“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
— Thomas Paine
There’s at least one major irony that came from the federal government’s recent shutdown. After all, isn’t the term government shutdown ironic in and of itself?
It stands to reason ever since I’ve been on this earth, the responsibility of government has, is and will continue to be perceived as unnecessary at least on some level, regardless of where one lands on the political spectrum.
That’s because, around most every turn, there’s a turn for the worse. Mistakes are made or, worse, pride clouds judgment. It happens all the time, and both parties are to blame.
The latest monumental blunder came, this time, at the hands of House Republicans who ultimately decided to shut down the government for 16 days. It left some with a sense of false hope and much uncertainty for others.
The shutdown also came with a hefty price tag.
The government shutdown has taken at least $24 billion out of the United States economy, the financial ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Wednesday.
The firm said the shutdown caused it to cut its forecast of gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter by at least 0.6 percentage point. The agency lowered its estimate for GDP growth to close to 2 percent from 3 percent.
Just to put it in perspective, $24 billion would fund the Tennessee government for nearly a year.
But the real question we should be asking ourselves is, why?
At first, it started with Conservative Republicans asking for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It came at a time when this sweeping measure needed the most support – at the time when it went into effect Oct. 1.
Now let’s look at that for a minute. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you prefer, previously passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the president. There was compromise on both sides of the aisle, but that makes it, well, the law of the land.
Further, it was found to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land made up of a majority of conservative justices.
It’s law. Consider how difficult it would be to repeal the Voting Rights Act.
So when Republicans saw the writing on the wall that wasn’t going to work, reasoning then switched to the debt. Few would argue the nearly $17 trillion debt isn’t enormous, but strides are being made.
The U.S. government is spending substantially more than what it is earning. Since 2009, it has been running fiscal deficits of greater than a trillion dollars. Between 2009-12 the U.S. government ran a total fiscal deficit of $5.09 trillion. In 2013, it is expected to run a fiscal deficit of around $1 trillion. Fiscal deficit is the difference between what a government earns and what it spends.
So where can cuts be made? In the military? Social Security? Medicare? By the way, Republicans fought against two out of three of those government programs when they became law. It’s ironic now they fight to save them. It might just be that their constituents depend on them.
But I digress.
So what did those same Republicans say when the shutdown was all said and done?
"We fought the good fight. We just didn't win," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said hours before the vote.
What was the fight over, and please tell me just who won?
"I'm pleased that cooler heads have finally prevailed," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. "This legislation must be supported but it should not be celebrated. No high-fives or spiking the football. ... It's not a win for anyone, particularly the institution of Congress or the president, for that matter."
Now that’s more like it.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., former chair of the House Financial Services Committee, asked colleagues, "For one night let us talk about what is good for this country and not about the other party" before he voted for the measure.
That’s even more appropriate.
This latest “fight” is quite simply just too much. It has gone too far. The divide is much too great. Nothing good is going to come out of it if it continues. In fact, nothing is going to come out of it at all if it continues.
What I think the American people want is a government that can come together for the common good of all. Why not let’s just try that for a while?