We face serious consequences if we cannot make our federal government operate better than the dysfunctional melee were currently witnessing.
On the surface, the main points of contention are the debt ceiling and Affordable Care Act (ACA). But I think the real issues are money in politics and extreme partisanship. When Obama became president, our economy was in the midst of the Great Recession. The Fiscal Year 2008 budget, prior to his election, ran a total deficit of $960 billion. Last years deficit was down to about $590 billion, with economic growth and a soaring market.
A benchmark of a successful presidency is a good economy. Hence, many of Obamas opponents dont want the economy to prosper. Obstructing Obamas policies has become their crusade to save America.
A fault of Obama is not his refusal to negotiate, for he has tried to do so on several occasions, concerning taxes, debt and spending. Many of the key properties of the ACA actually came from conservative quarters. Led by a handful of people taking extreme positions, the GOP now is rejecting some of its own ideas, mainly to ruin Obamas presidency.
Since its passage, the House has voted about 40 times to repeal what they derisively call Obamacare. The integrity of many such representatives seems questionable, however, considering they also claimed the act includes death panels. Moreover, there are millions of Americans without health insurance and rising health care costs eventually will bring down our economy, yet the ACA naysayers have made no serious proposals to address such issues. Are these the actions of people willing to engage in meaningful dialogue?
Its also interesting to ask, Whats the economic credibility of Ted Cruz types? They believed Bushs policies would balance the budget and produce economic prosperity. Just months before the 2008 financial blowup, they described the economy as strong. According to their predictions, our economy should now be in shambles after almost five years of President Obama. When one hears Cruz, Boehner, McConnell, etc., arguing about the debt limit or proclaiming how economically disastrous Obamacare will be, one wonders, How would they know?
The ACA is not a bill for which negotiations would be legitimate. It passed three years ago and is now a law. To tell Obama, if he doesnt repeal or seriously alter his signature act as president, theyre going to bring down the economy, is blackmail. Obama shouldnt be faulted for his refusal to negotiate when demands are so outrageous and would create an undemocratic precedent. At this time, the fair and appropriate response to the Affordable Care Act is to give it a try.
Its not going to bring down the economy, and if the law fails, we can repeal it. Alternatively, if the ACA needs adjustment, then after we see what needs to be altered, we can tweak it.
There are plenty of reasonable Republicans who dont want a shutdown or for us to default. The core of people responsible for this impasse belongs to the tea party, the most ardent of which are about 40 members of the House of Representatives.
Numerous tea party politicians are so ideologically driven and come from such gerrymandered congressional districts that theyre willing to cripple America in order to subvert a law they dont like. Their actions are rather unprecedented. Lets put this impasse in perspective. Its not at all unusual to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running or to increase the debt limit to pay our bills. What is unusual are the demands being placed on the executive branch of our government.
This is not normal politics folks; there is something sinister in the air.
Ladies and gentlemen, whether conservative, independent or liberal, if we continue to let the most radical and malicious among us have such an influential role in our societal decisions, this theater of the absurd only will get worse.
Mark Mansperger is an assistant professor of anthropology and world civilizations at Washington State University Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, development and international economics.