Who again has the power to end the government shutdown?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The real power here is held by government employees, especially those in critical jobs. Let’s say that more TSA screeners decided to walk off the job. It’s already the case that the TSA absentee rate has gone up to 7.6 percent, from 3.2 percent a year ago. It is possible to imagine screeners staying home in much greater numbers, thus crippling the entire nation. That could either force President Donald Trump’s hand or lead to a congressional override of a potential presidential veto.


As a rationale for showing up to work, “I’m helping both the TSA and my colleagues” can work for a while, because of both cooperative norms and peer pressure. But I don’t think it can hold things together for more than a few months. They may not have the right to strike, but federal employees can still gum up the works with high absenteeism and poor performance.

I really don’t expect anything good to come of this entire episode.


Right to strike, well, perhaps after Reagan and his air traffic controllers no strikes are possible but most Fed employees are unionized.

The shutdown is a natural experiment to see if indeed government is useless.

It would be a better experiment if it did not require people to work without pay. As someone on Twitter noted, that sounds more like Soviet communism than a 70% top marginal rate.

It would be better if the government didn't have its own useless laws interfering. I'm sure nothing would happen if we abolished the TSA and just let people onto the planes like in the 90's. But a lot of bad shit would happen if the TSA didn't show up, and that makes it illegal to board a plane.

I don't know how that would fare, either in Congress, or a national referendum.

But I hope you would accept that either of those processes would be better than simply shutting down the TSA for an unrelated funding battle.

Can I get a shout-out for Constitutional originalism? Or representative democracy?

> Can I get a shout-out for Constitutional originalism? Or representative democracy?

You might have if you hadn't kicked off this sub-thread as being a test of whether the TSA was useful. Now you are trying move the goalposts.

I can think two things at once. One is that government should pay people who are working, and not tell them the check is in the mail, someday. The other is that government should be designed by legislative process.

The shutdown actually violates both of those beliefs, right?

This is a legislative process.

I'm going to put it in a form that even you can understand:


At the 2:10 mark.

Not yet it isn't

I'm sorry. Was the School House Rock video over your head?

I'm impressed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that's both educative and engaging,
and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not
enough people are speaking intelligently about.
I'm very happy that I found this in my search for something concerning this.

I nearly by no means publish remarks on weblogs, but I like to say I get pleasure from studying this blog. Regular I weblog about slick guns.

+1. TSA is all minor security theater with major inconveniences.

TSA is a jobs program. You couldn't design it better - it only inconveniences those of us who have to fly commercial.

You understand this is 100% a cash flow issue, right?

I'm sure this creates problems for folks living paycheck to paycheck, but it's not even in the same league as being unemployed. Millions of private sector employees are made involuntarily unemployed every year, something that basically doesn't happen in the government, regardless of performance.

So these employees are shielded from the vicissitudes that most of us face, and instead are subject to a cash flow hardship in the event of a shutdown.

Is it too much to ask that these employees be prepared to cope with such a possibility, as millions of others must cope with real unemployment situations with no back pay on the horizon?

True. You are one of the too few voices of reason. I am not.

Is asking government employees to be prepared for random stops and starts actually better design (or better citizenship) than passing the laws and building the government you want?

I think we are getting in the range of apologizing for the decidedly suboptimal.

As a taxpayer, I do not wish to relinquish what little tools are left to my disposal to convince my government to make do with the $6 trillion per year that taxpayers cough up.

As mpowell pointed out, the 2013 shutdown was one of the only victories we can point to this century.

If this means government employees have to prepare for a well-telegraphed temporary cash flow hardship every five years or so, so be it.

Seems different, even by that critera.

Compared to the continuing resolution passed by Congress but not signed by the President in December, is the President asking for more or less spending?

I am not speaking to the wisdom of this particular shutdown, which is not about reining in spending.

Even here, though, it seems like the only tool to force a decision on a subject that politicians have been talking around for decades.

Perhaps the current ambiguity can be maintained indefinitely (there's actually an argument for this), but anyone who wants to end the status quo should appreciate the shutdown tool.

I'm not a Wall guy, but I don't think the Wall would be a catastrophe. In today's budgetary terms, the cost is piffling. I don't see how anyone can't understand this is the hand Trump is all in on though -- it was the sine qua non of his whole campaign.

Who's gonna blink?

"I don't see how anyone can't understand this is the hand Trump is all in on though -- it was the sine qua non of his whole campaign."


But the Democratic leadership knows that. They despise Trump and they want him to lose. For Trump it's about the Wall, for the Democrats it's about not letting Trump have a Win.

