The Fault in Differences

Tuesday marks 14 days since disagreements between House Republicans and President Obama caused the closure of all non-vital government organizations and placed America on a crash course toward credit default. Neither side at this point seems willing to fully negotiate because the stakes are so high. Although it would be easy to say that both Republicans and Democrats need to reconcile their differences and work toward greater bipartisanship, in actuality, it is the Republicans who have been both unreasonable and irresponsible and are the true instigators behind this debt-ceiling crisis. Their use of the fiscal budget as a bargaining chip comes off as both petty and desperate, and they should be held responsible for their actions.

The crux of the current crisis lies in the unwillingness of Republicans to accept the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA), colloquially known as Obamacare. Over the past month, House Republicans have attempted to push a fiscal budget that would involve raising the debt ceiling but would also defund PPACA and push many of its provisions until next year, ensuring that Obama’s program would not see the light of day. The hope was that the threat of both a government shutdown and a government default would be enough to coerce President Obama and the democratically-controlled Senate into approving their bill, which obviously did not occur. House Republicans seemingly refuse to believe that PPACA is here to stay, even though it has survived both the House and the Senate and was validated by the Supreme Court. Their reasoning: that PPACA simply will not work and that they are ‘bravely’ protecting Americans from a grave mistake. Yet, the consequences of a government default will be even graver. However detrimental or unsuccessful Obamacare may turn out to be, it will never be as bad as when America cannot pay its own bills. The Republican tactic to use certain economic ruin as leverage over a potentially harmful health care bill seems illogical in contrast and reckless at best. It seems as if House Republicans are intent on holding the nation hostage in order to push their own political agendas, no matter the cost to the American people.

In the nascent days of the shutdown, it has become clear that a shutdown has had a huge impact on both government and the average American. Workers at vital organizations such as the National Institute of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been furloughed, which means oversight of issues such as work place safety and the quality of consumable goods is effectively non-existent. National parks across the country have been closed, and worst of all, individuals who need vital support from the federal government have been denied assistance because there is no funding. Programs designed to help underprivileged people, such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have essentially been shuttered. Colorado did not receive federal disaster relief funding after it was battered by floods and had to rely on state funding to cover the damages. For a short while, families of soldiers did not receive death gratuities they had been promised. Ironically however, members of the House still receive their paychecks even though hundreds of thousands of Americans who do their jobs properly do not.

Although House Republicans would like to believe that a government shutdown is a triviality, in actuality, their no-holds-barred attitude has put many innocent Americans in dire straits.  It demonstrates both a callousness and willful ignorance on the repercussions of their partisan bickering. Only now that some Republicans realize that they could end up being held accountable for this shutdown and looming economic crisis have they started to hold negotiations.

On Oct. 10, Speaker of the House John Boehner proposed to temporarily raise the debt ceiling for another six weeks, but did not say anything about restarting the government. However, President Obama and his administration have said that unless the new plans involve restarting the government and is a clean bill, he will not sign. House Republicans have tried to spin this as stubbornness on President Obama’s part. However, Obama has tried the tactic of appeasement in the past in an attempt to maintain bipartisanship, only to his detriment. In 2011, Obama agreed to greater spending cuts and a spending cap in order to mollify Republicans in the House. Even so, House Republicans were not satisfied and pushed for greater concessions.

For every inch Obama concedes, the Republicans’ demands grow larger and more unreasonable. This time, House Republicans have simply gone too far. The budget that they proposed targeted Obama’s signature bill and held the welfare of Americans hostage.

President Obama has done enough to try and satisfy House Republicans. This time he should not back down from the fight. If he does, he will look like a fool and a coward. It is the Republicans’ turn to meet the president’s demands. If this issue does end up blowing up and the United States economy spirals out of control, the Republicans and the Republicans only should be held culpable.

Ultimately, House Republicans are on increasingly shaky ground. They have demonstrated that they are disconnected from the American people and uninformed of the repercussions of their actions. It seems fitting then that House approval ratings are at 11 percent, 1 percent above the all-time low. House Republicans need to stop dreaming and start working with America’s interests in mind. They are not heroes making a final stand against an unjust law. They are merely a gaggle of diehards making much ado about nothing.

 

Alan Chan is a first-year political science major. He can be reached alankc@uci.edu.