Squandering Leadership

We’re coming to the end of week two of the federal government shutdown.  Yet, life goes on.  The dire warnings never seemed to materialize.  I’ll even bet that should we exceed the federal debt limit, life will continue.

I think that’s the problem.  No, it’s not a problem that life will go on.  It’s a problem when the actions or inactions of government don’t seem to matter in our day to day living.  It’s not that the event, like a shutdown, triggers an immediate change in our lifestyles.  The impact is removed from our daily awareness.  However, over time we will know, and then it will be too late.

The government wants to keep the day to day running as best it can.  That’s why the House GOP keeps passing little continuing resolutions to keep one part of the government functioning.  Pass it and people will not feel the difference.  All the other parts of our vast government machinery, particularly the stuff that is out of sight, like environmental regulators or public health researchers, will cease.  We won’t know that our air gets dirtier or our water becomes an endangerment to drink because the change will happen over time.  A few parts per million every year seems small, except that at a decade’s end, seeing mountains without smog or water supplies which require little remediation to make them drinkable will be memories.  We’ll lose our competitive advantage in health sciences because there won’t be money to fund research projects that attract curious and brilliant scientists.  A generation from now our universities won’t attract foreign students because the really interesting research will be happening in countries that invested in their future.

Sure people are angry.  But we should be enraged.  We should be enraged because the long term consequences are dire.  My children and their children could very well grow up in a nation where people might say, “I remember when…”

What is going on right now is senseless.  I can’t be balanced and say this is the fault of both parties.  I blogged over a year ago that the GOP leadership is no longer a political party.  They have fiercely pursued self-righteousness and purity to the point that current moderates, most of whom are way too conservative for me anyway, won’t try to challenge and question them.

Our government’s stability has been unquestioned across the globe regardless of the party in power.  This shutdown and threat of default changes that perception.  We lose political capital in the international community.  Political leaders in other countries might question how seriously they can rely upon our president.  Financial markets may question the reliability and security of our bonds.

I don’t question that our current economic structure is unsustainable, especially as people like me get to old age.  But we won’t change that if one of the two political parties won’t govern in good faith.  And here, I feel a little more comfortable to say the Democrats share some of the blame.  However, they have shown more flexibility than the GOP, which adamantly refuses to raise taxes as our population increases daily.  Furthermore, as the GOP has moved increasingly more the right, fewer people will want to vote for them in contested districts.

As this shutdown has dragged on, the House GOP has changed its demands.  It began with defunding ACA, now it is we need to talk (sounds like Joan Rivers).  While placing  demands and conditions to pass a continuing resolution were wrong, their shifting shows they had no point other than to oppose the President.  Overlooked by many is that the GOP already “won” the debate on the continuing resolution because it kept the funding at sequestration levels.

All the GOP posturing and demands for negotiation ignore the history since January.  The Senate has been asking them to negotiate for more than six months.  While House GOP members wanted even more cuts to the budget, when confronted with making those cuts several months ago, they couldn’t.

The GOP posture serves to embarrass the president.  That’s pathetic.  That’s not governing.  That’s squandering leadership.


About Quentin Chin

Eclectic interests: religion, technology, food, music, current events. I live in the reality-based world.
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One Response to Squandering Leadership

  1. Margaret Beckman says:

    Well, Quentin, it is hard to see the up side if this shutdown, even for Republicans. They say they want so little – to dismantle the only real chance we have had in 40 years at moving toward (though our pace makes the turtle a speed demon) equitable health care delivery systems -in exchange for so much – a vote; a vote that should be non-partisan and non-conditional and non-controversial. They designed this stand-off purposely to ask for the one thing, and only this one thing, they cannot have. Then, they try to blame others for ‘inflexibility’ and unwillingness to discuss. They would not dare to put their votes to a test of leadership – who knows Congress might (probably would) pass the CR and the devastation and gnashing of teeth that would result in the mansions of the 1% they so willing serve is beyond our imagination. There is room to talk about almost every other government program and expenditure. The ACA is not a program, it is a law. Asking for only what you know you cannot get is recognized by 10 year-olds everywhere as a failure waiting to happen. What’s in it for the GOP to fail – perhaps even sustain what they will see as an epic failure? The only possible favorable outcome for them that I can see is the systematic destruction of our democratic government system, which I knew a few GOP legislators campaigned and won with a promise to do, but really, is this a favorable outcome for the GOP? I am still just short of cynical enough to regard the destruction of our democracy as the real agenda.
    Thanks for your post.

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