Close, but Trump doesn't actually give a shit about a wall. He doesn't care if it reduces illegal immigration or not. He wants the Win just as much. That's actually the only reason he is president, and that he's running again. He loves to fight, and to win. The actual results? He'll be long gone.

Meh, I think he genuinely believes illegal immigration from Latin America is “foreigners taking advantage of us!”

His instincts are much closer to populist movements in Europe than traditional Republicanism. He has the attention span of a squirrel with ADHD though so of course his instincts get filtered by whatever is easiest in terms of policy.

The wall wasn't all that controversial in 2013(?) when they voted to build it. All it needs is the funding, which is several hours of the federal budget. The only reason it is a topic is because Trump wants it so the Dems have to be against it.. Tantrums ensue.

Yep. This crap started around the year 2000, maybe 1994. ANd now we get to watch the partisan clown show.

It's not about the money, it's not even about the border. It's about Trump wants a win, the Dems don't wanna give him one. It was the same shit with Obama, and Bush II.

The more I think about it, the more I think Trump can't lose.

At some point, the shutdown really will start to bite.

Two parties engaged in brinksmanship. One party is absolutely convinced that they are the responsible adults that actually care about what happens to people while their opponent is a reckless, narcissistic child. And maybe they're right.

Beyond the symbolism, at issue is a speck- devoting 0.1% of Federal revenue for one year to an incremental wall/fence along the border, something prolly 40 million or so Americans wanted bad enough that they voted Trump in.

Adults see what adults must ultimately do when the real pain starts.

The alternative is to expect Trump to be "the bigger person". It might happen, but only if Trump is nothing at all like he has been characterized.

If Trump's approval rating ticks up by say two points, certainly five, Democrats will fold.

But if they can maintain popular opinion that this is Trump's shutdown, and therefore his open wound, they will ride it out.

Not to go all Art of War on you, but when your enemy is defeating himself, let him.

Yeah, I used to think that.

But say Trump drops to 30%.

The 30% all are Wall guys. If he walks away from the Wall, he goes to 0%. Then he really could be impeached.

Do you see Trump caving? I don't. And I don't even despise him or think he's nuts, just that he is less invested in the system than his opponents.

Are Dems gonna "ride it out" for another two years? Create chaos over a piffling budget entry? I don't see it.

I don't know about the far future, but Tyler structured his essay is he did, about the TSA agents convincing the Republicans, because he sees things this way as well. At least in the short-term.

I mean look back to the video of Trump taking credit for the future shutdown, and Chuck Schumer did that funny thing of smiling and rocking forward hands on knees, not making eye contact.

It was because in that moment Schumer knew that Trump was setting himself on fire and Schumer didn't want to do anything to stop it.

At first, it looked like inviting the shutdown was a fatal misstep for Trump -- the staircase to the basement.

But reversing ground now is more like taking the elevator to the basement.

So, he's trapped!

His obvious move is to dig in his heels, not give in, ride it out. It's actually hard for me to imagine him doing otherwise.

If you accept all this, you can see today that we can destroy Trump (assuming the polls continue to run positive), but the collateral damage will be enormous to millions upon millions of people, but we think that's a net positive for America, so we just gotta ride it out.

The alternative might be bitter, but it's chump change in the end, to spare millions.

One thing I did not understand in my youth was how much path dependency matters.

A note to any textbook writers in the audience.

Path dictates degrees of freedom.

Trump's approval is tracking Obama's pretty closely, and I doubt the Democrats will run anyone near as qualified as Romney. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/prez_track_jan17

Rasmussen? Yeah, no.

That's a Rasmussen poll. The kind of poll that Cohen rigged on behalf of Trump. His numbers are dropping. The only numbers going up are disapproval ratings (were high to begin with) which should leave the door open to Trump's impeachment. Nobody likes Pence but Trump is turning into a real stinker.

I don't like Pence but he's not visibly crazy.

See why Trump picked Pence to be vice-president? Insurance... If he picked Mitch Daniels he would have been impeached already.

This is the third or fourth time I have seen this in this comment section. "He'd be impeached by now if X happened."

What exactly would he be impeached for?

simply put; if trump get's a wall he's re-elected. if not he won't get re-elected. if the dems fold they're doomed...

In other words don't be surprised if Democrats are in fact ruthless at this point.

LOL, why would that surprise anyone?

Hell it's Nancy Pelosi's MO. It's what she's famous for.

"“She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,” the California Democrat’s daughter Alexandra Pelosi told CNN on January 2, a day ahead of her mom’s reelection to Speaker. "

Dems should file charges of impeachment. It was all coming to this anyway. When they do, I'll cancel Netflix and get a Costco sized bag of popcorn.

