Is the Government Shutdown the Fault of Both Parties?

While this is not necessarily about American history, this will have an impact on American history as much as it is having an impact on historic parks across the country.  So while this isn’t the normal scope of items I blog about here, I’m making an exception for all those federal workers at state parks across the country.  With that in mind, let me answer the title of this post; ‘Is this the fault of both parties?’  Hell, no.  The fault of this government shutdown belongs squarely on the Republican party.

 Some quick caveats and a breakdown: (1) I’m not saying that the Democrats are perfect, because they aren’t.  (2) I’m not saying all Republicans are to blame, because they aren’t. (3) I am, however, accusing the 30 or so members of the House for being blatantly horrible people for allowing this to happen, and (4) I am placing blame on the majority of the GOP for allowing the House to waste tax dollars voting 40 times to repeal Obamacare, unsuccessfully, for an ideological agenda that is out of place, out of touch, and selfishly-motivated—if not for this, (5) the shutdown would never have happened because there would have been no scapegoat upon which the GOP could pin the blame.

Be ready to click through links to read the supporting research for what I’m about to say.  Don’t be lazy–educate yourself.

1. What This Shutdown Isn’t

What must be made clear is what this isn’t about.  First and foremost, this shutdown is not about Obamacare at all; or, specifically, this isn’t about the inability to reach a compromise about it--Obamacare (more tamely known as the Affordable Care Act–though Americans can’t seem to figure out that they are the same thing) is already a compromise.

The law as it sits now is based upon feedback of both parties, rewrites from both parties, based upon a Republican plan founded by former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Additional amendments to the law were added by Republicans–most notably the one that led some people to ignorantly claim that Congress was exempt from the ACA (which, according to Politifact–a nonpartisan website that analyzes the truth of political claims–is completely bogus).

Additionally, the ACA was going through regardless of whether or not Ted Cruz and his fellow Tea Baggers walked out on Tuesday morning.

This isn’t about Obama.  At least, it isn’t about anything he can do or not do.  The same is true about the Democrats in the Legislative body.   The shutdown was predicted last month (September 17th) on Mother Jones, something to this very effect:

But here’s how it’s really going to play out: The House will pass this bill. Tea partiers everywhere will rejoice. And that will be it. Harry Reid will just laugh and toss it in the dustbin. Boehner will then beg the lunatic wing of his party to get serious. They will threaten to hold their breaths until their faces turn blue. Boehner will sigh and toss off a pro forma speech about how President Obama needs to “get serious” about the deficit. He will then spend some time with Eric Cantor, and ask him for permission to pass a grown-up CR with some Democratic votes. If Cantor decides to let him, that’s what he’ll do. If not, there will be a government shutdown accompanied by dancing in the streets and solemn promises to hold out forever.

This is exactly what happened.

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Oh yes she did!

It is so bad that even some Republicans in the House don’t know what to do about it but blame Ted Cruz:

“Yeah, that’s right, and that’s Ted Cruz’s fault,” insisted King. “Ted Cruz led us down this path. This was a disaster from the start, I could have predicted this. This is what the leadership should have predicted three weeks ago when they said they’d never pursue defunding because it was going to work against us.”

“It’s his fault, and he wants us to get him out of it,” King fumed. President Barack Obama should have negotiated, sure, he said, “but this is all because of Ted Cruz and his acolytes in the House of Representatives. They led us down this dead end street.”

But this isn’t about the democrats not budging or Obama not negotiating–they’ve already budged and negotiated.  A lot.

The claim also seems to be that the GOP in the House are doing this for their constituents.  Cruz claims he is helping his 26 million Texas constituents.  False.

This isn’t about you, their constituents, because they’re not doing this for you.  You’ve already voted, and 2/3 of those polled have declared that defunding, repealing, or delaying Obamacare is the wrong way to go.  They may claim that the ACA is bad for Americans, that it is bad for the economy, but this is about how much money they can continue to shove in their pockets.  After all, if they cared about you, do you think they’d take a paid vacation, on your dime, while allowed 800,000 Americans to go without pay and work for an unspecified amount of time?

But don’t take my word for it, this guy–a US Republican Representative–says it all:

As 800,000 federal employees were set to be furloughed due to a government shutdown on Tuesday, a Republican lawmaker with a net worth of around $6 million was positively cheerful about the situation, telling NPR that it was his “idea of fun.”

Following an impasse that resulted in Republicans failing at both delaying President Barack Obama’s health care reform law and stopping a government shutdown, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) insisted to NPR that the GOP had used the right tactics.

