Shutdown showdown: Party politics are harming America
It seems like very few of the students on campus were aware of, or at least talking about, the impending government shutdown before news of it hit social media at midnight on Tuesday. Then, it seemed as if the news was impossible to escape, with shutdown jokes and opinion articles flooding everyone’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. Although the standstill remains a lighthearted joke that we are likely to get over soon enough, the shutdown has more ominous implications for the future of American politics.
Largely, the shutdown doesn’t come about as a surprise—this divided Congress has been notoriously terrible at getting anything done. However, it seems that hard-line Republicans in the house were aiming for this exact result by attaching amendments that would defund the Affordable Health Care Act to the continuing budget resolution on which they knew the Senate Democrats would refuse to budge an inch, bringing a government that can’t even agree on basic funding to a standstill. Despite the fact that ordinary citizens will feel little impact in the short term, more than 800,000 federal employees face unpaid leave with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over. And if the shutdown lasts longer than a week, even more agencies—and the citizens who depend on them—will feel the strain as their backlogs of money run out. The shutdown will also reduce the U.S. gross domestic product by about 0.2 percent every week it continues.
While prominent Democrats blame Republicans for “hostage” tactics and desperate last-ditch attempts to smear President Barack Obama, Democratic refusal to give in allows opponents to blame the shutdown on Obama, a misconception that no doubt many of their constituents will eat up. In other words, the shutdown is the nasty but inevitable endgame of the childish mudslinging that American party politics has turned into. At this point, both sides are costing the American public dearly and need to once and for all realize that compromise is the only way to lift America back up again.
Moreover, this childish back and forth does not bode well for the upcoming debate over the extension of the debt ceiling, set to be decided on Oct. 17. The issue of raising the debt ceiling was never truly a problem before these obstructionist Republican tactics, but now, in a couple of weeks, we face the possibility that the country simply runs out of money to spend at all and thus defaults on obligations and loans. This could have much more potentially disastrous consequences, both nationally and internationally, than a mere shutdown. A failure to act on this issue will cause real, tangible market chaos, and with both sides remaining stone-faced in terms of compromise at this point, things aren’t looking very promising. If they hadn’t before, members of Congress have made it abundantly clear that the needs of the American people, who they were elected to serve, remain inferior to game playing and political tactics.
Admittedly, if the shutdown remains brief—as most are—then very little impact will be felt, and this period will remain an embarrassing hiccup in the record of the most poorly rated Congress since 1974. However, it will have much more serious repercussions if it spills into debt ceiling discussions later this month, along with the further tarnishing of American exceptionalism and democracy in the international arena.