"One party is absolutely convinced that they are the responsible adults that actually care about what happens to people while their opponent is a reckless, narcissistic child." I don't know. Not sure if Trump really 'cares about what happens to people '

You know that hacky thing you always do, where you pretend not to understand something so you can reverse it? That doesn't work. It never works.

I hope you aren't talking about this


Right Ray...this opinion piece completely overlooked the example of Patco.

All the Federal workers at the same strike should form a General Strike for lack of pay and if Trump wants to jail them all, then he has drive the paddy wagon and slap all 800,000 cuffs by himself. He won't do that so instead, he will do the only thing he can do and throw a temper tantrum on Twitter. This will all end up as humiliation for his Orangeness and bring charges of impeachment for incompetence in running the executive branch. The working class will side with the strikers because nobody likes a tyrannical deadbeat boss who thinks he can get away with slave labor.


Tyler is really good at 2D chess so the reason why he can't see the possibilities Trump sees is because Trump plays 5D chess.

I hate to say this (largely because I would like a return to normalcy) and I've gotten hate for saying it already, but I want the shutdown to continue. Not necessarily for any reassertion of check-and-balances or separation-of-powers reasons, but because it creates an economic question that we have not been doing a good job of asking ourselves in a very long time:

"Why do we need all of this? What does it do?"

G.K Chesterton wrote, "Don't tear down a fence unless you understand why it was put there in the first place." First, the barn door on tearing down fences has been open for so long I don't see why we don't take a closer look at needs vs. wants. Second, I'm genuinely curious is the reasons said fences were put up are still valid, if anyone can in fact remember.

The are entire federal bureaucracies I'm not sure have any validity anymore, or at least as structured. There are thousands of federal employees I'm not sure wouldn't be better off in the private sector or simply not exist at all. I will even gore one of my own sacred cows and extend this to the military, some of whose expenses and capabilities I have long looked at with suspicion.

There is enough debt to saddle every man woman and child in this country with about $70,000 as their share and yet I hear people left and right saying "if there's a shutdown going on I just don't feel it."

Not being able to take that trip is not good for the economy, but it's not the end of the world either. I really think this is a good opportunity to gain ammunition moving forward for re-evaluating our priorities, despite the pain.

Well said. This may yet have a silver lining of catharsis.

That works if you're asking "Do we need this function of government to avoid a short-term problem?" But most of the functions that would cause a short-term problem if they stopped are things that are either funded or deemed essential (and so they keep running).

Suppose we have a two-month shutdown. What would we learn about whether we really need the CDC, or the Department of Education, or NOAA, or the FDA? Most of their functions happen over long timescales, or only become urgent in rare situations, so you won't be able to see much from a two-month delay.

I don't think you have picked particularly good examples unless you were being sarcastic. I am pretty sure the US will do better if the DOE, NOAA or FDA were no longer around. On the CDC - how can that be needed nowadays? Maybe useful if there was another yellow fever epidemic I suppose.

It's a nice thought but unfortunately I don't think most people or organizations will walk away from this shutdown with the "Why do we need all of this" question in mind. Neither major party has any interest in reducing the size of the state or the debt; last year's deficit was the highest it's been in years, under the control of the party that had long marketed itself as "fiscally reponsible." Uh-oh.

Instead, the shutdown will prove to both parties how evil the other team is, and further alienate less polarized Americans in the middle.

Most people will, but the people making the argument down the road in the future won't.

I'm to the point now where I see this as larger than just a political football. This is now about analyzing whether or not asking the questions "Why do we need all of this? What does it do?" can even be answered rationally using the systems as they exist. Can a federal bureaucracy, once created and purpose served, be uncreated?

We are through the looking glass here. None of these agencies have any sunsets. Once created they must forever gobble up federal resources. They can lose their purpose any time they like...but they can never leave.

The fearsome government shutdown has lost much of it fearfulness. Was it not the great Nimzowitsch who said "The threat is greater than its execution"?

What is the minimum number of TSA employees that we need? I suspect it is far lower than 92.4% of the current work force.

"Why do we need all of this? What does it do?"

But we're not getting any answers. The employees, fully expecting back-pay, are staying on the job, so we're not finding out what life would be like without them. I'd love to see the TSA shut down -- I think it's security theater providing no actual increase in safety, but if they walked off the job, I don't foresee airline activity being allowed to continue without TSA screeners (though I'd like to see that happen).

But this is a terrible way to achieve this. The budget sequestration in 2013 worked much more towards your purpose. Just apply a blanket reduction in spending. Then you can see where real problems emerge. And keep pushing down. But eventually Republicans and Democrats together removed the sequestration. If you don't have the political will to do this, government shutdown is a terrible fall back policy.

