More than 30 years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union came face-to-face with the possibility of nuclear annihilation due to risky political and military brinkmanship.
So too today, the country is now embroiled in yet another risky political, economic and social game of chicken. The game bears a strong threat to the survival of our country as well as what it means to be a government of the people, for the people and by the people.
The issues before the country are clear. According to the U.S. Treasury, the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling must be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid a potential default on the national debt. The ramifications of this would be an economic Armageddon for the entire planet. We are already witnessing the effects of this shutdown on our country, whether it is through government furloughs all the way to the stoppage of government services — not to mention the exponential effect on the private sector.
The “sticking point” that caused the impasse between President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats and House Republicans is the issue surrounding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. I don’t know if this is the first time that a government shutdown was used as leverage to challenge legislation at the risk of putting the country and the world in serious jeopardy, but it certainly seems very
foolish to do so.
In retrospect, the goal of extending health care to all Americans should have been the result of expanding Medicaid — not the ACA’s overhaul of the health care system.
Congress did not present the ACA well from the beginning. Our legislators should have passed the ACA with bipartisan agreement, instead of ramming it down the throats of the opposition party. Health care should have been our second priority behind unemployment, the issue the country is truly ailing from. Job one for the president and Congress beginning on Jan. 1, 2009, should have been developing the means to getting this country moving again by helping to unleash America’s most powerful machine: its economy. Bailing out Wall Street and the “banks too big to fail” was one of the dumbest policy decisions Obama and Congress ever made. The government should have seized control of these financial institutions and facilitated the selling off of parts to medium-sized banks that did not engage in the behaviors that resulted in the “mortgage meltdown.” It’s too late now.
As for getting people back to work, the solution is not as complicated as it may appear to be. We need to bring back an agency similar to the Work Progress Administration that should take a two-pronged approach. One is the most obvious: Hire people to perform the very services that the private sector will never engage in simply because it is not profitable to do so. The second approach is a wee bit more complicated but can be successful by utilizing private-public partnerships. Let the government develop a plan to share in the salary expense of unemployed people so that they could work full time, regain their lost skills and eventually retain a full-time position paid by a private company. This would result in an immediate restoration of lost government revenues, as well as help to prime the pump for the newfound consumer demand. Increasing demand will result in the need for increased supply. Hence, an increase in production will result in increased employment. You could think of this stimulus plan as a rocket booster that slowly fades away as the economy picks up. Isn’t this what government is supposed to do beyond providing safety for its citizens? Is it too late now? I hope not.
To continue to waste time over which side wins while the country goes to hell risks moving America’s dissatisfaction with government. The question before us all is how far down must this country sink before it becomes clear that current government officials have forfeited their right to govern? Time is running out. Our legislators must do the job we elected them to do. End this shutdown before it reaches a point of calamity that breaks our country.