The federal government is entering its seventh day of a government shutdown as the polarized Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate sit on their proverbial hands. Meanwhile, non-essential federal workers, from park rangers to real estate federal loan processors to food inspectors, aren’t working and don’t know when they will be allowed to return to their jobs (and their paychecks). Alas, those employees aren’t the only ones being affected. People who had reservations for everything from weddings to family reunions at federal parks have been hijacked from executing their long-planned events. And many private employers who serve the government — including defense contractors — are furloughing employees too. Similarly, other important, though not urgent, work has been postponed because of the partial government shutdown.
Perhaps taxpayers could withstand these inconveniences if they knew the government was saving money, but instead — even though federal employees aren’t officially on the payroll clock — they still will be paid. So while they are going without pay right now, they eventually see the government shutdown as an unexpected paid vacation. This is fiscal brinkmanship at its worst.
All the shutdown turmoil is subterfuge to accomplish one goal — to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. So instead of helping facilitate the implementation of the law, which was passed by the Legislature three years ago, lawmakers are doing everything they can — regardless of the casualties along the way — to get their own way. Cutting funding for the law became the only way conservative Republican lawmakers felt they could stop the implementation of the health care reform bill, even though 57 percent of Americans disagree with their methods, according to a poll by the Kaiser Foundation.
Clearly those lawmakers holding the country hostage don’t care about America’s democracy and majority rule. The majority of Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. The president signed the bill into law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law. The president was re-elected. Moderates also were re-elected. The law is imperfect, but it is difficult to see where these conservative lawmakers believe they have a mandate from their constituents to bring the government to a screeching halt over this issue. They seemingly could not care less about the possible eventual fall-out from their effort, especially if it leads to America’s inability to raise its debt ceiling and subsequently to not be able to pay its bills.
Surely Congress contains at least a few rational, bipartisan statesmen who can put the majority of the country’s interest over the interests of the extremists and break through the deadlock. Surely a few intelligent minds can get together in Congress and find a way out of this abyss rather than simply being bomb-throwers intent on stirring up dissent. The majority of Americans want lawmakers to think about them and their needs rather than simply those of greedy corporations.
It is easy to tear down — shallow bullies do it all the time. Lawmakers need to move past the rhetoric and break the impasse to do what’s right for the nation as a whole, rather than what is demanded by political donors.
Some lawmakers’ single-minded pursuit to defund one law could be far more damaging that anyone can imagine now and it doesn’t qualify as “governing” either. Their legacy will remain on their hands, and each of them must be held accountable for their stance.
editor and publisher