+1, that 2013 sequestration is an underrated bright spot in recent Congressional history. We need more of that.

Sequester brought the longest expansion in history. The second longest was Bubba who had his own shutdown and sequester. A clue maybe? There is no data left to prove the Kanosian stimulus theory in post war history, none, zip.

+1. The 2013 shutdown was the best shutdown.

The stronger emphasis on closing national parks and monuments in 2013 vs today means I disagree. Of course the ever increasing fraction of the total spending that consists of "Entitlements" on auto pilot means "shutting down the government" means less and less as the years go by. Only if these were all scaled such that the incoming receipts covered them during the shutdown, would a shutdown be meaningful.

From my earlier statement, "This is now about analyzing whether or not asking the questions "Why do we need all of this? What does it do?" can even be answered rationally using the systems as they exist."

What I was saying is turning things back on, both in 2013 and now 2019 simply returns to status quo. I said earlier, "I want the shutdown to continue." I say this knowing it will eventually end, want I wanted to emphasize was how long.

At this point, and as can be inferred from my previous statements, I don't mind a few months. A year would be catastrophic. But at this point I want to test those limits.

I want data. I want ammunition for future budget fights. I want hard evidence for "Why do we need all of this? What does it do?""Why do we need all of this? What does it do?"

Crude instrument yes. I just don't care anymore. Said data can no longer be obtained through reason.

As a former intelligence officer, I don't mind reconnaissance in force, I don't mind fighting for my information. Neither does Trump.

Trump refuses to read single page Intsums. You’re MI? Wake up. You should know better.

The idea of him fighting for information is almost anonymous/bear level of delusion.

There won’t be a wall. Republicans who make over a reasonable wage don’t want one, especially small business owners. Republican women don’t want one because it doesn’t photograph well and they’ve seen the men on Telenovelas. Donors don’t want one because it cuts corporate profits. The Kochs don’t want one because #freedom. Wall Street doesn’t want one because it cuts corporate profits and lowers real estate values. Upper middle class democrats don’t want one because the mom needs someone to watch her kids and clean the house. Young democrats don’t want one because #pueblasSinFronteras.

Just because 30% of the population, aka white men with a high school education, threw a temper tantrum does not mean they get a voice in actual decision making.

Time for them to go back to the kids’ table, pay their overdue child support bills to their ex wife, vote Republican and stfu. We will keep guns legal for them to play Red Dawn in the backyard with their friends. That’s the deal.

It's always fun to watch people who believe the acendancy of their allies and their political beliefs is not merely a moral imperative, but the inevitable result of a just universe.

Then reality hits, and they are so confused. It's adorable.

+1. 2013 is how you do it. 2019 shutdown is the way people with Down's syndrome would do it.

Others have already noted that it’s not terribly effective to test the value of government by making employees work for free. Essential services haven’t shut down because people don’t want to lose their jobs, not because the government is useless.

Secondly, many of the areas of government that are currently closed and not ‘essential services’ aren’t causing an immediate problem but would be an issue if they never opened again, or are going to cost millions to start back up. I was working with the USDA during the last shutdown and their scientists weren’t deemed essential, yet the experiments they lost were extremely valuable research and extremely costly to reproduce.

Chris - what exactly were those "extremely valuable" research projects. Ca n you provide a valuation of them? I have a view that probably 99.9% of government funded research doesn't provide any public value whatsoever - not even worth the paper for printing. Can you provide any data to convince me otherwise?

"They may not have the right to strike, but federal employees can still gum up the works with high absenteeism and poor performance."

Unless they are already doing it close to the maximum extent at normal times.

So that is it: a general strike to overthrow the regime. Things come to that.

Entirely amusing episode of America. Trump won't get a better deal than the lame duck session of Congress that his party controlled. I predict this stalemate won't end this month. Bad deals all around.

Close the remainder of the government.

Build the wall.

Government is involved in far too many functions. Government spending is too damned high. Taxes (after the Trump cuts tax, receipts rose) are still high.

For one, abolish the TSA. Allow the market/airlines to provide flight security. Far more economical than 8 million regulations and thousands of TSA screeners, would be to provide each passenger with a gun.

[Did that get your attention?]

Have on random flights airline-contracted, armed ex-Green Berets/Delta Force/Navy SEAL's. I bet $2.00 that no pilot or flight attendant will be murdered and no jumbo jet will be flown into a tall building.

You bet that suicide bombers will be afraid of a small probability that they might die, but in a different way?

He's messing with us. Or he's retarded. Either way, safely ignored.

Yes, because having blackwater style guards that answer to Delta can't possibly lead anywhere dangerous for the culture of America. What private companies DO NOT have is community responsibility.

How's the wall going to get built if the government shuts down completely?

