Fork you, America: political chess move attacking Obamacare & budget creates win-win for Republicans, big business

In chess, a fork is a tactic whereby a single piece makes two or more direct attacks simultaneously. It’s typically difficult or impossible to defend both attacked pieces.

A core group of conservative Republicans created the political equivalent of a fork: defund or delay Obamacare or we’ll shut down the government. Democrats, and much of the pundit class, have been shaking their heads, wringing their hands, verily clutching their pearls in aghast shock. They have applied all sorts of mannered logical arguments against the tactic, which can be summarized as:

  • Implementation of Obamacare will not be affected by a government shutdown
  • Obama will not give up his “signature achievement”
  • Shutting down the government actually costs money, and thus is wasteful
  • This could hurt the recovery

They tried to reason with those Republicans in much the same way that a parent might use their sing-song “adult” voice when trying to reason with a child in full throttle temper tantrum. And they were about as effective as that parent, which is to say not very.

The Democrats and the pundits are all missing the point, though. The Republicans DON’T CARE what happens, because to them either outcome is a win.

“We have a number of Republican senators and lots of Republican House members who don’t believe in government,” [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said on the Senate floor. “They want to get rid of it, and they’re doing everything they can to get rid of it.”

It’s obvious that delaying or defunding Obamacare would be a win for those Republicans. (It would also set a dangerous precedent: the child would realize that all they have to do is throw a hard enough tantrum, and they will get their way.) What is not immediately obvious – but should be once you Continue reading

Texas: where the government hamstrings itself with laws that prevent laws.

The article headline: “Texas lawmakers following up on the deadly April explosion in West hesitated Monday to support new regulations for storing, moving and insuring ammonium nitrate in the state.”

Judging from this example, the laws in Texas – such as they are – seem to be more in the business interest rather than in the interest of voters. I was amazed to learn that, although the state has a fire marshal, it has no fire code. Now, I suppose I could say “Although the state has no fire code, it has a fire marshal” if I wanted to try to make some sarcastic point about overbloated gummint bureaucracies, but this isn’t about that. The serious issue is about ensuring some level of public safety, which one would think would be an inherently governmental function.

By statute, only Texas counties with populations more than 250,000, or ones that share a border with such a county, can adopt their own fire code. (Apparently, the rule of law defaults to the state code otherwise – and there is none). But, they don’t have to, and McLennan county, which is where the West facility is located, could have but has not. The other counties – that would be over 70% of the counties in Texas – are thus effectively prevented by law from enacting their own fire code.

The legislative committee looking into the matter cannot propose any bills that might address this issue because the legislature is not currently in regular session. The Texas legislature only meets in regular session in odd-numbered years (and only for 140 days at that). The next session won’t be until January 2015.

Texas: where the government hamstrings itself with laws that prevent laws.