Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Real Cost Of Political Gamesmanship

If you follow politics you know that the government will shut down at midnight Friday if Congress fails to pass a budget resolution.  The two parties have been negotiating for months and are currently seven billion dollars away from reaching a compromise.  Now seven billion is a lot of money; but when you are looking at a deficit of $3.6 trillion dollars, seven billion is pocket lint.  The parties can certainly find a way to resolve this insignificant barrier that separates them.  So why don’t they? 
The answer is simple…politics.
You have to remember that we are still talking about this year’s budget which runs from September to September.  The Democrats could have passed this budget when they held both houses of Congress.  But they were too busy defending health care reform and running for re-election to focus on governing.  Republicans didn’t help matters.  They were too busy saying “no” to anything and everything that the Democrats proposed.
So the Republicans originally promised that if elected they would cut $100 billion from the budget.  Due in part to the aforementioned delays and the general snail’s pace at which congress works that was pro-rated down to $60 billion.  After much partisan back biting Republican financial guru Paul Ryan proffered a price tag of $33 billion in cuts.  The Democrats agreed.  The problem was Mr. Ryan and Mr. Boehner failed to check with the folks who really run the Republican caucus…the Tea party.  The Tea Party, refusing to step in line with their leadership rejected the proposal.  After much wrangling the Tea Party reluctantly agreed to the $33 billion dollar figure.  The Democrats cheered.  Sold!  Right?  Wrong!  The Tea Party came back again; this time demanding an additional seven billion in cuts and forcing Mr. Boehner back to the bargaining table.   
Are you following all of this?  If not turn on your television and you will see story after story about Mr. Boehner’s inability to control the Tea Party members of his caucus.  Frankly, we feel sorry for Mr. Boehner because getting the Tea Partiers in line is like herding cats.  But all of these stories are missing the main point.  They are missing the most important aspect of this political gamesmanship.  They are missing the fact that the final result of these negotiations will have a very real effect on people’s lives; and the failure to reach a compromise will have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans. 
For example: if the Republicans are successful in cutting the funding for Planned Parenthood millions of poor and low income women will not receive breast exams, pap smears, pre-natal care, birth control and general health counseling.  The result will be an increase in the millions of unwanted pregnancies and abortions; an increase in undetected cases of cancer; and an overall decline in the health care of the poor.  The resulting increase in health care costs to care for these individuals will make the proposed funding cuts look like a sale at Big Lots.
So what happens if the government shuts down?  We’ve heard that the Cherry blossom festival will be cancelled, the Smithsonian will close and you can forget about your summer vacation at Yellowstone.  Boo hoo!
Here is what else happens.  800,000 government workers will be furloughed.  Unlike many of the Tea Party members in Congress these folks don’t make six figures.  Many live from pay check to paycheck.  Mortgages won’t get paid.  Tuition checks won’t be written.  Prescriptions won’t be purchased.  They will simply stop buying things and the negative effect on an already fragile economy will be devastating.  We already have 15% real unemployment.  We can ill afford to add another 800,000 to the roles.
If that is not enough reason to be concerned and fed up with all this political gamesmanship then here is one more.
If the government shuts down the men and women who are risking their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq and in foreign countries across the globe won’t get paid either.  They don’t get paid much but what little they do get goes home to needy families who have already sacrificed more than enough.  Thanks for risking your lives!  Sorry we don’t have the money to pay you!  Stay safe! 
Our government officials are very good at offering razor sharp quips to score political points.  They are great at regurgitating ideological talking points in order to win re-election.  They just suck at grasping reality.  This is not a game. Their political bs has a very real impact on people’s lives.                

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