Mexico is paying for it, so they can provide the labor. Many Mexicans would love to come to this country to help build infrastructure.

Correcto! Mexicans illegals aren't an existential threat to America. You are.

That doesn't make any sense.

You're talking about a big construction project in the Southwest. Who the hell do you *think* is going to be doing the work?

Why can't they build it from their side?

Then Trump wouldn't get his name on it in big gold letters.

A fully-staffed TSA and an understaffed TSA both catch the exact same number of threats: ZERO.

But Tyler flies a lot so his wait times will be drastically increased. What's the opportunity cost of that?

la problemma esta
federal law says if there is no/not enough tsa at the airport
then few/ nobody gets to fly

Even temporary grounding of commercial US air traffic would contribute however modestly to saving our imperiled ozone layer for future degradation and deterioration.

The federal employees are pawns in Trump's stunt. To place pressure on them to end Trump's stunt is to support the stunt. If a disaster does occur, Trump will be the first to blame the federal employees for the crisis Trump created. Of course, many of the readers of this blog will support Trump even if he gives the Russians the code to the nuclear football. Cowen is right, nothing good can come of Trump's stunt.

Ha! President Donald J. Trump grounded (will not provide military transport) Pelosi for her tourist trip to Afghanistan, etc. She can fly commercial, if she wants.

Compared to Barack Hussein Obama and the Clintons, Trump is Putin's worst nightmare. I won't waste time detailing why. You wouldn't get it. You are blinded by hatred.

Build the wall.

Exactly a stunt: $5.7 billion in a $4.7(?) trillion budget is like one sheet in a ream of paper.

This is an interesting situation. I don't know how it will be resolved, but the question of border security and immigration policy are going to be decided.

Both parties have promised border controls then spent money on Canadian border crossings. So there is a substantial voter block in both parties who must at least be thrown a crumb.

But there is a serious constituency in both parties, for different reasons, for a de facto open border.

So the situation will be decided. The Democrats are looking to handcuff Trump over the next two years. Trump has nothing to lose by standing ground here.

This is like the 1988 federal election in Canada where the free trade agreement with the US was the issue. One side won and it became policy. This is a similar situation.

Consider missing a few flights as the cost of a front row seat to see how the issue that will define this century is worked out.

Interestingly, some are claiming that Trump has created brand new support for "open borders," because that's just what happens when a guy many people don't like opposes a thing.


For what it's worth, I am even more skeptical than Noah.

For all the rage Hillary induces on the right wing, she’s been fundamentally right the entire time.

De jure open borders are in the cards, whatever anyone thinks. It won’t even be questioned in 20-30 years. It’s a force of nature, resisting it is as stupid and immoral as was the DOMA, don’t ask don’t tell, and refusing to accept transgender rights.

For now we will make due with de facto open borders. Abolishing ICE will be a good next step, followed by official sanctuary states. Looking to you California.

California already has the worst poverty rate in the country (PPP), while also having the most billionaires. So, it's well on it's way to becoming a third world country.

On the bright side, plenty of upper middle class Californians can continue to pay cheap servants under the table. Soon, the upper middle class across the entire country could potentially benefit from that same pool of workers.

Maybe. Are there still people on the fence about Trump?

If you game this out, where is the public? The media cannot manufacture a crisis here, they don't have the audience or influence any more.

It comes down to whether you are a supporter of one side or the other, and are willing to pay a price for your position. The pressure from government workers can be applied both to Trump and Pelosi. Who is likely to be influenced more by their pleas?

Pelosi would probably be neutered if she lost this one as well.

Lots of zero sum games. Very few levers of influence.

This from a Canadian point of view is better than NHL hockey.

"The media cannot manufacture a crisis here, they don't have the audience or influence any more."

No, your missing Tyler's point. At some point the media will deluge us with poor Federal workers can't afford to feed their kids and there house is getting repossessed! And it's all Trumps fault!

The Left controls 80% of the professional media.

..you're...their house...

I really wish we had an Edit button. Of course, without a Log-on we can't have an Edit button.

I'm suggesting that they can't. They will make the nose but no one pays attention

"They will make the nose but no one pays attention"

Mitch McConnell's nickname is the Turtle. He doesn't get that because of his "hard" shell.


No he got it because his face looks identical to the face of a turtle. Exactly identical.

Well, there is learning from the public about what these guys do.

Until now I read about the following problems:
1) some national parks going without trash recollection, problem that in most cases was solved by private business banding together.
2) some public museums closed. Easily solved, just privatize all, if it survives on ticket and donation, good, otherwise the items exposed are under-allocated.
3) TSA: privatize the airports and forget about it. Reputation and airlines control should be enough, but to be extra-sure, force them to contract an insurance that pays a couple of million dollars for any victim of terrorism.
4) some craft beer producers that are about to stop production because they cannot have a certain label of the FDA. Just shut down the freaking FDA.

