I’m sure most of my readers were aware when the government shutdown commenced a couple of weeks ago. If you were anywhere near a news media outlet, you couldn’t help it.
If you were incommunicado, of course, you probably didn’t have a clue. Not unless you receive a government paycheck (not pension check, they go out as scheduled), are in the process of a federal government transaction or had planned a visit to a national park facility, etc.
The federal budget has been out of control for decades anyway. The shutdown just managed to put on the brakes for a while as the Recalcitrants and the Demagogues duke it out in the halls of Congress and the offices of the White House. Their compensation, of course, hasn’t been interrupted in the meantime, although one of the president’s junkets halfway around the world had to be curtailed.
The shutdown, we’re told, was a matter of principle. On the one hand, the president needed to listen to reason and jettison or at least delay the onset of Obamacare. On the other, people who sorely need coverage under the Affordable Care Act shouldn’t be held hostage to reactionary obstructionists who would rather shut down the government than feed the hungry.
The irony, of course, is this: What does universal health care (if you like it, it’s the Affordable Care Act; if you don’t, it’s Obamacare) have to do with voting for or against raising the national debt limit? Answer: Considerably less than dressing up like Indians and throwing a shipment of tea in the ocean to protest a British tax on the stuff. Or fleeing to another state to delay passage of a Right to Work Law.
It’s all an exercise in arm wrestling. Come, let us reason together … and do it my way.
For me at this point in time, neither Obamacare nor a government shutdown has much meaning. That would be subject to change, of course, if the so-called Affordable Care Act becomes unaffordable for senior citizens depending on a healthcare program enacted half a century ago by a president who couldn’t possibly have foreseen to what lengths it would be carried. Medicare pays nearly all my medical expenses, though at a monthly premium that effectively wipes out my federal tax liability (yes, I’m one of those 47 percent, or whatever it was).
If I were a substantial federal taxpayer, however, I’d be rather concerned over the increasing amount of my tax dollars going to fund studies on the mating habits of electric eels, or bridges to nowhere, or you name it.
Our elected representatives used to be able to negotiate these things and come up with workable solutions. But the Sam Rayburns and the Gerald Fords and the Richard Lugars and even the Newt Gingriches have been ousted and replaced by a new breed of intransigents.
And ne’er the twain shall meet.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.