Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What the Heck is Going On?

If you are like most Americans you are probably wondering what the Republicans are doing by shutting down the Government.  I know I am.  There are a number of possible explanations. 

The most popular explanation that the media seems to offer is that the Tea Party demanded that their representatives force a shutdown on the Party.   Senators Cruz and Lee have been raising money on TV for months.  They have inflamed the base and the money has been coming in, and to complete the promise of stopping Obamacare Senator Marco Rubio joined these Senators in a Senate filibuster.  But the message has gotten away from these Senators and the Party as a whole.  They spent so much time focusing on defunding Obamacare, a goal that was impossible to achieve, that they sacrificed other goals that may have been attainable.  Had the Republicans focused the public on delaying the individual mandate for a year, or on ending the Congressional Staffer subsidy, then there might have been a victory by now.  Unfortunately, all the public knows is that the Republicans hate Obamacare.

I have a different take on these events, but to explain it requires some detail and some history.  It involves the overall budget process between the House and Senate.

When President Obama was elected the Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate.  They passed large budgets in 2009 and 2010.  They then lost control of the House of Representatives.  We have not had a formal budget in place since then.  The Government has been operating under a mechanism called a Continuing Resolution.  The technique continues funding the Government at the level of the last completed budget, which means that the Democratic budget is still the baseline budget.  The Republicans have been in control of the House for almost four years and they have not had much impact on the budget.  This is except to say that the use these CR’s has been the only opportunity for the Republicans to make their impact felt.  For the past four years the Republican House has passed budgets without the Senate passing theirs, except until this current year.  Previously the Senate did not pass a budget and has been subject to Republican ridicule.  This year the Senate did pass a budget, and they demanded a Conference Committee to resolve differences with the House budget.  The Republicans have yet to name their members. 

What does all of this mean?  The Democrats gain more by forcing the Republicans to the Conference Committee and they have more to lose if they work within a Continuing Resolution.  Democrats want to raise taxes and restore the budget cuts from the sequester cuts that were adopted in the last CR.   They cannot achieve these ends in the CR process.  Therefore, they won’t negotiate a CR in any form.   So, underneath all the shameful rhetoric is a simple game of wins and losses, and due to some Republican mismanagement, the Democrats are in control of this game.  When something like this shutdown comes along, it is good to look for the larger chess match that is going on.

Now, there are some people who deserve special mention for inflaming this situation.  The first is Senator Ted Cruz and his colleague Senator Mike Lee.  They promised their base that Obamacare could be defunded and we now know that it can’t.  In fact, many good conservatives with credentials that cannot be challenged told them so.  Just saying no does not work in this situation.  They led their base down the wrong path, and the rest of the Party is paying for it.  They played small ball and they lost. 

The next group that deserves mention is our national media.  The American public has been against Obamacare ever since it was first proposed.  A review of the average of polls on this subject shows that the American public has always been against Obamacare from anywhere from a 10 to 20 point margin.  This is a basic fact.  Our Government has forced a program on the American people that they never wanted and definitively do not want now.  Something is wrong when the will of the American people is repeatedly denied year after year.  The media is responsible because they do not report this fact.

The next person that deserves dishonorable mention is the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  The Tea Party people are not anarchists and terrorists as he claims.  The Tea Party started when the Democratic controlled House members went back to their districts and found protest after protest, which they all ignored.  These protests were covered night after night on the Government’s very own C-SPAN television.  After being rebuffed as Obamacare was passed, a groundswell of people with no leadership from any party formed the Tea Party.  The result was the House was lost to the Republicans and has stayed in their control ever since.  The Tea Party is a product of Obamacare and they are a thorn in the side of Democrats.  They played by the rules in this situation, and they are not anarchists.  However, Harry Reid, who has thwarted the will of the American people year after year by forcing Obamacare on them in 2009 and defending it with procedural tactics ever since could be viewed as anti-democratic. 

Finally, some credit has to go to the President.  Now that he has the Republicans exactly where he wants them, he should weigh the continued effects of keeping the Government shut down against the political capital he gains as the shutdown continues.  I think he would find that the national interest should prevail.  It is time to throw the Republicans a bone and end this thing.  Give them a graceful way out.  President Kennedy did this with the Soviet Union Premier Khrushchev in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.  But I fear that this is where President Kennedy and our current President differ. 

And people wonder why our Government is dysfunctional.