The only one that might bother me is that the Cost Guard somehow was not included in the military appropriation, so they are working without pay right now.

The TSA was unpopular to begin with, and people travel too damn much anyway, in a fruitless effort to run from themselves.

Uh, I meant Coast Guard. "Cost Guard" is one new department the federal government would never consider.

I like the slip up; it affords one the opportunity to make jokes: But without the Cost Guard, how will we police and protect our costs?!

"some craft beer producers that are about to stop production because they cannot have a certain label of the FDA. Just shut down the freaking FDA."

Not the FDA, actually. Beer labels are governed by the TTB, and require pre-approval before the product can be sold on the market. Thet's the whole problem, it creates a bottleneck (no pun intended) built into a perishable production process which already has some tight cycle times.

Governance by the FDA would actually be much better for brewers - the FDA doesn't require pre-approval for labels, instead policing the market with recalls, warnings, etc. So there's no bottleneck to worry about (and no First Amendment prior-restraint concerns...) Under the FDA's jurisdiction, producers still have to be on their game with label requirements to avoid getting in trouble after the fact, but at least they don't have to wait ~2 weeks for bureaucratic permission to sell.

Interestingly, there are certain categories of beer that have no malt in them - gluten free sorghum beer for instance - that fall outside of the TTB's jurisdiction and default to the FDA's, so they avoid the COLA label approval process altogether. So there are already real-world cases where this works just fine.

Thank you for a genuinely useful and informative comment!

>"That could either force President Donald Trump’s hand or lead to a congressional override of a potential presidential veto."

Naturally, the idea that the Dems could simply spend a half-day's worth of money on border security NEVER occurs to Tyler.

If Trump said fine, spend the $5.7 billion on border security other than a big dumb wall, the shutdown would end right then. This is now just a symbolic poker game.

"This is now just a symbolic poker game."


Spend half a day's money on border security, maybe. But very few Democrats are keen on spending any money at all on helping Trump get re-elected in 2020.

>The real power here is held by government employees, especially those in critical jobs.
Now you know what the deep state is

Work without pay for a few months is no fun, but it's worth hanging in there for all that future pay without work -- with the average federal pension paying $32,824 annually.

The attitude now seems to be that the American citizen exists to serve the federal bureaucracy, rather than the other way around

I agree - see the header in today's New York Times on-line. Many Federal jobs pay more than private sector jobs and get a good pension. Something seems wrong with that-growing up we used to say you work for the government for the pension. Now-many many government salaries are better than private sector salaries. Why?

Just a guess: given the increasing rates of pay to experienced professionals in the private sector, both for-profit and non-profit, the government has had to up-bid to get decently talented away from the private sector. The whole "better work-life balance and a pension" aren't as compelling when the paycut is so drastic.

Because those government jobs are harder. Do you know how to conduct counter-intelligence against Russia, arrange disaster relief after a major hurricane, or lead a battalion of troops for a sea-land invasion? Probably not, so I rest my case.

Those are probably not the people who are told to stay home when it snows because they are "non-essential"

Ray, the BLS reports that in 2016 some 34.4% of public sector employees belonged to a union.

What are you quoting that says most are unionized?

On average Americans have very little savings for emergencies. It's the credit card companies who determine how long that this can go on.

When people have steady jobs and guaranteed back pay, increasing credit limits as the shutdown continues may turn out to be a good business for banks and credit card companies.

'The real power here is held by government employees'

Who knew that Prof. Cowen would discover - and apparently advocate - that collective action of those who are actually doing necessary work is the best way to cause political change.

I certainly agree that TSA is quite a bit of "security theater". Let the free market reign! I think that airlines should negotiate directly with terrorists to obtain guarantees that they will not be the subject of attacks. Competition amongst terrorists groups will help maintain rational price levels over time. If terrorists ask too much then people will travel less because of the higher prices. They will need to reduce their prices to encourage air travel. (Think OPEC. The way they keep oil prices low so that we have a strong economy). Then we can all feel free to just simply walk to the plane without any security or government help anywhere. Of course there might be a few crashes when negotiations fail but simply let the market deal with them by paying off the victims and utilizing NDA's to keep them quiet so we will never doubt airline safety. (Think #metoo avoidance strategies).

"I think that airlines should negotiate directly with terrorists to obtain guarantees that they will not be the subject of attacks. "

There aren't any terrorists in the U.S. who are capable of, and willing to attack U.S. commercial aviation. We can be quite certain of this because no terrorists are bombing and/or shooting up the biggest, juiciest, softest target in the system -- a target not only undefended by the TSA but actually created by the TSA!

