Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back in business

Remember the good old days of the work by the federal government? They came in the first nine months or so of the year.

Everyone seemed rather exhausted after the 2012 election season. President Obama made a few speeches about some areas but no one seemed particularly enthusiastic about any of them. That's partly because nothing of consequence was going to get past the Republican-controlled House, which played the part of the distant father shaking his head "no" with vigor anytime something was suggested by the Democrats.

The Republicans kept passing bills that would repeal or gut the Affordable Care Act, even though they had no chance of going anywhere but the Capital recycling bin. What's the popular definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Therefore, we had months and months of nothing. I guess a few post offices were named, but that's about it.

We probably have Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to thank for shaking us out of lethargy. His filibuster on the ACA, which increased his public profile for better or worse, got us all ready for the senseless gridlock to follow. As you know, Tea Party Republicans in the House soon demanded huge changes in the ACA, and if they didn't get it they planed to block any bills that would allow some government functions to continue. With essentially three different factions bickering in the House, nothing could get done.

You'd think the sight of cancer patients being locked out of treatment centers would have been enough to settle matters, but they didn't. We even had the ugly sight of the government picking and choosing what functions were popular enough to receive temporary funding.

The Tea Partiers should have realized they had a chance for one of the great "I told you so's" in recent history. If they had shut up about government operations and funding, they could have pounded the inefficient start of the ACA and its on-line problems. If it fails like they think it will, they can gloat all the way to the next Election Day.

As a wise man once told me about the trades in hockey, deadlines make deals. It took the possibility of exceeding the debt limit of the United States to get everyone to the table, and with only a few hours before a potential financial disaster an agreement was settled.

No winners here. As Senator John McCain said, the Tea Party group had no chance of winning the discussion but did it anyway. It was a reckless, dangerous approach, particularly with an economy that still isn't at full steam ahead stage. The rest of the House and Senate didn't exactly cover themselves with glory, and the Obama Administration seemed to be a bit player in the whole discussion. No wonder everyone's poll numbers have dropped.

There are some unspoken rules about taking part in government, which serves a variety of functions that the private sector couldn't do. One of them is "keep it open." If you want to fight about a particular part of the budget, great. There will be time and opportunity for that. Any other strategy is more destructive than constructive.

And another just might be, "you spent the money, you pay the bills." Few like deficit spending, but there are more mature ways to handle that issue than refusing to authorize loan to cover the debts. 

Speaking of that, several members of Congress voted against the deal in a symbolic gesture. One of them was Chris Collins, who represents a district nearby to me. Collins barely won election last year even though he was a Republican in a very Republican district. Collins had made "Obamacare" a big part of his campaign, even though blaming a less-than-one-term Democrat for that seemed a bit silly.

Here's the catch: Collins left a successful private business to enter politics, and pledged to run government more like a business. But he voted against raising the debt ceiling and allowing the credit of the United States to be damaged.

Is that how he ran his business? By not paying his bills? I'll have to try it sometime and see what happens.

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