Yes, he’s having a grand old time, with his Grand Old Party.  He doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation for the American voter:

“Well, I think there’s always a sense that it’s very uncomfortable when now you’re up against a government slowdown,” Schweikert remarked. “I see a division even on the left side. Even look at some of last night’s votes, where we had Republicans voting no and Democrats voting yes.”

Yep, he thinks it is a ‘slowdown’ (which I guess makes it OK in his mind), but he also seems to imply that this was a bipartisan vote–but only two Democrats voted ‘yes’ along with 228 Republicans.  Not a very strong argument for bipartisanship at all.

Incidentally, the ACA–which Ted Cruz thinks nobody wants or needs–is doing tremendously well right out of the gate.

On Tuesday, Obamacare’s state-level insurance marketplaces opened to the public, marking the start of a six-month enrollment period that will stretch into March. Although there’s been some confusion around the health law’s new marketplaces — also known as “exchanges” — initial reports suggest that a significant number of people are seeking out information about reform. States across the country are overwhelmed with huge amounts of traffic to their new exchange websites.

It did so well, the traffic–over 1 million visitors in the first few hours–broke the website.  Obama had to direct people to the call centers because internet users could were flooding the servers too quickly.

Nonetheless, the GOP voters seem to need the ACA more than anyone else.

We turned to the Commonwealth Fund study in question. The fund is a 95-year-old group that aims to “promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.” The fund is nonpartisan but generally seen as supportive of Obama’s law.

The fund conducted two polls of young Americans — one taken in November 2011, the other taken in February and March 2013. Unlike traditional telephone polls, this survey uses Internet respondents drawn from a sample that, by design, closely mirrors the demographic patterns of the population at large. In 2013, the pollsters invited 3,530 adults aged 19 to 29 to complete the 2013 online questionnaire. More than half responded, producing a margin of sampling error of slightly more than 3 percentage points.

(Click link above to see data)

So, Clinton was right — 63 percent of young Republicans, compared to only 45 percent of young Democrats had signed on to their parents’ plan, something they couldn’t have done without passage of Obama’s law.

This shutdown isn’t good for the economy (ironic since Ted Cruz is so concerned about that and all).  Oh no, no it isn’t!  And Republicans know this.  They’ve shut down the government before.

The record for the shutdown at the end of 1995 suggests the impact is significant but mostly reversible. The government closed for five days that November, reopened and then shut again for 28 days over December-January.

The pace of economic growth lost nearly a full point from the third quarter of 1995 to the first quarter of 1996, slowing to 2.6 percent. But it sprang back to a 7.2 percent pace in the second quarter of 1996.

For most economists, the larger worry is a continuation of the impasse into the issue of raising the country’ debt ceiling.

Remember when Boehner made that promise to economists that the GOP was geared to:

“…liberate our economy from the things that impede growth … to provide clear policies, so that innovators and entrepreneurs have the green light to move forward and create jobs, without having to worry about second-guessing from Washington.”

I guess that doesn’t matter when you want to get your way, regardless of the cost.  And make no mistake, the cost is very personal to you (even if you don’t yet know it).  But there is that other pesky issue; Republicans who are orchestrating this don’t have to worry about backlash, do they?

This suggests that even if a public backlash develops against a shutdown or potential government default, Republican members may be far more insulated against those gales than their counterparts were during the two shutdowns in the winter of 1995 and 1996. Today’s GOP legislators, for the same reason, also may be less sensitive to shifts in public attitudes that could threaten their party’s national image or standing in more closely contested parts of the country.

Comparing today’s 232-seat Republican majority with the 236 seats Republicans ultimately held after special elections and party switches from 1995-96 underscores the extent to which GOP legislators have succeeded in fortifying themselves into homogeneously conservative districts. On every measure, Republicans today represent constituencies that lean more lopsidedly toward their party.

They just don’t care.  They have no reason to care because their constituents–you, the GOP voter reading this article–will statistically vote them back into office again and again.  Hopefully you’ll prove me wrong, but when you consider that at least half of the GOP is made up of individuals who support the shutdown, well, for the Republican lawmaker, it seems only reasonable to continue to push the way they’ve been pushing.  As one pundit noted about the state of the Tea Party “Patriots”:

Clearly there are some parallels between the populists and the self-styled “patriots” of today. But there are also important differences. In economic terms, populism was a left-wing movement dedicated to undoing some of the vast inequities that rapid development and industrialization had begotten. “On the one side stand the corporate interests of the United States, the moneyed interests, aggregated wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless,” William Jennings Bryan, a.k.a. the Great Commoner, declared in a famous speech. “On the other side stand an unnumbered throng, those who gave to the Democratic Party a name and for whom it has assumed to speak.” The Tea Party sometimes rails against Wall Street, but is hardly a movement of the downtrodden masses. According to opinion pollsters that have probed its makeup, its members are richer and more educated than the median American. Tea Party supporters are mostly men, overwhelmingly white, and about half of them are of retirement age.