As the American, the English and the French regimes collapse in infamy, Brazil becomes the moral leader of the West. As President Captain Bolsonaro pointed out, the eyes of the world are on us, and we dare not fail.

"So what does the final equilibrium look like? Some number of extra weeks (months?) of talking about Trump and the wall. Trump over time becoming less popular. Congressional Republicans folding, and Trump lying about both the outcome and the process. "

Tyler, that was an interesting article. But you left out the part where you explained why the Republicans would fold and not the Democrats?

"So when and how will the shutdown end? A bit of game theory is in order. "

Yes, but you failed to rationally explain the process.

I'm going to paraphrase your argument:
-Americans disapprove of the government shutdown
-voters are not obsessed about building a wall on the Mexican border.
-if TSA workers walked off the job in greater numbers, they would run the risk of public disapproval and perhaps legal sanctions. The public might blame them rather than Trump
-the break point is likely to come when some critical group of federal employees, perhaps the TSA, gets tired of playing along with the charade.

Then you mysteriously jump to this point:
-Then the whole game will blow up in the faces of both Trump and most congressional Republicans,

There's a logical disconnect in your argument.

I think you left out an important piece. Something along the lines of:
Rockefeller Republican's support cheap labor and a Wall would potentially increase the cost of labor.
This is why they never pushed for a Wall in the preceding 2 years.
Republicans have a history of caving in regarding a shutdown (1995, 1996 & 2013).
Therefore Rockefeller Republican's will side with the Democrats in the Senate, when there's enough political heat to cover their abandonment of their base.

You must have read The Art of the Deal. This is the part where you beg the other side to fold, because you don't have any other leverage. And because you're bleeding support day by day.

Well that comment is mulpian.

One thought does occur to me.

"A bit of game theory is in order. Remember that the public supported President Ronald Reagan when he fired the striking air-traffic-control workers in 1981 "

Why wouldn't Trump just have the military step in and provide Airport security during the interim if it's the TSA?

No, the game theory might be correct, but it won't work for the TSA. It's too close to the Reagan solution. Military police could easily handle the security. The general public would accept the obvious precedent behind such a move.

For the scenario to play out this way, it would have to be another more critical group of Federal workers.

When the Financial Crisis hit in 08, I argued that we should spend money and end the crisis forthwith, because belief in capitalism and a smaller government would be an unlikely outcome of such a crisis. We did a better job of it than Europe, but I believe the experiment has shown my views to be correct, where correct is a possible outcome of political or economic differences. I argued my view was based upon my study of Edmund Burke's writings, whatever you want to label them.

As to the shutdown, i would argue similarly. Mayhem isn't a virtue, but compromise is a virtue. Counting on a more limited government to issue forth from such a pig's breakfast as we have isn't a prudent course of action.

"I argued that we should spend money and end the crisis forthwith"

So Congress should spend the extra $5 billion and end the shutdown? Yes, that would be the easiest and least painful resolution.

However, as msgkings said above, it's now just a symbolic poker game for high political stakes. The money isn't important. The wall isn't important. Winning and having the other side Lose is the important part.

The face saving way out is for the Dems to agree to spend $5.7B (heck maybe more) on border security, as long as it's not called a 'Wall'

Would Trump be able to spin that to his base? Yeah probably, they love whatever he says.

I would think the obvious compromise would be the Wall funding for DACA support. Trump has already signaled that he'd consider it.

Perhaps, but I think that would be a Dem loss. They have pushed 'no Wall' as hard as Trump has pushed 'yes Wall'. It has to be a semantic face-save. Like I said, maybe the Dems give him even more money for the border to get the word spiked.

A DACA / Wall compromise could easily be sold as a Win/Win. I don't think Trump would object to the Democrats getting a Win from the DACA side.

However, you are probably correct about the Dem's not wanting to give Trump even a symbolic Win.

Put impeachment on the table or a felony charge on Don Jr. Then Trump will cave.

"Trump's signature issue is immigration, especially illegal immigration, and in particular building or expanding a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico."


Does anyone disagree? If you boiled his campaign down to one word, it would be: Wall. Right?

I think he makes his stand here. Maybe his last stand.

Which would be good for Dems, as the air is coming out of the collusion balloon.

Stay tuned.

Not to change the subject, but check what Rudy said today.

Shut it, douche bag.

Yeah, tax cuts, less regulation, smacking down China, N. Korea, Russia, it was all for show..

