Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Tea We've Brewed

Due to the shutdown of our government, the National Park Service was closed this week, with employees prohibited from coming to work. There was no one to open the parks. There was no one to maintain it's website or money to pay for it. NASA was closed too, except for support staff for the International Space Station. The National Institutes of Health had to stop taking new patients (200 people turned away so far) and suspend research. And that is just a short list of consequences. This shutdown is seriously messed up and outrageously irresponsible. It is also the work of one faction of one political party.

It is Tea Party Congressional Republicans who've flatly refused to pass a budget unless their long list of demands are met, including defunding the Affordable Care Act health care law. They have figuratively held the budget process hostage and therefore the funding of our national services to the point of a shutdown -- all to protest a law already passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. 

They really, really don't like Obamacare. They didn't vote for it, many weren't in Congress at the time, and they want it gone. What needs to be understood is that it doesn't matter who constituted the Congress when the ACA was passed. It is law. Want it changed? Then new laws have to be passed. Holding up the entire budget process of the United States in what amounts to little more than a temper tantrum is not how new laws get passed in this country. Attempting to do so is circumventing our constitutional system and ignoring the one job Congress is obligated to do every year -- pass a budget. 

Now on to the debt ceiling, which is the next big partisan battle in Washington. Raising the debt ceiling is not borrowing more money or defrauding future generations. It is promising to repay what we have already borrowed. Not raising the debt ceiling is defaulting on our obligations. It is going back on our word. It would trash the value of our government bonds and our currency. Just the threat of refusing to raise the debt ceiling sends serious and harmful ripples through global financial markets -- actually defaulting on our debts would be catastrophic. It is the very height of reckless irresponsibility for our Representatives to threaten our country and the whole global economy with that -- dishonorable too. 

Making these antics even more frustrating to watch, the debt ceiling and our budget deficit are barely affected by the ACA which is mostly paid for by new revenue and shifting existing revenue around. It is projected to cost just $1.2 billion total from 2012-2022, compared to the at least $4 trillion cost of our misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan over a similar time frame. Use of the debt ceiling to protest the ACA is... baffling and childish. All the more so that this stuff is making a mockery of what was once of a party of careful, rational, nuanced thinkers and intellectuals. Some of whom are no doubt still in the party, but whose hands are tied for fear of being "primaried" by Tea Party challengers, as so many of their fellows were in 2010. And this... embarrassment going on in Washington right now is the legacy of that condition.