The entire American economy is teetering on the brink of a collapse, only this time the collapse is not “just” due to the greed and corruption of the bankers on Wall Street. They have found friends in the Republican Party who are more than willing to sabotage the economic recovery of the US, for a variety of reasons from straight-up greed to a desire to watch the whole system burn to “save” us from the horrors of collective decision-making. The Republican Party, regardless of their protestations of innocence, are firmly behind the wheel of this disaster, careening ever closer to the brink of a total government shutdown AND threatening to default on the country’s debt. They really don’t care which; all they are interested in is extorting their agenda out of Congress, and damn the consequences. Only this time the consequences are further economic hardship and ruin for the American people. Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that these people are deciding the fate of the country, doesn’t it?
Following the House GOP in action this fall has been like listening to a broken record: they just seem to be stuck on the Affordable Care Act, to the point where defunding it has become a sick obsession. Just how sick? Well, the Republican Party has been holding the whole government, the American economy, and the world economy hostage to their list of demands. The twin issues of the budget and the raising of the debt ceiling have proved too tempting to the GOP, who couldn’t resist turning these everyday, routine financial affairs of government into a life-or-death battle royale to force the agenda of the extreme right of their party onto Congress, pushing tax breaks for wealthy industries and reigniting the culture wars over reproductive rights.
If you listen to House Republicans, the moves they are making are either “normal” or “heroic,” as if they are taking on the mantle of champions of the people against the ravages of “big government. “They aren’t. As Ezra Klein points out: “This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That’s it. That’s why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt.”
Neither shutting down the government nor defaulting on its debts has ever been considered a “normal” or “acceptable” way of doing politics, and the outcome for the average American will be devastating. A government shutdown will be bad enough; nevermind sequestration, this is a whole new ball game of lost wages, lost services, and people left behind. The US stock market has already fallen on the POTENTIAL (although it’s almost certain at this point) that a government shutdown will come into play tomorrow . Bloomberg points out that a shutdown would cut American economic growth by as much as 1.4 points in the fourth quarter, weakening the economy just as it is beginning to recover and sending it into another recession if the shutdown lasts for more than a couple of days . None of these things will be good for the United States or its people.
But the GOP “logic” is paralyzed between the rational acknowledgement that consensus and cooperation are needed to govern a country and the desire to force concessions at every turn because to COMPROMISE (4 letter word in the GOP handbook) is the same as throwing morality, ethics, and principles out the window. I’m not saying that these are things you should toy with carelessly, but trying to hysterically enforce your own narrow black-and-white version of morality onto others isn’t exactly a principled stand to take. This schism within the party between those who want to govern and those who want to destroy government has led the GOP to give up on reasoned debate for rhetoric and fearmongering, and now they are trying at every opportunity to pin the results of their actions on the Democrats (although the Democrats have basically been helpless to end this mess since the Republicans control the House). In a feat of doublespeak, it is even DEMOCRATS who have been holding the up the whole process of governance: “
“So far, [Reid] has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, ‘Go jump in a lake.’ He said, ‘I’m not willing to compromise, I’m not willing to even talk,’ His position is 100 percent of Obamacare must be funded in all instances, and, other than that, he’s going to shut the government down. I hope he doesn’t do that. If Harry Reid forces a government shutdown, that will be a mistake. I hope he backs away from that ledge that he’s pushing us towards, but that is his position.” “Twice Harry Reid has said, ‘We won’t even have a conversation. I refuse to compromise. We want to fund it all. We want to stick it on the American people. And we won’t budge.’ That’s not a reasonable position. And if we have a shutdown, it will be because Harry Reid holds that absolutist position, and essentially, holds the American people hostage.” – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
The Washington Post points out that House Republicans could still put an end to this grotesque debacle: if a mere 25 Republican lawmakers sided with House Democrats to keep government funded and running, we could avoid a pointless government showdown and this game of brinksmanship with the American economy. Unfortunately, I have little faith that any of the House GOP will stand up to the fringe radicals driving their agenda; not even for the sake of the country and the people they are sworn to serve. But this may be just the straw that finally blows the GOP apart in a massive cataclysm of fiery rhetoric… and failure.