There’s plenty of blame on both sides of the shutdown

Published 9:06am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

So here we are in week two of the government shutdown. One side says it’s all the Republicans’ fault. The other side pins full blame on President Obama and the Democrats.

Judging from the statements we hear each night on the news, the room for compromise is limited. And the next big impasse is already starting to shade this one. The United States will start bumping up against the debt ceiling Oct. 17.

Funny how $16.7 trillion still isn’t so much that those objecting to it can’t have their names trashed. That’s a lot of zeroes, a lot more money than most of us can even fathom.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett seem almost impossibly rich. But their fortunes of around $80 billion are peanuts compared to even a couple trillion.

But first there’s the government shutdown. The Republicans want another look at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

But the president’s signature legislative achievement, the one that everyone knows by his name, is something that he’s not going to budge on. It’s hard to blame him for that.

But I also can’t blame the Republicans for digging in their heels. Do you remember how ObamaCare was passed?

How amendments were sharply curtailed to keep the other party out of the process? How it was pushed through during the Christmas break? The words of then-speaker Nancy Pelosi that it would have to first be passed before we could find out what’s in it?

It drew not a single Republican vote. Not one, in either the House or the Senate.

The only compromises that were involved in the creation of that piece of legislative sausage were the deals brokered with members of the Democrats own party to keep them in the fold despite opposition back home that threatened their seats in the next election.

It’s pretty hard to convince the opposition of the virtues of bipartisanship when the sticking point is a bill that was rammed through unilaterally. And then there’s the way Speaker Pelosi danced in the end zone by walking to the capitol with a comically sized gavel through a crowd of demonstrators who fervently opposed the bill she was about to pass.

We are in the midst of budget season at the local level right now. Capital funds are being cut into and pay raises are again being delayed in many local cities because they have to keep the budgets balanced.

Yet it’s been years since a budget was truly debated at the federal level. Instead we have this steady stream of Continuing Resolutions, debt ceiling emergencies and “fiscal cliffs.”

“Spend more or you hate America” seems to be the overriding theme of rhetoric. Yet few people on the right oppose taking care of the needy. Few oppose getting medical care for those who need it. There are some, though, who are concerned about how we’re going to pay for it.

Do you realize the “point-seven” in $16.7 trillion is 10 times the personal worth of the world’s richest man? Even the rounding error on our national debt is more than most countries’ Gross Domestic Product.

Holding a slim majority in one house of Congress, there aren’t many places for the Republicans to make their concerns heard. So they dig in their heels and let the government “shut down,” though you’ll notice there aren’t as many “non-essential” personnel as you might think.

There are still enough people to keep the barricades up on the National Mall and enough to detain veterans who stop for a rubbing at the Vietnam Memorial.

A deal must get done. But let’s not act as if those forcing the shutdown don’t have a leg to stand on.

 

David D. Goodwin writes a weekly political column for The Wetumpka Herald.

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