Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thinking about the government

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again - Bob Dylan "Subterranean Homesick Blues " 1965

Central Park Idyll
A hundred years ago - or was it only 38 - when Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, stood on the steps of Parliament House, Canberra and said, "Maintain your rage!"

Remembrance Day 1975, the same day and month that Australian bush ranger and folk hero Ned Kelly was hanged. November 11th - a day to remember the fallen.

The occasion of Gough Whitlam's speech on the steps of Parliament House in November 1975 was the dismissal of his government by the Australian Governor General.

There had been a deadlock in the parliament. The House of Representatives had passed the government's budget "the Supply Bill", only to have it blocked by the Senate where the governing party did not have a majority.

The Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Mr Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister and appointed Mr Malcolm Fraser, the leader of the opposition in the House, as a caretaker Prime Minister.

The dismissal was the most dramatic event in the history of the Australian federation. For the first time, an unelected vice-regal representative had removed from office a government which commanded a majority in the House of Representatives.

A double dissolution election was held on December 13th 1975, at which the Whitlam Government was soundly defeated.

Australians who were around back then, remember that day November 11th, when the Governor General broke the deadlock. The Australian constitution allowed for other options, but Australians on both sides of the political spectrum did not countenance a shutting down of the government. It was unthinkable.

Here in America, this appears not to be the case - there is no way apparently for the current deadlock to be broken Instead the government is "turned off" until one side caves in, or a compromise is reached and the budget it passed by both house - Congress.

I couldn't' believe it when I first experienced it shortly after I arrived in America in 1995.

During a shutdown, federal employees are "furloughed" - sent home without pay. Federal employees are not the only ones affected - vendors who make a living selling sodas and hot-dogs near national monuments, ferry operators who used to take tourists to the Statue of Liberty, the stock market, people whose retirement savings are held in "401Ks", lots of people in America, and if it goes on much longer, much of the world.

The only way the deadlock can be broken is if there is a compromise. "A really good compromise is the one that leaves both sides equally dissatisfied" - a quote attributed to Winston Churchill.

Great! As well as the adverse effects on the stock market and people's retirement benefits, when the deadlock is finally broken, we are ALL going to be unhappy.

The only consolation is the the Tea Party people will be unhappier than everyone else. They unashamedly want small government. And you cannot get much smaller the zero.

But what I find even scarier than the shutdown, is the reaction of the people here. In Manhattan you would never know the government was shutting down. Life carries on, superficially at least, as normal. In Australia when the Senate refused to pass the budget - or "supply" as we call it in OZ, we were all horrified. And in any case the deadlock lasted a bare two weeks until a temporary government was appointed. And guess what was the first thing the new government did? That's right, they passed the budget.

For of course, it wasn't REALLY about the budget back in Australia in 1975, just as it isn't really about the Affordable Care Act here in the United States. It is about getting rid of the government.

Is this democracy? Not in my book. If it happened in Africa or the Middle East, we would all be horrified. After all WE live in a political stable society.

What was it called when governments were overthrown in the Middle East? "The Arab Spring"?

Guess we are now in the "America Autumn". Or should is say, "Fall"?


Anonymous said...

Check this out:
From our Congresswoman in my district
This morning, I joined House colleagues in signing a discharge petition, a special congressional procedure that allows a majority of members to bypass Speaker Boehner and force an up or down vote on a bill to reopen the government.
Progress? Hope so

Anonymous said...

If you read your Constitution carefully you see a brilliantly executed document that makes it very difficult for one branch to achieve "Divine Right" status. In other words your Constitution makes it pretty damn difficult to govern a country. It's almost a form of slow motion anarchy."

monty said...

Obama should contact Norton and see if they have a fix for the Tea Party virus!

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