Debate Center: Do we get the government we deserve?
Illustration: Ed Gamble
So, we finally have a government shutdown. Although Capitol Hill scrambled for last-minute deals and eleventh-hour bargains, the shutdown train kept rolling. There were meetings, phone calls, briefings and discussions, but all efforts were futile. We could rightly call some of these people clowns for not finding some way to make something positive happen, but that would be an insult to clowns, because at least clowns usually do something: they give us creepy nightmares and they might be good for a laugh or two at a party. I don’t think we really know what to call it other than what it is: a mess. Blame is not in short supply either.
Right now, supporters of Obama and the Senate say Boehner and company are smelling pretty badly. They point fingers to the Republican Party’s open arms approach to the Tea Partiers and their infiltration of the party. Their arguments run something like this: The Tea Partiers have co-opted the party, making it a totally inflexible entity that would rather bang drums of lost liberty than look out for the welfare of the country. They cite some Republicans in the party are appalled by what is happening. They claim Boehner’s refusal to accept anything short of deathblows to Obamacare left no options on the table and that he constantly and incorrectly shouted how no one wants this job-killing, economy-ruining reform.
Now, the Boehner gang has its supporters. They say the Affordable Care Act is a monstrosity and even worse than “American Idol,” and they’ve come up with many reasons why that is: from killing jobs to imposing senseless costs, raising rates, destroying businesses and a host of other claims. They also say the Senate rejected a continuing resolution to keep the government open. That resolution had two Obamacare-related amendments in it. One of them was to delay the individual mandate for one year. The other was to make Congress and its staff take part in the healthcare exchanges as well. Boehner supporters believe this was not too much to ask, because there was a great deal of public support for their plan.
So now we have a shutdown, and the government has a big PR problem. Millions working without pay, furloughs, services and programs halted, parks closed and so on. And the part of government people wish would shutdown – Congress – is operating, sort of. Of course, both sides eagerly point to each other and say, “They did it!” Lawmakers, though, must answer to the people, and if polls are correct, they receive conflicting information. For example, Republicans might not be so determined to pull the plug on Obamacare if polls were not showing dissatisfaction with healthcare reform. Yet, by other polls, those same people who dislike Obamacare are fine with the specific portions of the plan, such as expanding Medicaid or having a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions or tax credits for small businesses. This is not over, and more meetings, arm twistings and stalemates are in order because the government cannot just “shut down.” No one else has that luxury.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Froum Question of the week:
For the first time in nearly 18 years the federal government has shut down.
Who is really responsible for this failure in governance?
Debate Left: Boehnered
Boehner: Remember that movie “Saw”?
Reid: Yeah, it was OK.
Boehner: Remember that scene where Westley has to give that dude a poison cigarette or cut off his own foot?
Reid: Uh huh.
Boehner: I want you to poison my cigarette.
Reid: Um, what?
Boehner: I don’t want to limp around like Kunta Kinte for the rest of my life, Harry. I’ve already cut off the front half of my foot to keep the Tea Party happy over Obamacare, and I don’t think I’ve got the stomach to chop off the rest by allowing the country to default on its debt.
Reid: Wasn’t that “Roots”? And why the hell won’t you just put something together and send it our way? At this point we’ll give you almost anything. We’ve even offered to let you go oil spelunking in Alaska and use bottlenose dolphins as drill bits, but you have to let this Obamacare thing go. Even the Supreme Court gave it a pass. We’ve used every word in every possible combination in most of the world’s languages at least twice discussing it, and there is literally – literally – nothing else to say. Let it go.
Boehner: Don’t you get it? I CAN’T!
Reid: Come on, don’t be like that buddy. Just try something. You used to love talking about anti-gay marriage, remember that? Yeah? Maybe just start by saying the word “fag” and see where it takes you.
Boehner: Not me personally, you jackass! The Tea Party! You don’t know what it’s like to work with these people! They’re like the crazy lady from the Westboro Baptist Church who is so pathologically obsessed with gay people that no matter how much sense you’re making she just stares at you with that sickly, impenetrable grin.