Nancy Pelosi has accepted the Reagan doctrine that the US should never negotiate with terrorists. Terrorism is defined as causing damage to innocent civilians to call attention to your cause. Trump and Mitch McConnell are engaged in acts of terrorism by holding agencies unrelated to Homeland Security, and those who benefit from the services this agencies provide, hostage by refusing to fund them in an effort to compel Democrats to appropriate money for Trump's wall. If Pelosi were to accede to Trump's hostage taking over a wall, what is to prevent him from doing it again and again? Congress and the President have disagreed on funding priorities for over 200 years. However it is only since Gingrich that we have had terrorism via shutdowns. This must stop once and for all.

Well the current budget and appropriations process was enacted in 1976. The US had shutdowns in 1980, 81, 84, 86 & 90. However, Newt Gingrich didn't become Speaker till 1995.

But hey don't let the facts get in your way!

If and when the TSA walks off in sufficient numbers to actually shut down passenger air travel (rather than merely annoy air travelers), it'll be a matter of hours before the uniformed personnel from the fully-funded military are manning the screening stations on orders of the Commander-in-Chief.

And "litigious culture" or not, airports or airlines that react to military screeners replacing the TSA by discontinuing flight operations are going to get hit so hard by backlash from "Middle America" that they'll be dizzy for a year.

So if the TSA is really the best example of federal employee power you have, the federal employees are utterly impotent in this fight.

Hopefully the elimination via apathy of useless, intrusive government agencies like the TSA?

Homeeland security got the job, and it wasn't always a slam dunk. After 9/11 government had debt moola thanks to Greenspan, and government took over part of the airline industry.

The issue was widely debated at the time, what happens if a government bureaucracy fails, and no one wants to step back into the mess? We all talked this issue at the time, we knew the risks, at the time, common sense voices told us, at the time. The government cannot survive long when it takes 15 years to get a clue, instead clueless government goes full venezuela.

Free-lancers and contractors often "work without pay" -- it might be weeks or months before you can finally invoice a project and even longer before you find that check in your mailbox. And maybe you had to front some expenses too.

They also know they're going to be doing this up-front and plan for it. Everyone *ought* to have enough savings to survive missing a few paychecks, but not everyone *does*.

If people walk off their jobs on a strike, Trump will declare a national emergency.

What would be more effective would be to ignore him for two days. And, it would not hurt you.

"Free-lancers and contractors often "work without pay" -- it might be weeks or months before you can finally invoice a project and even longer before you find that check in your mailbox."

But it's much worse to have a "stop work" order on your project or projects, if that's all the business you have. Then you *can't* work on the project(s)...even for later pay. You won't get that later pay.

The democrats made a blunder in making Pelosi Spealer. She is an ideologue who thinks she can dictate to the president. She is wAy out of her league. She does not set the agenda. The president sets the agenda. Pelosi is a megalomaniac who thinks she can outsmart Trump like Tip O'Neil did with Reagan. Trump is not having any of it. Democrats better get a new Speaker.

If she had any decency she would bring the president's request up for a vote. Let reps vote up or down on the matter. She won't because she doesn't have a leg to stand on. She's all politics. Disgusting.

Gosh, and here I thought that Congress controlled the purse strings. I really don't understand why the Democrats aren't blaming the Republican Senate. "All" they need to do is pass a veto-proof spending bill. They (the Democrats) won't put the pressure on the Senate and since those guys are a bunch of spineless cowardly blowhards, the only reason I see that they don't is because they'd rather make Trump (& friends) look bad (worse) to their own base and the independents than govern. That is, they must believe that winning the Presidency in 2020 is far more important than weakening Republicans in Congress. When will they start pointing at the Republican Senate (and their failure to be an independent (co-equal) branch of government). There's little justification for Republican Senators to claim they must stick with the Executive on this. Other than cowardice, that is.

It would be funny, if tragic, that at the end of it all we discovered Trump had covered for Russian interference, favored Russian interests, lied, cheated, and even shut down the government in one final defense, just because he wanted to build one darn hotel in Moscow.

All this talk of Trump becoming president in order to build up his hotel empire (or hotel-branding empire, or whatever it is) reminds me of Glenn McCarthy. What a character. I only recently learned that the government bailed out the entire debt on his folly of a hotel. He asked Truman directly, apparently. He had a lot of collateral in the ground.

Anyhoo, the media going on and on about government employees and soup kitchens (my town doesn't have one - perhaps they mean food pantries?) is super-weird. It started almost immediately. I don't think it necessarily has the intended effect. A point in big government's favor is all the stable jobs it provides, but now we discover people employed by the government haven't enough in the bank to cover their bills for even 3 weeks?

Prof. Captain Obvious: You get paid by Bloomberg for writing such stuff?

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