Forum Panel Debates Merits of Government Shutdown

October 3, 2013
By Edward Mason, Harvard Gazette

Joe Klein, Political Columnist for Time Magazineand Shorenstein Center Fellow, blamed Baby Boomers for creating a toxic political culture that led to the shutdown of the federal government. Klein echoed Bob Dylan’s message, “that the times they-are-a-changin’.”
Klein, was part of a panel discussion Wednesday (Oct. 2) on the government shutdown in the JFK Jr. Forum. The panel also featured Linda J. Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy; David King, senior lecturer in public policy; and moderator Maralee Schwartz, former national political editor for The Washington Post and Fall 2007 IOP Fellow.
“This is a consequence of my Baby Boom generation,” Klein said. “We came into political consequence by distrusting authority. The reaction to those of us involved in the anti-war and Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was to use those same confrontational tactics we now see in the tea party.”
House Republicans are holding up the budget bill in exchange for concessions on the president’s Affordable Care Act, said Bilmes, who suggested that federal agencies adopt state solutions such as two-year budgeting to avoid annual fights. “Congress lurches from crisis to crisis,” she said, noting that heading into this shutdown, no spending bills had been passed by this year.
Schwartz covered the 1995 federal shutdown, and recalled how Sen. Robert Dole brokered an agreement with House Speaker Newt Gingrich that reopened government. She wondered who would be the “grown-ups” today. “We don’t seem to be able to figure out how to negotiate,” said Schwartz. “Both sides have to be able to save face.”
There has been speculation of a “grand bargain” between Obama and Republican leaders on taxes and spending to end the standoff. King suggested President Obama will be forced to resolve the crisis. By his reckoning, the standoff extends at least until the nation’s debt ceiling needs to be raised on Oct.17. He expects Obama to ignore the debt and order the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills.
“Ultimately, the president has to do something dramatic like ignore the debt ceiling,” King said. “It may be unconstitutional; it's certainly illegal. And it gives too much power to the executive branch.”
The forum was sponsored by the Institute of Politics. According to IOP Director Trey Grayson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was the original speaker scheduled for Wednesday night’s forum, but the government shutdown forced him to remain in Washington.

picture of the entire panel

(From L to R) Maralee Schwartz, moderator, former national political editor for The Washington Post and Fall 2007 IOP Fellow; Joe Klein, Political Columnist for Time Magazineand Shorenstein Center Fellow; Linda J. Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy; and David King, senior lecturer in public policy.

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

“Ultimately, the president has to do something dramatic like ignore the debt ceiling,” said David King, senior lecturer in public policy.

Maralee Schwartz holds up a paper

 


John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page