Sunday, October 6, 2013

Shutdown Chaos: Who is to Blame and Does it Matter? Part 1

We are now six days into the federal government shutdown and boy has it been an interesting experience for both the politically-inclined and those who normally couldn't care less about what the federal government is doing from day to day. We have seen the predictable blame game of who is really responsible for the shutdown, we've seen elements of the GOP attempt to "eat their own", and we've seen absolutely zero movement in the direction of ending the shutdown.

While I normally love to talk about how quickly the GOP seems to "eat their own" in a time of crisis, but that to me is not a terribly important story from this past week because: one, it's pretty predictable and it started before the shutdown began and two, it's a big enough topic I could go on for days..

Instead, for Part I of this rather long-winded piece, I would like to talk about the blame game that has been going one all week concerning whose fault it was really was that the federal government shut down.

As usual, depending on which media source you regularly subscribe to, the answer to this question varies GREATLY. Even more comically, both sides of the media are quite certain of where the blame resides and that is should be obvious to anyone with eyes and ears.

The right-wing media makes it plain that it is the Democrats and the President who are ultimately responsible since they are refusing to negotiate even a little about the issue of delaying or modifying how/when "Obamacare" or even passing some funding bills to re-open various elements of the government.

The left-wing media (or more generally, the "mainstream media" as a whole) on the other hand, points out that it was the GOP who insisted on adding various anti-Obamacare amendments to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government in the first place. They further point out that the GOP knew these amendments would not make it through the Senate let alone be signed off by the President. Thus, they knowingly started the chain reaction that would lead to the government shutdown.

Ultimately, here is how I look at it.

Yes, the immediate responsibility for the government shutdown does lie rather clearly on the GOP's doorstep, no matter how hard they try to deny it. If they hadn't added their anti-Obamacare amendments to the continuing resolution to fund the government, we wouldn't be in the shutdown we are in today. The GOP will try and tell it that these amendments weren't terribly unreasonable and it was Senate Majority leader Harry Reid that stripped the House's bill and sent it back to them and it was the Democrat-controlled Senate that ultimately defeated the GOP continuing resolution that followed. However, it is also quite certain that the GOP knew damn-well Harry Reid would not accept any bill with anti-Obamacare amendments attached to it and instead of being diplomatic about it, they just went ahead and did it anyway.

Now many in the GOP/right-wing media are also spending nearly every waking moment pointing out how terrible Obamacare is going to be and also having a good laugh about how terrible the opening of the program has been so far.

Now they won't get any argument from me that as a whole, "Obamacare" is a terrible law/program and is a prime example of the old idiom that, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". In other words, the health care "reform" law was designed/written to cure an actual problem in America, but its execution was terrible and seems doomed to fail and whether the federal government is the best venue for solving the health care problems of the nation in the first place is quite debatable. But here is the problem with all this talk of Obamacare: Why bring it up now?

The GOP tried and ultimately failed to stop "Obamacare" from being passed and during the last two election cycles (both Presidential and congressional), they have failed to gain enough control over the federal government to repeal it. So after all this failure, why has the GOP decided to risk being blamed for a government shutdown just to try and stop or delay Obamacare's implementation?

Senator Ted Cruz, during his quasi-filibuster more than a week ago, made the case that even after all this failure it was still clear that many Americans dislike the law and there is no actual majority public support for it. Add to that the fact so many GOPers (including Cruz) were elected as least partially because of their views on Obamacare and considering that 1 October was the start of the health care insurance exchanges, it was still their duty to at least try and stop Obamacare from being fully implemented.

This is something of a noble sentiment and if he was truly being honest about it, the folks that voted him in should be rather proud of the senator.

Even more incredibly, Senator Cruz in one speech (albeit a rather long one) has done what the GOP as a whole as largely failed to do for the last four years: he has brought Obamacare and its many problems back to the forefront of the public's mind and brought it back into the political arena. Sure the GOP has passed many bills in the past from the House to defund or repeal Obamacare but these votes were mostly symbolic (since they knew they would ultimately fail) and were mainly meant to try and keep the issue relevant and placate the voters back at home. They failed of course, and now in a one fell swoop Senator Cruz has outdone them all. I personally wonder if that's why so many "old fart" GOPers are rather irritated with Senator Cruz and his tactics: brash but seemingly effective and thus they could be just a little bit jealous.

Now, whether it was "right" for the GOP to enter a government shutdown using Obamacare as their rallying cry, I'm not so certain. But I will say this, this was one hell of a gamble and so far it is hardly certain that this gamble will pay off for the GOP. There is still a great deal of VERY public infighting within the GOP and the Democrats still haven't shown much interest in compromising, but the fact the GOP hasn't caved in yet shows something about this gamble: whether the GOP as a whole agreed with how all this mess started, they are still largely united in standing their ground.

So is the GOP wholly responsible for the government shutdown? While they are responsible for the actual start of the shutdown, the responsibility for why it has continued for six days now isn't quite so clear cut.

In Part II of this piece, I will explore the events that have transpired since the shutdown began and without giving too much away, if any of my readers are Democrats, prepare for your party and the President to take something of a beating..

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