The government of the United States is not going to be shut down this week. Or next week. Even if the continuing budget resolution is not passed by both the U.S. house and senate, and signed by the president, the government will not be shut down.
A government “shut-down” has become a term of political myth, partisan melodrama, and rhetorical comedy.
First, the vital functions of the government are not ever shut down. Second, the current impasse is an incessant replay of a wearying political soap opera in which one party attempts to score points in public opinion against the other party. (Usually these points are won by the party occupying the White House because of any president’s media advantage. This also heavily favors Democrats since the Old Media overwhelmingly favors the liberal party.) Third, most of those who endure any consequences are government employees, most of whom vote for Democrats. Presidents can also easily grandstand by closing down low-cost items such as White House tours (which are made to seem much more important than they are).
The last “shut-down” confrontation produced the celebrated “sequesters” which were advertised in advance by the Obama administration as imminent disasters. In fact, the sequesters have turned out to be rather effective, if uneven, as a limit on public spending and only a minor inconvenience. Sequestering is not a viable permanent solution, but as a short-term strategy, it has turned out rather well.
Obamacare is in deep trouble. The administration has already postponed major parts of the legislation, and might have to postpone more. The various components of the labyrinthine so-called healthcare reform are mostly not ready to be implemented. The Democratic legislation itself is extraordinarily unpopular, and in 2010 led to an electoral disaster in that year’s midterm elections. It threatens to result in the same in 2014. Various states have already begun to set up Obamacare exchanges, and some are claiming they will work, but the numbers so far do not add up.
Senator Ted Cruz conducted a 21-hour pseudo-filibuster against funding Obamacare, but it was not meant to be anything more than a publicity monologue for the Texas senator, aimed at the conservative political base. Immediately after concluding his effort, Mr. Cruz voted along with the entire senate (100-0) to begin debate on the continuing resolution — a debate that inevitably led to its passage.
The U.S. house has voted one more time to defund Obamacare, with Republicans again fulfilling their promise to vote against the unpopular legislation. However, without control of the U.S. senate and the White House, any action of theirs is merely symbolic, and cannot accomplish anything except public relations.
Some of the most thoughtful conservatives who strongly oppose Obamacare have suggested that Republicans in Congress should, in effect, get out of the way, and let the long-winded, contradictory and unsustainable legislation begin to take effect. As totally the political property of the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama, these conservatives say, let them take the inevitable backlash for its construction and enactment.Former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee, now a conservative TV commentator/host, has made this case particularly well.
Like so many political issues today, realities are clouded by emotional and intimidating rhetoric. “Governmentshut-down” is one of the most blatant examples of this.
The public should ignore these petty games, and demand that both parties work out settlements that will actually improve healthcare delivery, boost the economy by helping entrepreneurship, lower unemployment and stimulate positively the public markets.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.