Reid: Yeah, they kinda do. I mean, they’ve been saying for two weeks that they’re willing to compromise, but only if that compromise is to get their way. It’s actually starting to creep some of us out. Last week, I asked Ted Cruz if he wanted me to pick him up a sandwich while I was at lunch and he filibustered for 21 hours. Then all of a sudden he stops and says, “Thanks, ham and Swiss would be awesome. No mayo please,” like nothing happened.
Boehner: Dude, you don’t even know. They’re so crazy that they don’t care if we default on our debt over this.
Reid: What? No way.
Boehner: Yes way, idiot. Think about it. Who are the Tea Partiers?
Reid: Angry racist white people who got the Constitution tattooed on their buttcheeks so they can quote it while they shove their head up there and ignore the current situation?
Boehner: That, and also a bunch of fringe Libertarians who want to eliminate the federal government and reduce the United States to a continent-sized version of the “Hunger Games.” Remember how Ron Paul said if he were elected president he would do nothing?
Reid: Oh my god, that was so funny. “Make me president so I don’t have to work any more.”
Boehner: Exactly, except now it’s not funny because they’re in office and it turns out that wasn’t a figure of speech. Their only agenda is to kill Obamacare and roadblock the government into impotency. So now, if you cave on Obamacare, they get what they want. If the government shuts down, they get what they want. And …
Reid: Holy crap …
Boehner: … if the government defaults on its debt they get both. The more they lose, the more they win. That’s why they don’t care if the country falls apart. They’ve managed to convince people that it is morally inferior to care about each other, and Obamacare is the coupe de grace.
Reid: Dude, I think I get it now.
Boehner: Obamacare has allowed them to bridge the gap between simply saying “I’d rather die than spend one cent of my money to help other people,” and actually living it.
Reid: Hey, John?
Boehner: Yes, Harry?
Reid: Wanna get a cigarette?
Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at
Debate Right: It’s only a government shutdown … the sky isn’t falling
By David H. Landon
What stands out here is not the shutdown itself, but the president’s and Harry Reid’s public refusals even to engage with Republicans. Painting the Republicans as obstructionists, the president continues to refuse to sit down with members of the Republican House to reach some form of compromise, insisting on all or nothing. That behavior is what should be viewed as unprecedented.
Determined to show that the shutdown brings pain to everyday Americans, the White House even ordered the closing of all National Parks, something that previous shutdowns did not include. When members of an Honor Flight from Mississippi arrived at the World War II National Memorial on the National Mall in D.C., they found the open-air memorial had been barricaded. Men who fought to preserve our freedom were blocked from visiting the memorial, which was built in their honor. Not surprising, the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy were not to be deterred by a few bicycle racks and a small number of embarrassed park rangers. They moved the barricades aside and strolled into the memorial grounds. The next day, Obama sent re-enforcements to stop future 90-year-old radicals from defying his order and occupying the memorial. If only the administration had shown the same resolve in sending reinforcements to Benghazi one year ago.
What exactly do the Republicans want to negotiate in this budget? They have passed a budget that fully funds the government and only puts two conditions on its passage. First they want to delay by one year the implementation of Obamacare’s “individual mandate.” Doing so would give individuals the same treatment that the president, by executive “fiat,” probably without authority to do so, has given to corporations – a one-year extension before Obamacare kicks in. Secondly, it would repeal an exemption granted to Congress, Congressional staff members and the executive branch. Under Obamacare, their premium health plans would be subject to expensive copay. This “cost problem” was addressed, and under current law these federal workers are to be treated differently than all other hard-working Americans. Their premium health insurance plans will cost them substantially less than they otherwise would. The Republican plan rolls back this perk so that they live under the same rules the rest of Americans will be forced to live under. That’s it. The government is funded and Obamacare is tweaked to achieve some fairness. Hardly the radical demands that Obama is decrying.
Are the Republicans playing hardball? Sure. Is it unprecedented? Hardly. When this legislation – which takes over 18 percent of the U.S. economy – was passed, the Democratic-controlled Congress changed the rules, bribed their members with sweetheart deals and passed the legislation without one member of Congress having the opportunity to read this job-killing, healthcare destroying monstrosity. The Republicans have found a backbone, and it’s about time. Mr. President … it’s time to step down from your lofty perch and negotiate with an equal branch of government.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at