It is dangerous to generalize, but American conservatism, at its base, seems to be primarily a movement of a middle class that sees itself as squeezed, besieged, and neglected, and whose grievances have as much to do with values as economics. In this, it shares something with earlier right-wing movements, such as the John Birch Society, and, demographically at least, with the radical right-wing movements of interwar Europe.

This isn’t about you, it’s about them.

2. So What Is This About?

This is about crazy people, with a very minimal understanding of the Affordable Care Act, who are posing an ultimatum at the government: our way or no way.  It is just 30 people in our House of Representatives who are holding the country hostage:

The 30 radicals driving the GOP’s brinkmanship include Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-TX). These lawmakers say they will do anything necessary to take a stand against Obamacare — even though shutting down the government will not actually delay the law’s implementation.

In the Senate, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have alienated virtually all of their colleagues in their fruitless crusade against Obamacare. An aide to Lee proudly stated, “The minority of the minority is going to run things until our leadership gets some backbone.”

And they are.  They are running things.  That is, if ‘running things’ means doing absolutely nothing.  And by ‘absolutely nothing’, I mean, ‘doing nothing to stop the furlough of hundreds of thousands of loyal and hardworking Americans, hurling businesses into the dark because they cannot import or export goods because certain customs officials are not working, and threatening to send this country into another economic downfall because a budget cannot be passed.’

If you’re asking yourself, “Well, how can only 30 people be responsible for shutting down an entire government?” you’re not alone.  The answer is fairly straightforward.

There are two answers. One, the Republican majority in the House is fairly narrow. And two, Democrats have been extraordinarily unified in opposing GOP proposals.

It takes 217 votes to pass a bill in the House. Republicans can pass one all by themselves, but only if they keep 217 out of the total 233 GOP lawmakers on board. If more than 16 GOP lawmakers jump ship, Speaker John Boehner won’t have enough Republican votes to pass any given bill.

That’s where Democratic unity comes in. There are 200 Democrats in the House. If they unanimously oppose a bill, then Boehner has to keep almost all of his GOP lawmakers together, or the measure will fail.

The combination of those two factors — a close Republican majority and united Democratic opposition — gives those 30 Republicans their power. In a situation where Democrats nearly unanimously oppose a bill, the 30 can make the difference between success or failure for Boehner. If they stick together, Boehner can’t win.

The 30 are saying, “To all other Republicans, get on board with the Tea Party or we’re not helping you pass a law.”  This is a power play; it is an attempt to dominate the rest of the moderate Republicans and the Democratic party.  Like some television drama, they represent the abusive boyfriend who refuses to to let you go out with your friends in that outfit.  He really isn’t upset about your outfit, because secretly he likes that outfit on you too.  It is because he is petty, insecure, and afraid that–if you found out just how terrible he really is–you’d leave him.

It is also about money.  Back in 2009, there was that thing with the private insurance company lobbyist; perhaps you’ve forgotten?

A top lobbyist for the major private insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), urged Congressional Republicans to not even consider helping Democrats pass health care reform lest they aid an “enemy who is down.”

According to this article from ABC News in 2009:

In the first six months of the year, health care interests donated $19.7 million to all federal lawmakers. More than 40% — $8.1 million — went to the campaign and political action committees of lawmakers on the five House and Senate committees that are working on health care.

They may claim that the ACA is bad for Americans, that it is bad for the economy, but this is about how much money they can continue to shove in their pockets.  After all, if they cared about you, do you think they’d take a paid vacation, on your dime, while allowed 800,000 Americans to go without pay and work for an unspecified amount of time?

It’s about Christian Dominionism.  Don’t be fooled, Ted Cruz wants his country as Right-Wing Fundy as he can get it, and he wants it that way because he has some really bizarre beliefs about, well, everything,  Christian Dominionism is the belief that Christians should rule the world and our secular laws should be replaced with Biblical ones (including stoning):

On the eve of our government shutdown, I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown. I’m interested in understanding what account of Christianity creates the “no compromise” crusade that the Tea Party has become known for. It turns out that Ted’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.

In the months building up to the present showdown, Cruz has been giving speeches at Tea Party rallies and other religious right gatherings as part of a campaign to defund Obamacare. In watching the speeches, I can see how his status as a Cuban American refugee fits the ethos of the far right culture warrior movement perfectly. He is able to shift seamlessly from stories about the oppression of the Castro regime to talking about the Obama administration.

