The partial government shut-down seems to have many people quite upset, although I am not one of them. If I did not watch TV, read a newspaper, or go online during these past 3 days, it would be impossible for me to know that the government was partially shut down. I wonder how many other people can the same thing…probably a lot of people. I am not defending the shut-down, at least not yet. The shut-down is only partial, because essential services that protect people and property are still operating, things like the defense department, border patrol agents, customs officials, TSA fondlers, and the like.
The reason the government is operating at reduced levels is because our elected officials cannot agree on the terms of what is called a Continuing Resolution, which is basically just a law that assigns funding levels for the government for a very short period of time, in this case just 6 weeks. The reason the government needs to pass a Continuing Resolution is because our elected officials have chosen not to pass a longer term annual budget measure since April 29, 2009. Consequently, the clowns in Washington – on both sides – lurch from crisis to crisis every few months as they re-visit the same old spending disagreements, over and over.
The dividing issue this time – at least on the surface -is that conservative Republicans want to delay for one year the individual mandate of Obamacare as part of any agreement on a Continuing Resolution. The fact that President Obama already unilaterally delayed the employer mandate for one year seems to be lost on most people in the media. The mainstream media (aka the state-run media) of CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have become Obama’s and Harry Reid’s megaphones, as each one continues to characterize Republican conservatives as crazies, anarchists, hostage takers, extremists, and jihadists. Some commentators like Tom Friedman and EJ Dionne have written that the right wing nut jobs are even threatening our very democracy by behaving in such a way.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the Tea Party is the reason the government is shut down. If it were business as usual in Washington, Congress would have already passed the C.R. and Obama would have signed it. End of story. However, Tea Party supported Members of Congress were elected on a platform of reducing annual budget deficits and the national debt through a combination of lower spending and lower taxes. In Obamacare, we see that many people will pay more in taxes and that spending will continue to increase; job creation will continue to suffer. So, it is not business as usual in Washington anymore. Conservative Republicans are on a mission to reduce spending in order to lower our deficit and our debt. They see Obamacare as a symptom of the larger debt problem, and they want to delay implementation of the other half of the law – the individual mandate – that Obama has not already delayed on his own, in return for passing the C.R.
The fact is that our national debt is $17 trillion. We cannot afford business as usual anymore. We cannot afford to continue running annual budget deficits. We cannot afford to pass debt limit increases as though the government is being run on auto pilot. Someone has to take a stand and say, “no more…we are not going to operate like this anymore…we are going to change.” However, only one caucus of one party in one house of congress is willing to now take this stand. The rest of government has not caught up yet. Until they do, we are going to continue to see Washington function like it does now. Republicans are probably going to lose the battle over the Continuing Resolution, but we cannot afford for them to lose the war.
The stalemate over the C.R. is not as important as the upcoming debt limit fight. The government will breach the statutory debt limit in about 2 weeks. Until the president starts to negotiate some kind of deal with Republicans that paves the way for an increase in the debt limit, I would ask that you not believe everything you hear about crazies and extremists and anarchists. A partial government shut down is basically inconsequential in the long term, but failure to raise the debt limit would have far reaching ramifications well into the future. If no compromise between democrats and republicans can be reached to raise the debt limit, then all of us should consider both sides utterly crazy, extreme, and anarchist, even if the media and many Obama supporters only point their fingers at the other side.
Without fundamental change that corrects the current trajectory of our national debt, the inheritance that we are passing on to our kids will forever change the standard of living of future generations. If Obama continues to refuse to negotiate with the other party, future generations will likely treat him with the same contempt that many Republicans do today.