This Graph Explains Why Obama Rejected the Piecemeal Approach to Funding Government

The piecemeal approach is a plan to both fund government as soon as possible and leave government unfunded as long as possible

The government is still shut down, as thousands of workers go without pay, food goes without inspection, and sick patients go without clinical trials. Meanwhile, Republicans have offered to restore funding on a piece-by-piece basis that would pay some of those workers and treat some of those patients.

The president has said no. But why, CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller asked at the press conference today.

Obama responded that while he's "certainly tempted" to take up the GOP offers, he didn't want to fund slivers of the government, one at a time. On the one hand, funding the discretionary budget bit by bit spares the most headline-y victims and lessens the pain of shutdown. On the other hand, the piecemeal approach ... well, spares the most headline-y victims and lessens the pain of shutdown, prolonging the crisis, itself.

So, depending on how you look at it, the piecemeal approach is both a plan to fund government as soon as possible and a plan to leave government unfunded as long as possible.

There is a graph for this, of course. Michael Linden counts up the six piecemeal non-defense appropriations bills passed by the House (and unsigned by the president) and the eight other bills the House wants to pass in the coming weeks. "Together, these 14 bills allocate approximately $83.1 billion in funding," Linden writes. That would leave 82 percent of the $470 billion non-defense discretionary government unfunded.

In other words (and colors), Obama wants to fund the whole pie below. The GOP, which would like to pair government funding with Obamacare's defunding or delay, is asking him to fund the blue slices only. The White House's logic is that passing the blue stuff makes it more likely that we go even longer without the larger, redder part of the pie.

This isn't three-dimensional chess, exactly. It's not even chess. It's just a radical wing of the Republican party exerting on House members while holding the rest of government hostage. Meanwhile, the list of casualties deepens: the roads, the patients, the kids, the border, the veterans, the economic data, the product-safety inspections ...

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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