Grover Norquist said "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Ninety-five percent of Republicans in Congress signed his pledge to reduce funding to the federal government, and they have been moving forward with the plan.
Today the halls of the federal agencies are dark and silent, the people's work is not getting done, as the Republican Party drowns the government.
Also today, the airwaves are brimming with talk about the new Affordable Care Act. The exchanges opened up today, you can now shop around and see what your options are. I have spoken to several people who are going to cut their health insurance costs in half. Last week I talked with an uninsured guy who was just going in to be tested for a debilitating nervous-system disorder -- he would have been uninsurable yesterday, today there is hope for him, even if the tests confirm his doctor's diagnosis. It is really going to be nice for a lot of people.
The Republicans disagree. They feel that affordable health care for Americans is so threatening, so heinous, that it is better to shut down the federal government than to provide access to it. As I write this, the House has passed four budgets, all of which de-fund affordable care, and sent them to the Senate, where there is no chance in hell it will pass. They know it will never pass the Senate, and they know the President will never sign it. This is irrational, expensive, time-wasting.
You might not feel it at first, unless you work for the government, and lots of our Washington-area readers do. A lot of government work happens behind the scenes, working with the economy, with regulations that protect the citizens, funding and conducting medical research, investigating fraud and white-collar crime, all kinds of things that you might not immediately miss.
The government does the things that private industry can't do, especially things that require impartiality and things that do not make a profit. Government success is not measured in stock dividends or profits, government is successful when people can live their lives in peace, prosperity, and safety. If Grover Norquist and the Tea Party and the NRA got their way, every American city would be like Mogadishu, controlled by armed gangs. Everybody complains about government but we're lucky to have it.
I don't see a way out of this. You know, don't you, that if they voted on the simple continuing resolution from the Senate it would pass. Even the majority of members of the House of Representatives would support it. This is a mess within the Republican Party, where pusillanimous whiners like John Boehner have to strike their tough-guy pose for the cameras because of challenges from the right in the upcoming primary elections. He won't allow a vote because a reasonable budget would pass, with Obamacare written into it. It's what the people want, it is even what Congress wants, it's what the President wants, but we're not going to get it.
The country is disgusted and the world is laughing at us. Our political process brings out the worst in people, it attracts those whose goal is self-aggrandizement, it invites corruption, and it is so complicated that nobody can really figure out what shell the pea is under. But it's as good as you can get. The populace is really in charge, we can only kick ourselves for electing these idiots in the first place.
Any bets on how long the government stays closed?
Oh, and in a couple of weeks the real fighting starts. Stay tuned.