The United States of America has not had a real budget since 1997. It has instead relied on continuing resolutions – and the kindness of strangers – to spend the next 16 years lurching from one payday loan to another.
Is this any way to run a government, much less a superpower?
No. But on Oct. 1, 2013, America closed much of its government because its leaders couldn’t even agree on directions to the strip mall that houses the loan office, much less terms of the six-week loan.
House Republicans wanted Obamacare de-funded; then a one-year delay for all of it, a new pipeline and limits on contraceptives; then a one-year delay for the individual mandate and repeal of Obamacare subsidies for Congress, its staff members and presidential appointees. Talk about overplaying your hand.
Senate Democrats didn’t even make real counter-offers; taking a page from the nation’s failed war on drugs, they just said “no” and sent back straight funding bills. The president, who won’t negotiate with John Boehner but will with Vladamir Putin, sees political gain here and is just as obstinate as Tea Party Republicans.
Can anyone on either side in Washington step away from the lard for a moment and see what furloughs mean to the 800,000 Americans who just wanted to get up this morning and go to work to meet their financial obligations?
As syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette says in today’s Journal, “achieving this degree of incompetence takes a certain amount of bipartisanship.”
There is much of the Affordable Care Act to like. And much that needs addressing – the myriad exemptions already granted to big business and unions as well as the early collateral damage to private-sector employment show that. But the path the nation’s pre-Oct. 1 health insurance system was on was inarguably fiscally unsustainable, so Obamacare hardly makes that any worse.
Instead of fulfilling No. 1 on their job descriptions and passing a federal budget, then fixing the ACA, members of Congress decided to play politics, no surprise, and co-mingled the funding of general operations with a political hot potato – because you can’t see a furloughed employee’s unpaid bills from their offices in D.C.
Yet those hard-working Americans who aren’t getting a paycheck are taking the most direct hit in this game of one-upsmanship, as well as American taxpayers. The shutdown will cost an estimated $300 million every day in just work and services the government is unable to perform – $12.5 million an hour.
There’s no question the pundits are right when they say the shutdown will hurt public opinion of Congress and the president. And it likely will hurt the GOP brand even more.
Ironically, the one thing this self-inflicted insanity will not affect is the rollout of Obamacare.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.