In a world where special interests run amuck and elected officials are ruled by their bank accounts, one president must fight to legislate. With a government shutdown looming, will he be able to save the day, or will political game playing threaten freedom, democracy and the American way? Politicians Threaten to Screw Everybody Over to Get What They Want 2, coming to a theater near you next week.
Apparently government shutdowns now come in disappointing, vaguely familiar, bad-sequel versions. Federal agencies could be shut down, hundreds of thousands of government employees could stay home and the stock market will take a nosedive, all reminiscent of the August 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. Politicians need to cut the drama and work together. This is just getting to be pathetic.
According to an article on CNN published Sept. 18, the main holdup is in the House of Representative, where Republicans are threatening to delay necessary spending bills until U.S. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats agree to pass legislation defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as Obamacare), which is set to go into effect in January 2014. If these bills aren’t passed, the government will shut down Oct. 1.
However, most of the effect will just be shock value. “Government Shutdown” makes for really sexy news coverage, but a USA Today article published Monday noted that only 41 percent of the federal government would actually stop working if these spending bills don’t pass. That’s still a big chunk of the pie, but at least foreign officials, law enforcement and political employees would still be coming to work.
With that in mind, I’d like to establish that there is a better chance of me spontaneously combusting while twerking on Commonwealth Avenue than there is of Republicans getting their way. This law was the crowning jewel of Obama’s election platform. There is not even a sliver of a chance that Democrats will consider repealing it, and to use spending bills to try to strong-arm them into it is simply stupid and irresponsible.
I cannot fathom why they think this would be a good idea. A CNBC poll released Monday found that 59 percent of Americans want to defund Obamacare. Instead of allowing public opinion to sway legislation, Republicans are attempting to speed up the process by threatening to shut down the government. This is a really good idea — until the government shuts down and the White House points its finger at Capitol Hill. Then all of a sudden — spoiler alert — the public is going to decide a functioning government is a little bit more important than repealing Obamacare, at least for right now.
Besides the political implausibility, this whole “threatening to shut down the massive, bureaucratic, possibly overreaching federal government” thing is slightly terrifying to the average American and doesn’t instill much confidence in Washington politicians. If the only way they can get things done is by holding a gun to the opposition’s head, maybe we should be doing more thorough background checks (but that’s a rant for another time).
The political climate in America has shifted dramatically in the last decade. It’s no longer acceptable for politicians to work with someone across the aisle. We have changed the expectations at an incredibly high cost. According to an Aug. 23 article in the Washington Post, the 113th Congress was on track to be the least productive legislative body in American history at the beginning of the summer recess. Not only is this pathetic, but it’s also incredibly tiring to watch. I want politicians who actually do something instead of just spewing hot air in an attempt to garner votes.
Don’t get me wrong. Politicians have to stand up for their principles. That’s how they got elected. However, there is a distinct difference between standing up for your beliefs and refusing to let go of them, kicking and screaming in the checkout aisle until your mom gives in. The latter is pathetic, unnecessary and only acceptable if you’re still wearing Dora the Explorer pull-up diapers.
Not only that, but voters want politicians who know how to compromise! We’re not stupid. We understand that in order to get some of what we want, we have to give the opposition something in return. It doesn’t have to be the all-or-nothing game Congress is so good at playing. In a system built on meeting in the middle, there is no room for this kind of threat. It makes everyone defensive and neither party gets its way.
So what I’m trying to get at here is that the attitude in this nation is pathetic at best. We are so caught up with trying to get exactly what we want that nothing is accomplished. This threat of a shutdown is merely a symptom of a greater systemic issue. We need to consider which is more important to us: standing resolute for our principles or getting things done. Yes, it will be a big deal if the government closes its doors for a few days, but perhaps it’s exactly what we need.
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at email@example.com.