The Marry-Go-Round Broke Down

So, it’s over. The government is up and running again; crisis averted (or is it). But, what the hell happened? How did it come this far, get this bad? Well, this is going to take a little time.

First, we have to go back to 2009, and the rise of the ‘fiscally conservative’ group, the Tea Party. Despite what anyone says you cannot discount the role they played (and continue to play) in this fiasco. The immergence of the Tea Party is the mark of the beginning of Congressional intransigence and media portrayed divisiveness.

The Tea Party, comes on the scene and political discourse leaps backwards 30 years (or farther). Then the ACA (Affordable Care Act) passes, and everyone goes insane. Media hype, hyperbolic rhetoric, and out-right lies give this tiny faction of the Republican Party and edge in the 2010 elections. With the help of the Tea Party, Republicans gain control of the House…and a budget hasn’t been passed since.

The Tea Party, is comprised of ideologues; zealots who deride compromise and make pragmatism a dirty word. Their praise, then, of President Ronald Reagan, along with much of their rhetoric, defies logic. For while Reagan spoke as an ideologue his actions were that of a very prudent pragmatist. But, then again, Reagan was never outraged at the mere idea of compromise.

Perhaps, it would not have been so bad had the Tea Party, not also been living in some strange alternate reality. A reality where the only answers to our problems are the ones they have. Fed by the delusion they have that, somehow, a minority faction of a single political party represents the majority of the American people.

The failure to pass a budget does not lie with the President, as those ignorant of how our government works scream from the rooftops. The President neither has a vote in Congress, nor the ability to dictate Congress’ actions. And yet, that is what the Tea Party will have you believe. The failure is not with the Democratic Party; for you cannot place blame upon a group refusing to an unconditional surrender. They, too, have constituents to represent and rolling over isn’t going to do that.

You also cannot blame Republicans; who, while weak, with a party in tatters once Bush and Cheney left, were unable to stop the hostile takeover of a once grand and pragmatic party. In truth, Bush left a far greater mess for Republican than he did for whatever poor bastard next took office. A power vacuum was created with the loses in 08 and, as happens throughout the world and throughout history, a group of ideological zealots moved in.

Jump ahead three years and there is still no budget. There is no budget because the Tea Party’s way of governance is, quite simply, ‘If we don’t get everything we want, America gets nothing.’ Despite the claims of being ‘fiscally conservative,’ the Tea Party has, ironically, done everything it possibly could to destroy the economy. Threats, rhetoric, and misconceptions surrounding the ‘debt ceiling’ debate of 2011, resulted in the loss of one of our AAA credit ratings; as well as, a loss of credibility worldwide.

As a result of the Tea Party’s refusal to vote on a budget, Congress has been forced to pass, Continuing Resolutions (CR’s), to keep the government running. That is, until October 1, 2013. But, I got a little ahead of myself. We need to discuss the ACA, Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare (FYI: this is the only time I will use this term here).

Since entering Congress, the Tea Party, has done everything it can to wipe the ACA from the books. They, and their monetary backers, have repeatedly (and repeatedly and repeatedly and repeatedly) tried to repeal the law. Now, I admire tenacity, but after try 25 or so, they should have figured out that tactic was not going to work. But, no, they ‘beat the dead horse’ well past the point where even desperation looked good. Forty-one times. As if that was not enough, there was also a Supreme Court decision and a resounding series of electoral defeats in 2012. Despite the compendium of evidence that states otherwise, the Tea Party, is still under the pervasive delusion that only by repealing the ACA are they serving the ‘will of the people.’ This may actually be a full-grown group psychological disorder, here.

And thus, we come to the days immediately prior to the shutdown. In the US, Sep. 30 marks the end of the fiscal year. So, with 2013 in the dust and no budget for 2014 in sight, a CR is needed by 12:00am on October,1. Simple enough, right? A single sheet of paper that states, ‘yep, the government can continue,’ for another 6 months, year, hell they could have passed a one week CR. Leave it to Washington to complicate the hell out of a simple procedure.

