Tag Archive for government shutdown

Breaking News: House Passes Deal to End Govt. Shutdown and Raise Debt Ceiling

The House of Representatives finally just passed an 11th Hour Deal to end the federal government shutdown and to temporarily raise the debt ceiling until early 2014. They voted in favor of the bill 285 to 144. It is sad that we have to act like this is such an amazing deal, when it is Congress merely doing their job and also doing their job quite abysmally. They have essentially “kicked the can down the road” on the debt ceiling. Instead of allowing the debt ceiling issue to be resolved for the near future, there will be another mind-numbing, bruising fight on the debt ceiling in February 2014. But President Obama held firm on not caving on his signature law, his health care law. President Obama had the political capital to be able to protect the Affordable Care Act with his re-election victory in 2012 in which he campaigned on his signature law, and also because the Supreme Court held up the law. Hopefully the GOP realizes it is time to give up on trying to revoke the ACA.

During the protracted political battle of the last two weeks, the GOP often tried to defend their position to the media by spinning the whole “Obama-care is ruining our economy” angle. The GOP tried to spin it as positioning themselves as a white knight saving the beleaguered American public from the “devastating” effects of Obama-care. Oh, please. I am so sick of hearing this. It is a basic human right for people to have access to affordable healthcare. The fact that so many Americans are uninsured in the richest country in the world is a complete failure of our nation. We have to work to fix this for our people. So the Affordable Care Act is an attempt to try to right this wrong. And while there may be some short term economic pain for small business owners, I think that the corporations posting record profits could stop complaining about how “they can’t afford Obama-care.” I somehow think they can find the funds out of their record profits to help their workers get access to basic services. I am so tired of the way that Wall Street acts like the Affordable Care Act is the reason for a sluggish economy and tepid employment numbers. When they were the ones who are responsible for crashing our entire economy in 2008 and then blamed our President for the sluggish economy. Also, I think that when Americans get access to healthcare, productivity also increases, which increases profit for the business community. They should be doing everything in their power to get their own employees taken care of. Because it is also in their own interest.

The media has speculated endlessly about the political fallout implications of this over two week long spectacle of a government shutdown. But as Nate Silver said recently in an interview: “The media is probably overstating the magnitude of the shutdown’s political impact. Remember Syria? The fiscal cliff? Benghazi? The IRS scandal? The collapse of immigration reform? All of these were hyped as game-changing political moments by the news media, just as so many stories were during the election last year. In each case, the public’s interest quickly waned once the news cycle turned over to another story. Most political stories have a fairly short half-life and won’t turn out to be as consequential as they seem at the time.”

He has a valid point. Perhaps we cannot assume this particular government shutdown will have a sizable effect on the 2014 Midterm Elections or in the 2016 Presidential Race. But then, maybe it will. When certain voters don’t get a paycheck, they tend to remember that. And maybe voters will tire of brinksmanship as a style of governing? We can only hope.

 

 

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Day 15 of Government Shutdown

There’s no better time to enter the political blogosphere than during a government shutdown! Today is Day 15 of the Shutdown, and the deadline for the Debt Ceiling is coming up in a few days. Partisan gridlock in our nation’s capital has been conspicuously on display while America’s federal civil servants are on furlough. Washington D.C. has not been more mercilessly divided and hopelessly dysfunctional in recent memory. This seems like a good time as any to wade into the fray of American political discourse.

I am a political nerd, and have been since my early teens. As a progressive independent, I have never been one to register with a political party. And with political dysfunction in D.C. at an all time high, I must wonder aloud: Is the two-party system failing us as a nation? When partisan allegiances are placed above the needs of our nation, the status quo fails us. The polarization is only compounded by high-tech computer-generated gerrymandering, which has accelerated in use by both Republicans and Democrats. It seems to me that gerrymandering is the elephant in the room in American politics. It is always there but no one acknowledges it.

As districts are re-drawn to be hyper-partisan, U.S. Representatives belonging to either the G.O.P. or to the Democrats are beholden to their constituents in their Ruby Red or Cerulean Blue districts. When districts are redrawn by both political parties solely for the purpose of easily winning election or re-election, they don’t result in moderate governing or in political compromise across party lines. We see legions of moderate politicians being forced out of politics, whether it is through divisive primaries such as what happened to former Senator Richard “Dick” Lugar in Indiana, or the partisan gridlock in D.C. forces moderates out by causing them to simply quit, like long-time serving Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. We see more and more minority “fringe” political views represented in Congress, such as the firebrand polemicist Ted Cruz. We see more inflammatory rhetoric and more brinksmanship. Every few months in Congress there is a new manufactured political crisis like a debt ceiling deadline or budget funding crisis, a byproduct of the “kicking the can down the road” style of “governing.” The frequency of these emergencies is indeed alarming. After the U.S.A.’s credit rating got downgraded a few years ago, you would think that our politicians would become savvy to the negative repercussions of brinkmanship. But it continues to be waged despite the apparent outrage and disgust of the American people. And our Congress continues to be unwilling to engage in compromise, moderate thought, dialogue, anything at all. Remember when pundits projected we could expect Immigration Reform to be finally tackled by Congress in October 2013? Oh, that’s funny. Instead Congress is posturing about whether to pay for the debt we have already incurred as a nation. That is not a good harbinger for the US, which has plenty of real problems and a complete lack of political will to solve these complicated public policy issues.

New York Times Political statistician wonder-kid Nate Silver has also noted why compromise is so difficult to come by, especially in the House of Representatives, stating that: “Individual members of Congress are responding fairly rationally to their incentives,” Silver wrote. “Most members of the House now come from hyper-partisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk.” Or if they are the Speaker of the House, then they might be able to run unopposed. I am alluding to the 2012 re-election of John Boehner. One of the very  pillars of G.O.P. brand obstructionism, John Boehner ran for re-election in 2012 unopposed in his southern Ohio district. No Democrat would run against him in his district because gerrymandering has made it impossible for a Democrat to win there. Why would any reasonable candidate run in that district when statistically speaking the metrics ensure that it would be a costly landslide defeat? The vastness of this problem can’t be understated.

But the American people are clearly outraged and exhausted from the dysfunction in Washington D.C. But will our outrage translate into actual policy changes? That remains to be seen. I do hope against hope that the anger can translate into more interest and success in Third Parties. As an Independent voter in Colorado, a state that has a large population of Independent voters (33.92% of voters in Colorado), I hope that more Americans realize that they don’t have to be lemmings to party-lines when political parties no longer serve their interests. Wake up, America.