Friday, October 18, 2013

The Government Shutdown: An Expensive Temper Tantrum

senate (Photo credit: Raela 9)

At a certain age, kids will throw tantrums in an effort to get attention or get their way. They rant, scream, roll around the floor, and throw and break things. The absolute worst thing you can do in these situations is give in to their demands. It’s not even a good idea to pay too much attention to them. This validates tantrums as a way to get what you want.

The just-ended federal government shutdown is a case of an adult temper tantrum. Some 40 Republican members of the House of Representatives, determined to get rid of a law they don’t like, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – which just happened to be passed by both House and Senate in 2010, browbeat and coerced their fellow Republicans into playing a game of brinksmanship that brought the government to a virtual standstill for nearly three weeks. The Senate passed it by a vote of 60-39 in 2009, and the House signed on in 2010 with a vote of 219-212.

Like a stubborn two-year-old, they knew going in that they had no chance of success, but they did it anyway. Like the child who smashes his toys, they didn’t seem to give a damn about the consequences of their temperamental outburst. So it cost the country from $23 to $24 billion in lost GDP, so what? National parks lost $450,000 a day in lost receipts, and there was $2.4 billion in lost travel spending? Those are just the national impacts. What about local impacts? Well, in Northern Virginia, many dry cleaning establishment workers had to be laid off in communities where the majority of residents were furloughed government workers for whom dry cleaning was a luxury that had to be foregone for the duration of the shutdown. What did they care? Apparently, they either didn’t care, or were too ignorant to be able to foresee the consequences. Either answer is frightening. Voters elected these wackos to represent their interests in Washington. In the wake of this most recent debacle, one is left wondering just what interests such nimrods actually represent.

As House Democrat Nancy Pelosi said, “they live in a data-free zone,” referring to their inability to digest the devastating economic impact of their insane political posturing. What is even more disconcerting is that this little knot of malcontents constitute less than ten percent of the House of Representatives total 435 voting members, yet they were able to coerce their fellow Republicans, apparently fearful of the revenge of the lunatic fringe, into going along with them as they played chicken with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a President who’d made it clear from the start that he would not negotiate with those taking the country hostage.

Finally, sanity prevailed, and Republicans in the Senate (or at least enough of them) decided that enough was enough, and they voted on a bill to raise the debt limit and reopen the government. House Speaker Boehner finally found his manhood and allowed a House vote on the Senate bill, and that was that. Or, was it? In January, we have the potential to have to go through this mess again, because these infantile idiots don’t seem capable of learning from experience, and are likely to give it another go.

You see, they didn’t get their way, but they did get attention. Mainstream media quoted their inane babblings incessantly, and the right-wing tabloids held them out as heroes. Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas (where, by the way, where six of the tantrum throwers come from) led other ultra-conservative politicians in a presidential poll conducted by a right-wing group that was holding a meeting in Washington during the shutdown. Even though Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that there will be no more Republican-led shutdowns in order to defund the ACA, Boehner was unable to exert leadership over these rebels in the House, and one has to wonder if they have any sense of respect left for their so-called leadership.

They certainly have a unique take on reality. They blame the president and the Democrats, for instance, for the shutdown. Their reasoning goes something like this: we, a tiny minority of the whole body, want something, and if you don’t let us have our way, we’ll bring the whole thing crashing down. The president and Senate majority leader Harry Reid refused to be bullied or intimidated; the nuts corralled their fellow Republicans into cowering for three weeks, and – guess what – it’s the fault of those who refused to be bullied that we did what we did. It’s not our fault. Kind of like the guy who killed his parents saying the court should be lenient with him since he’s an orphan.

If you’re fan of the circus, keep an eye on Washington in the coming months. I have a sinking feeling that the show’s not over yet, and their next act will be to ‘send in the clowns.’

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