Monday, 7 October 2013

U.S.: Shutdown Spectacle & Debt Ceiling

As the United States government shutdown enters its seven days and 10 out from potentially defaulting on their loans, Washington is the target of both ridicule and concern overseas.  Analysts describe the situation as a "specifically American problem" with far-reaching consequences.

Many have found it hard to understand American lawmakers' inability to resolve their budget disagreements in time to prevent a shutdown of all nonessential government services, which went into effect seven days ago. What Washington currently offers up is a spectacle, but one in which the spectators feel more like crying.

Because Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, Congress and president could not agree on a stop-gap budget, hundreds of thousands of federal employees were sent on involuntary leave and many agencies were forced to shut down. The main actors in this dispute, which brings together many factors, both ideological and political, took a huge risk and, unhindered, proceeded to validate everyone who ever accused the political establishment in Washington of being rotten to the core -- by driving the world power into a budgetary state of emergency. The public is left wondering how things could have been allowed to get to this point and why there is so much poison in the system.

The overwhelming general consensus is that the Republicans are the most to blame for the gridlock. The Republican Party is like the "kamikaze party." And the gridlock is attributed to America's mercenary political culture -- where directly elected lawmakers run for re-election every two years and campaigns are privately financed. Republicans conduct themselves like a bunch of Berlusconis -- as enemies of the state from within who want to cripple the country because that's the desire of their conservative voters at home.

The Republicans who have brought Washington to stillstand are repeatedly and democratically elected by voters and given a mandate to block. The party itself is fomenting an increasingly radicalized culture that deepens political, societal and geographic divisions in the country. And there are few Republicans who are willing or capable of thinking beyond their own electoral constituencies.

Now barreling toward an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or face a first-ever default on its financial obligations, Congress has several possible scenarios unfolding on the road ahead, hinging entirely on the bullheadedness of Republicans, Democrats or both.

Congressional Democrats aren't going to show up for work Monday with the announcement that they're suddenly on board with delaying or stripping down the president's Affordable Care Act as a proviso of reopening the government. Even if they did, they'd find themselves fumbling for any real effect, considering a major portion of "Obamacare" actually activated last Tuesday.

On Friday House Democrats began circulating a "discharge petition which, if signed by a majority of House members, could force a vote on a spending bill to reopen the government. It was a direct counter to Boehner, who under the gun of his party's rightmost wing maintains that his chamber doesn't have the votes for the Democrat-proposed "clean" bill, which would fund the government without any miscellaneous baggage - like provisions to alter "Obamacare" - attached.

According to a report from the New York Times, Boehner has said he will not let the nation default on its debt and will be willing to put a bill on the House floor to raise the debt ceiling, even if it doesn't have the support of a majority of his caucus.

Now America is getting closer to the point that everything's intertwined -- government funding, the debt ceiling and spending -- and so the best way out, I believe, and the only way for everybody to find an acceptable long-term solution is a big negotiation of everything that includes something on entitlements, tax reform, something on a spending level and wrap it in one box.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
World Affairs Analyst

Photo-Credit: AP-House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama