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Understanding the Government Shutdown

The stated purpose of the House Republicans was to defund, delay, eviscerate, or render inoperable the Affordable Care Act. It was a long shot given that President Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected; the Democrats won the Senate, and the popular vote for the House, although a minority of House seats due to the effective gerrymandering of the House after the 2010 elections. It was a long shot effort that has propelled Senator Ted Cruz to national prominence and leadership of a hearty and enthusiastic band of Tea Party adherents, but there is as yet no readily apparent exit strategy for House Republicans, short of a humiliating defeat.  Sometimes, it is necessary to take defeats to make an important point, but the functioning and continued growth of the nation’s economy can and will be imperiled by a prolonged shut down. Many of the American people made a counterpoint yesterday when by the millions and millions they took to their computers to check out and try to sign up for the coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act – over 500,000 in California alone. Lurking in the background is the prospect of an even more consequential confrontation over raising the debt limit, which has the potential to further roil the economy and again endanger the nation’s and the world’s financial institutions. The Tea Party is playing with fire at a time when their popularity has been steadily shrinking and their aspirations are growing disproportionate to their real power for governing. They have shown a remarkable ability to knock off party regulars in contested primaries and yet to cost their party seats in contested general elections. They are a growing part of a shrinking party that knows it needs to re-introduce itself to the nation’s Latinos, yet trips over its own right foot when presented an opportunity to reform a badly broken immigration system. Many Republican Governors in the West and Midwest are doing a fine job of implementing the Affordable Care Act in their states, although it is still highly controversial among the party’s Deep South base.  One can hope that Speaker John Boehner will be able to rally his troops to make some sensible compromises to move the nation forward after the necessary chest thumping has subsided on all sides and wise policy makers are ready to agree on important budget and policy reforms that are urgently needed to accelerate the nation’s economic recovery.

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