also a hallmark of progressivism.

    And again, I’m not a moderate. But I do have lib leaning/moderate friends that seem to agree with me more and more on spending issues. People that hated Bush.

  25. GROG says:

    @DC and Michael,

    We have a national debt of $14 trillion, a federal deficit of $1.5 trillion, and states, cities, and counties are on the verge of bankruptcy across the country. The American people understand that we cannot go on like this any longer. That’s why Republicans won the House, won over 700 state legislature positions, and won 10 governorships in November. The people voted. Elections have consequences. The past week is the first time I’ve thought a Republican has a chance to beat Obama in ’12.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/146234/Number-Solidly-Democratic-States-Cut-Half.aspx

    @DC,

    You’re correct that PPACA will never be repealed. The real problem with the bill is that it’s unconsitutional. It’s been ruled that way twice by two different US District judges and it will make it’s way to the Supreme Court.

    Mr. Boehnor, where are the job?

    He’s been Speaker for 6 weeks. Why don’t you ask Obama? He’s been President for 2 years. Why don’t you ask Pelosi and Reid? They ran Congress for 4 years.

  26. Bartbuster says:

    The American people understand that we cannot go on like this any longer.

    Odd that the American people didn’t understand this as we were pissing away $2 BILLION per week in the Iraq Disaster.

  27. dcpetterson says:

    GROG,

    How do you propose to balance the budget? Seriously, what’s your solution? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m asking what you would do. As we all know, the current Republican job-killing far-right social agenda proposal will do nothing to help. So what would you do?

    And is the current federal debt (which is far less, as a percent of the GDP, than it was at the end of WW2) more or less important than health care and eight million unemployed from the Bush collapse? Is the debt more or less important than tax giveaways to the immensely wealthy, while they’re already sitting on trillions of dollars that they’re not investing?

    And you can say that the PPACA is unconstitutional if you wish. SCOTUS hasn’t weighed in on that yet, so it’s just arguments among those of us with no hand in the decision. It looks perfectly constitutional from where I sit. It has been ruled as perfectly constitutional by two different US District judges. (And the two judges you mentioned only disliked the “individual mandate” provision, which was a Republican idea anyway.) Regardless, that doesn’t impact the arguments I made. The Republican attempt to keep it as an issue has nothing to do with the deficit. So we’re in agreement on that part.

  28. rgbact,

    The Fed replacement is above my paygrade. Its obviously a tough/complex issue.

    And yet you had a pretty clear opinion of “Federal Reserve is bad” just yesterday. It’s never a good sign when one has an opinion about something but cannot articulate the underlying issues. It usually means that one isn’t thinking, but is rather parroting. I sincerely hope that’s not the case with you. Here’s your chance:

    Loose money is also a hallmark of progressivism.

    You’ve said this several times already. Now it’s time for you to put some of your own words behind it. What do you define as “loose money,” and what examples can you point to of its application in American economic history?

    I’m not a moderate

    At least you recognize that.

    I do have lib leaning/moderate friends that seem to agree with me more and more on spending issues.

    I won’t speak on behalf of anyone else at this site, but I, too, am troubled by the way money is spent by government. But as an unabashed Keynesian, I don’t think that focusing on spending cuts during a time of near-double-digit unemployment is a sensible plan of action. And I question the integrity of a political party that for three decades now only cares about deficits when they don’t hold the White House.

  29. GROG,

    We have a national debt of $14 trillion, a federal deficit of $1.5 trillion, and states, cities, and counties are on the verge of bankruptcy across the country.

    All true statements.

    The American people understand that we cannot go on like this any longer.

    I don’t believe that they do, in any visceral sense. They’re told that it’s bad, but, aside from a few people who have a much-better-than-average understanding of economics, none can explain why that’s true.

    That’s why Republicans won the House, won over 700 state legislature positions, and won 10 governorships in November.

    See, this is a classic example of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Your first sentence was true, and the Republican win is true, therefore, the deficit caused the Republican win. Exit polls told a different story, though, so I’m inclined to believe that the two were not correlated.

  30. Mr. Universe says:

    He’s (Boehner) been Speaker for 6 weeks. Why don’t you ask Obama?

    And ALL that he’s done is try to dismantle social programs and Obama’s Presidency. Defunding health care, defunding Planned Parenthood, and taking on Abortion?!? COME ON!!!!! He has no plans for Job creation while Obama put forth several plans that dealt with transportation, renewable energy, and infrastructure.

    Boehner? Uttered three words that will go down in history about people losing their jobs, “So be it” (Followed by repeating three historic words from some other dude, “Read my lips”). Classy

    Republicans are enemies of the state.

  31. Monotreme says:

    Brian,

    I will do the opposite of Michael, and offer a very specific point of view.

    At the time it happened, I was attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting. I believe it was in San Diego that year. As was the usual practice, the entire neuroscience-related scientific staff of the National Institutes of Health were there, catching up on research, discussing pending grants with scientists, and generally doing what NIH program officers do at those meetings which is to try and sniff out the very best research and see that it gets funded.

    For weeks, we had all seen the showdown coming but I think it’s safe to say that none of us believed it could actually happen, nor did we really think about the ramifications if it came to pass.

    Then it did.

    Federal workers were ordered home immediately. That meant that valuable tax dollars were being spent on walk-up fares and change fees for flights that had been booked months in advance at cheap rates. The futility and irony of that was overwhelming to me. I was also impressed by the discouragement and non-partisan anger that was expressed by these government workers, whose lives had been turned upside down by the inability of adults to act like adults.

    My most vivid memory of that time was the entire NIH display (occupying maybe several thousand square feet, an impressive chunk of real estate because many of the Institutes had their own booths) all packed up and ready to go in wooden crates, right there in the middle of a meeting with 30,000 attendees two days before its scheduled end. It was surreal.

    As MW said upthread, the narrative was balanced on a knife-edge. It could’ve gone either way, because there were good arguments to be made from both points of view. Either through luck or political acumen, the Democratic position was strengthened by the way the narrative was played (“they are shutting down visits to the Smithsonian! Little kids have no museums to go to!”) and by Speaker Gingrich making President Clinton look like an adult, which was hard to do.

    Also, I’d remind everyone that during the government shutdown was when the famous and ultimately very important encounter between Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton occurred. So there was that outcome as well, but that was more of a three-year ticking timebomb which became an inevitable confrontation when Sen. Bob Dole lost in 1996 and Clinton remained President.

  32. Mr. Universe says:

    PPACA was designed to stem the rise in long term health care costs while providing coverage for all Americans. That Republicans don’t see that or don’t care about it isn’t surprising.

  33. Mr. U,
    I’ve looked at the legislation, and I can’t see that PPACA does much to address the cost of health care. It shifts the payments around more than anything else. Maybe we need another PPACA article. :)

  34. rgbact says:

    8 days till shutdown. Senators are busily finishing up their vacation. Maybe some are hanging out in IL with WI Dems who have similarly decided to run away from their jobs. Obama is hosting a concert. At least we have gay marriage back.

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