Countdown to shutdown

While politicians bicker, Americans suffer

By Stephen Edelstein
Alumni Editor

President Obama recently announced that he would run for a second term, but will there be a government for him to lead in 2012? An argument between Congressional Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget could cause a government shutdown as early as this Friday.

Budget squabbles shut down the government in 1995 and 1996 but the republic survived. America won’t turn into a scene from “Mad Max,” but government services such as Medicare will be interrupted.

As usual, the political pissing contest that is Congress has made life difficult for average Americans.

As a matter of principle, the two parties disagree on everything. If they could not reach a compromise on the budget, that would not be surprising. The frustrating thing, though, is that they did reach a compromise, but neither side is willing to act on it.

Both sides agreed to budget cuts, but the Republicans demanded more. Speaker of the House John Boehner asked for $40 billion in cuts, which was $7 billion more than Democrats were willing to give. So the shutdown will be caused by a disagreement over a small slice of the actual budget.

Whether the extra $7 billion in cuts is worth a government shutdown depends on where one stands on the “big government vs. small government” debate.

To the Democrats, the money is vital because it could fund social services that are part of government’s responsibility. To the Republicans, the money is a waste and should left in private hands. Republicans are a part of the government, but they are not enthusiastic about it.

The ideological reasons behind the dispute are rational and logical compared to the political ones. At this point, neither side can back down because that would make them look weak.

The Democrats have already given in to some budget cuts; they would look really pathetic if they let the Republicans take more. The Republicans ran on the promise of opposing all of the Democrats’ policies, so they can’t compromise either.

In their zeal to make government smaller, the Republicans are forgetting that they were elected to serve the American people.

Americans voted Republican last November because they wanted solutions and were tired of the Democrat-controlled Congress’ lackadaisical attitude. But the new Congress is ready to shut down the government just to get their way.

Members of Congress may view themselves as heroes for standing up for their beliefs, but they will make life difficult for their constituents if the government shuts down.

People who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA for healthcare may be left out in the cold. Tourists visiting Washington, D.C. will find a ghost town. Ironically, given the Republicans’ obsession with lower taxes, tax refund checks could be delayed.

The Democrats agreed to $33 billion in spending cuts; they tried to reach a compromise. They could potentially avoid a shutdown by giving in to the Republicans’ demands, but then what was the point of proposing the original budget?

The two-party system can’t function if one party capitulates to the other’s policies because of stubbornness.

The United States is involved in two and a half wars and dealing with a stagnant economy; the last thing we need is for the government to take a vacation.

Instead of being constructive and working on a solution to America’s problems, the Republicans stubbornly held to a program of spending and tax cuts without considering the needs of their constituents. This is the same policy advocated by the Bush administration, and after ten years it’s starting to sound like a broken record.