Strange times, these. As many have said, our U.S. representatives are nothing if they are not dysfunctional. Nor has this latest political staring contest that shut down portions of our government done anything to dispel that image.
Americans are increasingly irritated at the spectacle in Washington, D.C. of squabbling legislators. Why all this contention at the national level? The answer, it seems to me is simple. Not so, the solution.
Fractious representatives are only the symptom. Who elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and reelected a Democratic President?
Our representatives are only a reflection of the fact Americans are at odds with each other. Ours is a kind of national political schizophrenia. It is a titanic struggle between those who want to keep the Constitution as it was intended – i.e. as an instrument designed to say what government cannot do to its citizens, versus those who want to change it to say what government can do for its citizens.
Those are different concepts, the first centered on liberty, the second on welfare. Worse, voters are approximately equally divided on the subject. Hence, we have a Republican-dominated House, a Democrat-controlled Senate, and a Democrat in the White House coupled with a contentious healthcare issue its supporters like to remind us is “the law of the land.”
And I agree. Having been passed by the House, approved by the Senate, signed by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court, it is odd to me to hear some conservatives suggest it really isn’t the law of the land. Yes, unfortunately, it is.
What rankles is that the “law of the land” has been autocratically changed by our President to meet the demands of unions (who helped pass it and then were repelled when they figured out how it would affect them), Congress and its staffers (who were granted subsidies to offset its costs) and business (for whom its effects have been delayed a year). How does a President have the authority to arbitrarily change the law of the land?
House Republicans should forget delaying it for a year and send the Senate a bill essentially saying, “Fine, then implement it in its entirety, lock, stock and barrel” and then grin like Cheshire cats when unions and businesses begin to howl.
If Congressional leaders want to shut the government down to stand on principle, they and their staffers should not get paid right along with my friend Bob (not his real name) who is suddenly out of work because of Congressional principles.
Conservative radio commentators are fond of trying to diminish the severity of what happens during a government shutdown by talking about closing national parks being its most serious side effects. Meanwhile, I keep thinking about Bob.
If Congressmen and women want to stand on principle, fine. But they should do so without pay.
My guess is, if they did, it wouldn’t be long until Bob was back at work.