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Judd Gregg: Impact of shutdown lingers

Now that we are past the shutdown and the debt ceiling debacle for the moment, it is appropriate to do an after-battle review and determine what conservatives and Republicans accomplished from this effort.

To begin with, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made himself the center of discussion as he, along with his companions, called for the total elimination of ObamaCare as the price for allowing the government to pursue its day-to-day activities and to pay the bills it had incurred.

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The price tag for the notoriety achieved was considerable.

First, there was the out-of-pocket cost to taxpayers.

The cost of short-term borrowing for the government went up 9 basis points during this period of artificially induced crisis over paying the debt. The six-month treasury notes went up 22 points.

This may not sound like much but it actually represented a totally unnecessary increase in spending to pay for these higher interest charges. The added expenditure totaled close to $400 million.

Now, not only do the American taxpayers have to pay for this additional debt, they have to pay interest on the funds borrowed to pay the debt.

In addition, these self proclaimed defenders of conservatism managed to cost a bunch of jobs by slowing the economy.

Standard & Poor’s estimates the hit to the economy to have been around $24 billion. This also translates into lost tax revenues for the government.

Those tax revenues would have paid for obligations which the government has incurred. Now, without those revenues, these obligations will have to be paid for by more borrowing.

Once more, the debt burden has been increased by the actions of those who claim their goal is to reduce our inexcusably large debt. To put it mildly, it is difficult to see how the average taxpayer was a winner as a result of this exercise.

The political consequences of these games must also be considered. For Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and his acolytes in the Senate, the results were all good.

Their PACs raised a great deal of money. They were the center of attention from the press, especially the liberal media which loved them for their own reasons.

But what about the other 44 senators and 200 or so House members left to defend a policy which had no game-plan for governance and was, at base, only a media and fundraising effort?

It will be tough for them when they go home and try to explain why they represent a party that put America through this incoherent course of action, which was totally counterproductive for anyone who actually wants to rein in the spending of the federal government.

The Wall Street Journal, in a rather aggressive choice of language, described the folks who believed in the purposes of these few attention-gatherers as “rubes.”

Actually, they are just people who are fed up with the excess of Washington. They are tired of being told by an elitist left that they should stand back and let that elite run their lives and grow their government in the name of promoting distributive social justice.

Their frustrations are entirely reasonable, even though they have sometimes given way to outright anger directed at those who govern us.

Unfortunately, times like this create an intensity of concern about the direction of our government that is so high it allows politicians to play on those concerns with misdirection and high-sounding language that produces no results for anyone — except those politicians themselves.

The result is that a few grab center-stage and make the rest of the company irrelevant.

In this case, those few took the Republican Party down a dead-end alley, leaving a lot of people shaking their heads and wondering why they should look to that motley crew for help in straightening out our dysfunctional government.

In the end, these folks did not reduce spending, rather they increased it; they did not kill ObamaCare, rather they gave it political cover during its botched roll-out; and they dramatically lessened their party’s chances of taking back the Senate and keeping the House.

All in all, hardly such a great plan.

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. He is the CEO of SIFMA, a financial industry lobbying group.

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