A more disturbing element of Cruz’s speeches were his repeated calls for a “black robe regiment,” a concept promoted by Christian revisionist historian David Barton who claims that clergy were the main backbone of the American Revolutionary War.

Oh yeah, and he follows David Barton, who tries to pretend he is a historian, whose book on Thomas Jefferson was laughable and so terrible it was pulled by the publisher (even though it was lauded over by Glenn Beck).  Cruz is supported by hardliners and hawks like this guy, who went on the air to tell his listeners that they needed to follow the path of God and rise up to overthrow the government by force.

They don’t care if you agree or not; they’ll find a way to make you agree.

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And those are the facts.

3. The Hard Truth

The Democrats do not have this sort of history.  Despite the immense failures of the Bush administration, over eight years, not a single Shutdown happened despite the Democratic majority in the Legislative branch.  When Bush pushed through his wildly terrible ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act, no Democrat said, “This isn’t happening; if it does, I will shut down the Government!” and even if the chance were given that someone uttered that, it never, ever happened.  Why?  Because they’re not crazy people.

The left has its own share of troubles, don’t get me wrong.  I am not thrilled with the current left–they’ve held on to too many Bush-era policies, they have endorsed things I don’t agree with (like approving and defending federal snooping on US citizens and using drones which have high amounts of collateral damage–i.e., they tend to kill innocent civilians).  But, I can say, they don’t do things that bring down the government.  They may be intolerable, but they’re not (usually) stupid.

I cannot say the same thing about the ultra-conservatives, the Neocons, the Tea Baggers, who only care about their skewed understanding of politics.  They will lie and lie and lie if it gets you to believe them and agree with them.  All politicians have a little bit of a lying streak, after all.  But Ted Cruz, the leader behind this shutdown, has done nothing but lie since he started on the subject–and the only true thing he’s aid about anything has been about toilets.  The GOP, after all, has done this before.  In 1995, they demanded that there be sweeping changes to social programs–this was during a time when the American economy was at an all-time high.  We had a surplus!  We could afford to give more back to the people!

Today, it is decidedly more perilous than it was in 1995-6.  A budget must be passed soon, or we risk another economic crisis. This is completely avoidable, of course, but we are falling prey to an ever-more dysfunctional Republican party who can’t seem to get themselves into some sort of cohesive mesh fast enough to pass any legislature at all.

As it has been pointed out:

In fact, if the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, were to bring a clean budget bill to the House floor, with no provisions defunding or delaying Obamacare, it would almost certainly pass – with Democrats and Republicans joining together to support it. It would then get majority approval in the Senate and be signed by President Obama.

So, why hasn’t that happened yet? Because Boehner has pledged only to pass legislation that has the support of enough Republican members (unaided by Democrats) to be enacted. Since that is impossible right now, the government will shut down.

The worst of it is, we have only ourselves to blame (well, not me, I didn’t vote for them).  Because we the people elected them to office.  They would not have any power had we the foresight to just laugh them off the political stage.  One writer aptly stated:

We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government.

We have elected a national legislature in which Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann have more power than does the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has been made a piteous spectacle in the eyes of the country and doesn’t seem to mind that at all. We have elected a national legislature in which the true power resides in a cabal of vandals, a nihilistic brigade that believes that its opposition to a bill directing millions of new customers to the nation’s insurance companies is the equivalent of standing up to the Nazis in 1938, to the bravery of the passengers on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and to Mel Gibson’s account of the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th Century. We have elected a national legislature that looks into the mirror and sees itself already cast in marble.

And he’s right.  But more than that, we’ve elected a group of children.  They don’t like the government because it isn’t how they want the government to be–they want a Christian-run theocracy, complete with the stoning of gays and lesbians, the death of free thought, and a complete rewriting of history where the founders all slept with a Bible and beat the British away with their bundles of guns–and the French and the Spanish didn’t do anything at all.  If you don’t appreciate the government, what would make you want to save it?  If you don’t understand how important something is, or grasp its value, destroying it means nothing.

It’s like breaking another child’s toy. You are perhaps empathetic, but its meaning doesn’t hit you like it will the poor child who owned it, or even the parents who bought it for their child, or the disregard for the worker who stayed late on the production line to manufacture that toy, or the individual who worked the iron mines to produce the material that went into the mould to make it.  You’ve no care, because you don’t grasp it at all. And what we have here are a group of children throwing a temper-tantrum because they don’t have a toy like you have–and if they can’t have a toy like this, well, then they’re going to break your toy so you can’t have one either.

