US government – and people –
held hostage by lunatic fringe
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Hell) has lost control of his caucus – and the whole country will suffer. Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.
THE HEADLINES in almost every media outlet on Sunday feature two of the same words: “shutdown” and “crisis.”
That a tiny group of crazy members of the House of Representatives has the power to make the planet’s only superpower look like it is ungovernable is shameful.
It makes America the laughing stock of the world.
The United States looks like a Latin American banana republic of the 1980s.
Can anyone have “full faith and credit” in the dollar anymore when it might collapse because of a government shutdown – or, more ominously, in a couple of weeks when the U.S. Treasury cannot honor its obligations?
This is a man-made calamity of gargantuan proportions. And, it is entirely unnecessary. The inmates have taken over the asylum.
FEW PEOPLE ON THE PLANET can be unaware that the U.S. federal government is on track to shut down in a few hours.
It has been all over the airwaves and in print for days, reaching a crescendo Sunday after the past-midnight vote in the GOP controlled House that makes it a near certainty as of midnight Monday.
The front page story on the government shutdown in Sunday’s editions of The New York Times. Click image to enlarge.
To filter the signal from the noise, let us look at just one place, probably the most reliable of all. It was clear from the paper that landed on my doorstep before dawn on Sunday that The New York Times had devoted major resources to the topic: the were four stories in the main news section alone.
They show that the effects will not wait until midnight. They have already begun. Millions of people are suffering real harm already, billions of dollars will remain unspent, hundreds of thousands will go unpaid or on [temporary] unemployment.
The damage could be permanent.
The off-lead story in the NYT on Sunday was headlined U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law
Jonathan Weisman and Jeremy W. Peters bring us the latest developments.
“The federal government on Sunday morning barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after the Republican-run House, choosing a hard line, voted to attach a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and a repeal of a tax to pay for it to legislation to keep the government running,” they report.
“The votes, just past midnight, followed an often-angry debate, with members shouting one another down on the House floor.”
The rest of the world must think we, the American electorate, chose a bunch of high school kids to run the country.
The lead story on Sunday in the Guardian newspaper, the leading publication in Britain. Click image to enlarge.
What’s worse than the misbehavior, they knew all along it was a lost cause.
“But before the House had even voted,” we discover, “ Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader [of the upper house, the U.S. Senate], declared the House bill dead. Senate Democrats are planning to table [leave untouched] the Republican measures when they convene on Monday, leaving the House just hours to pass a stand-alone spending bill free of any measures that undermine the health care law.”
One can only wonder what has possessed the Republicans in the House to play with fire like pre-adolescents.
That the effects were already being felt was made clear by another NYT story, clearly prepared during the previous few days.
In their story, Federal Agencies Lay Out Contingency Plans for Possible Shutdown NYT reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Thom Shanker and Anderw Siddons report on the fallout that has already begun.
“As Congress continued to spar on Saturday … federal agencies made contingency plans for a potential shutdown,” they write.
Well, the agencies have been there before. Most of them simply dusted off plans made 11 years ago.
“Although huge parts of the federal bureaucracy could be forced to close, many government functions would continue.”
Among them, national defense.
“Senior Pentagon officials said on Friday that the more than 1.3 million active military personnel … would probably not receive their paychecks until a spending agreement was reached.”
More than a million to go unpaid? That is a huge chunk of economic spending power withdrawn from the economy, not to mention the personal, individual suffering as millions are unable to pay their bills.
“About half of the Defense Department’s approximately 800,000 civilian employees would be furloughed without pay.”
In other words, there’s half a million more on the unemployment rolls. Will they get their unemployment compensation checks? Who knows!
“National parks and their visitor centers would be closed,” the article warns. What about those thousands with reservations – already paid for – across the country who will be turned away at the gate? Where will they sleep? In their cars?
The GOP obviously doesn’t care.
ALAS, REPUBLICANS HAVE FORGOTTEN the drubbing they took during the last time they did a similar thing and forced a government shutdown in 1995 and 1996.
The New York Times’ story on how members of Congress have forgotten the shutdown of 1995-96. Click image to enlarge.
In another NYT report on Sunday we discover that Last Shutdown a Lesson Lost on Capitol Hill.
In her important look back at history, Jennifer Steinhauer tells us the shocking truth.
“The ghosts of shutdowns past are lurking in the halls of the Capitol … But there is one little problem: even those who lived through those government shutdowns have varied recollections, or none at all, about how and why they happened.”
Philosophers wiser than I have warned repeatedly that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
“[I]n many ways, Washington of today feels a lot like 1995-96, when the government shut down twice over the course of a month,” Steinhauer adds.
“Then, as now, partisan rancor over federal spending burned hotly. Congressional Republicans complained bitterly about the Democratic president, jabbing at him for playing too much golf and opposing military action in a factionalized foreign land.”
Seems like we are doomed to repeat the errors of the past.
What an embarrassment. Even worse, what an unnecessary calamity for the entire country, all its 330 million people, and the global community.
It is beyond pathetic. It is gross mismanagement on a massive scale.
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