What Does The Government Shutdown Really Mean? Everybody Loses.

640px-US_Congress_02We’re more than 48 hours into the government shutdown. We’ve seen veterans knocking down barricades at the World War II Memorial and read about the halt to new enrollees in clinical trials at NIH.

A stunning majority of my friends here in the D.C. area walking around goggle-eyed with shock or rage that their work and paychecks have been halted. Soon we’ll see profiles on the morning shows of recipients of government benefits who are scrambling to make up for the lack of access to the services they need.

Why did this happen? Well, our Congress hasn’t passed a regular order budget or spending bill since 2009. Instead, lawmakers pass short-term spending stopgaps to keep the money flowing for anywhere from one week to several months. When each continuing resolution, as they’re called, runs out, they pass a new one, shirking their responsibility to examine government programs and assign such funds as are needed to keep them running.

This time, they couldn’t pass a continuing resolution because of stupid political gestures. Absent the authorization from Congress to keep paying for government programs, the Treasury can’t cut checks. The government shuts down.

House leaderships keeps offering the Senate different configurations of bills that would settle the crisis. They’ll fund the government, but only if the administration delays implementation of Obamacare. Or they’ll fund certain segments of the government, like the military or the Veterans Administration, but not the parts they don’t like, such as Obamacare.

The Senate keeps rejecting the House bills, essentially saying it’s all or nothing. The House refuses to vote on a “clean CR” that funds the government without partisan strings.

The president called House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to his office to talk yesterday. I can’t only imagine how that conversation sounded.

That’s the nuts and bolts of governance, such as it is in this age when we have devolved our legislative process to such a point that we no longer have regular order assessments of government spending and our legislature has only passed 36 laws since this Congress convened in January. (The average for this point in a session is 200). This is our policy reality, and it’s egregiously bad on its own merits. But it’s not political reality.

Go on any social media site and look at the political posts to see the political reality. Conservatives characterize this shutdown as a show of principle by GOP leadership. They are standing strong against the tyranny of Obamacare, reining in out of control spending, cutting off lazy moochers on government assistance. This is their opportunity to show Democrats that we don’t really need government at all.

Meanwhile, liberals see the House leadership as flailing against the inevitable. They say they’re heartless connivers who will play politics with people’s lives and livelihoods even thought we all know they’ll have to capitulate and fund the government. And how stupid are they to do all of this when Obamcare is happening right on schedule, shutdown or no shutdown?

Both sides have cover for any outcome. The caricatures they’ve drawn of the opposition leaves them plausible deniability for failing to adhere to strong party-line standards in the end. They will raise campaign contributions off the crisis. And it will all be forgotten well before November 2014.

So, what then? Who wins? Who loses?

We all lose. We all lose because there will be another short-term CR in a few months. There won’t be a budget resolution in 2014, nor will there be regular order appropriations. Maybe we’ll escape a shutdown next year – no politician wants to risk that in an election year – but there also won’t be a return to regular order. Our Congress will continue to fail us at the most fundamental level.

Rebekah Kuschmider is a D.C. area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, a cable news addiction, and a blog. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in theater and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector.  Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at StayAtHomePundit.com.She was voted one of the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs at Circle of Moms. Her work has also been seen at Babble.com, Salon.com, Redbook online, and the Huffington Post.

Image source: Bjoertvedt via Wikimedia Commons.

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