Welcome to the shutdown, America.  And that is why this isn’t about the Democrats, it isn’t about Obama, the blame for this whole fiasco is in the hands of a group of 30 Republicans and the other members of the GOP who sat by, voted ‘yes’ in succession, and watched it happen.

UPDATE #1 10-3-13

As of today, Republicans have been coming forward openly stating that they will vote for a clean CR:

In the hours since the government shut down, House Republicans have slowly but steadily been coming forward to say they’re ready to pass a bill to fund the government with no strings attached.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of those Republicans hit 20 — surpassing the magic 17 votes needed to pass a clean funding bill if all 200 Democrats stick together and team up with them. Of course, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would have to be willing to put that bill on the floor in the first place. But if he did, the votes appear to be there for passage, at which point the bill would sail through the Senate and be signed by President Barack Obama, ending the shutdown.

I am pleased to say that a number of these reasonable people are from Pennsylvania, specifically Rep’s Pat Meehan, Mike Fitzpatrick, Lou Barletta, Charlie Dent, and Jim Gerlach.  Good on them for recognizing that extortion is a crime, but above all else that it is a terrible tactic and harmful to the American people.  Their stances on this matter should be applauded.

As far as the other members of the GOP who have not yet signed on to a clean CR, they are in full spin zone right now.

If you follow any Republican lawmakers on social media, you may have noticed a popular theme on Wednesday: Blame President Barack Obama for the negative effects of the government shutdown, which began earlier this week after Republicans in the House refused to pass a federal budget that didn’t also defund the Affordable Care Act.

The GOP’s coordinated effort to shift blame for the shutdown began at the National Mall’s World War II Memorial on Tuesday, just hours after 40 percent of government employees — around 800,000 workers — were placed on indefinite, unpaid furlough, and vast pieces of the government, including national parks and monuments, were closed to the public.

Rather than zero in on the missed paychecks for nearly a million workers or a myriad of other impacts, the same Republicans who earlier appeared gleeful at the prospect of a government shutdown seized upon a chance to paint themselves as heroes who would make sure military veterans could enter the memorial they had helped shutter.

It is pretty pathetic–worse, their blame-shifting is essentially them saying, “We think you (the American people) are really this stupid.”  And sadly, some people are stupid enough to actually fall prey to this tactic.  But make no mistake, this is still the fault of the GOP.  President Obama had this to say:

“Am I exasperated?” Obama said in an exclusive interview with CNBC three hours before he was set to meet with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House. “Absolutely, I’m exasperated because this is entirely unnecessary.

“I am exasperated with the idea that unless I say to 20 million people you can’t have health insurance, these folks will not reopen the government,” Obama added. “That is irresponsible.”

Damn straight it is irresponsible.  And for those of you reading this who don’t think this is what the GOP wanted, and that somehow, in your fairy-world, this is all Obama’s fault, watch for yourselves: Republicans years ago were talking about wanting this to happen and that they were going to ‘shut down the government’ like they did in 1995-6, and that ‘they were going to win this time’ (seriously, they said that).  But again, watch for yourself.

UPDATE #2 10-3-13

This JUST in:

Though he repeatedlyjoined with all of his Republican colleagues to force the government shutdown, in a candid moment last month Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) complained that the Tea Party’s influence forced them to do it.

Walden, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP’s campaign arm), reportedly told a group of top Republican donors that the Tea Party’s organizational strength meant that Republicans had to shutdown the government and obstruct a debt-ceiling increase.

“Listen,” Walden told them, “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.” Noting that he often hears complaints from the pro-business wing of the party, he noted none of them get involved at the local level. “The Tea Party gets involved at the local level,” he added.

And there you have it folks.  Right from the horses mouth.

One response to “Is the Government Shutdown the Fault of Both Parties?

  1. The problem is the Tea Qaeda and their warped and very limited understanding of American History. This is outright war because they want to make laws restricting what historians teach. Freedom of Speech is a fucking joke to these terrorists. So is Freedom of Religion. My fellow Catholics who are right wingers fail to understand that if the evangelicals seize control of the federal government they’re going to be coming to get the Catholics too.

    Ted Cruz is the product of the demagogue like Beck and Limbaugh. The guy has no leadership skills and no ability to do anything but run his mouth and say what the conservatives want to hear. But I think he is a bit overrated because while it plays well to that crowd, they are a minority crowd in this country. He may be the figure that plays the role of William Jennings Bryan for the Tea Qaeda. This is just a modern version of the Populist party of Bryan’s. They controlled some states, but never did much nationally until they just petered away and were replaced by people who actually had ideas.

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