There is an illness, in Congress these days, which prevents anything coming to the floor not loaded with a ton of crap. Call them riders, pork…whatever you want. It’s bullshit. The fiscal and monetary policies of government are one thing. The decisions made on these issues have a wide ranging effect on the world’s economy. A government’s laws are completely different. So why the hell was a rider about the healthcare law ever attached to a CR when one has nothing to do with the other? Your guess is as good as mine. I see it as not only a blatant display of how broken the system is but also, as an attempt by the Tea Party, despite the losses of 2012, to take over the government so that they could get their own way.

This wasn’t principled, admirable, or patriotic. This was an attempted coup. One faction, of one party attempted to override the authority of the House, Senate, and of the President. They failed, and did so because they don’t seem to understand, in the slightest, how government works, or is supposed to work. Messy though it was, we saw our system of checks and balances ultimately prevailing. But it should never have gotten that far.

So, here’s the play by play. Tea Party Republicans in the House, fresh off their 41st failed attempt to repeal the ACA, decided that the only CR they would allow to come to vote was one that also delayed and/or defunded the ACA. They did this, or were able to do this, because House Speaker Boehner is little more than a weak puppet. They knew such a resolution would never pass the Senate, and they knew that it would, most likely, have been vetoed by the President if it had passed the Senate. And they knew, they didn’t have the votes needed to override a Presidential veto. So, they played their game, having convinced the rest of the Party this was the way to go, they continued to prevent a ‘clean’ CR from coming to vote.

Let us be very clear, Democrats were not thwarting democracy, nor were they saying that the ACA could not continue to be debated. All Senate Democrats, and a few Republicans, who hadn’t lost their minds, wanted was to fund the government and then continue to debate the ACA. They never attempted, nor wanted, to replace the House rider with one of their own. They were merely asking for a CR that had no riders attached to it. Simple, fair, and the desire of a majority of the American people.

By this time, both sides were playing an all or nothing game. But only one side was trying to push through an agenda that failed them in the 2012 elections. And by 12:01, October 1, the Tea Party must have discovered that it did not, in fact, own the Republican Party. They must have feared the more sane and pragmatic among them, for that is the only logical reason for what happened next.

House rules stated that any member could bring a resolution to end the shutdown to the floor for a vote. Meaning, any one of the 435 duly elected Representatives could put a ‘clean’ CR to a vote. That is until 1:11am on October, 1, when the Tea Party changed the rules. When I was growing up, we had a word for those that changed the rules at the last minute…cheaters.

They must have been afraid that a ‘clean’ CR would hit the floor and pass the next morning because they took that power away from 434 Representatives leaving it in the hands of one. The Speaker of the House, third in line for the Presidency, could not even bring a CR to the floor. Very telling, in my opinion, of the Tea Party’s waning faith in Speaker Boehner. No, that austere privilege was left to the Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. What had been the right of every US Representative had been stripped away and placed in the hands of one guy. A guy, who was elected to office by one district in one state. So much for democracy.

Eventually, the Tea Party, saw the writing on the wall…saw their precious jobs were in danger…and put a ‘clean’ CR up to vote. (FYI, this vote was not unanimous. 144 voted to keep the government closed.) The government reopened, nearly two weeks ago now, and the ‘debt ceiling’ was raised (that will be an article of its own). But the damage had already been done.

Our remaining AAA credit score is under review. The government lost 24 billion dollars. The world now perceives the US as dysfunctional. This will strengthen the resolve of our enemies. Be a hindrance to new avenues of trade. It will affect our ability to borrow money and will further weakened the dollar as the world reserve currency.

This was not principled nor patriotic. This was petty and dangerous. The Tea Party, in its infinite wisdom, created a fear in the economy that will prevent businesses from investing, slowing the recovery even more than it already has been. This not only affects us here in the states, but the world at large. This ‘fiscally responsible’ party has led the entire world’s economy near the precipice of failure to further its ‘noble’ cause. The very definition of selfishness.

But worse than that, these people, who see themselves as the most patriotic of us all, have deeply, and perhaps irreparably, damaged our country. Both at home and abroad. The truth of the matter is, the Tea Party, has done more to damage and derail the sovereignty of the United States than Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could ever have hoped to achieve.