For the past few days, it seems that all any news outlet has been able to talk about is the government shutdown—and the impending doom if an agreement is not soon reached.
Although I think that congressmen have the responsibility to represent the desires of their constituents, when it gets to the point that nothing gets accomplished because both parties are sticking so strongly to their respective sides, it does more harm then good to the people of the U.S.
Right now, it’s important for Congress to compromise. It’s apparent that nothing is going to get done in the current state, and with each day that passes, our country is slipping into deeper trouble—for example, federal employees aren’t getting paid, national parks, the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell have been shut down, the Center for Disease Control and NASA are closed, and the FDA has suspended food safety inspections. Plus, if the government shutdown lasts until October 17th (which is quite possible, considering the current stalemate), our treasury will reach the limit of its borrowing authority. It’s unknown what exactly would happen if this occurred, but it certainly would not be good. This past May, we reached our debt ceiling ($16.7 trillion), and have just barely been scraping by for the past few months. If our government still has not reached a decision by October 17th, the stock market could potentially plummet and it’s possible that we may not be able to pay back key foreign investors like China.
The moderate Republicans hold the key to forging an agreement here. In recent years, the gap between the more centrist members and the extreme right-wing members of the GOP has been widening, and I think this government shutdown is a wake up call for the Republican party. The party’s base has become increasingly rightist and in order to relate to younger generations and gain support of a larger majority of the country, they need to come together and re-adjust their core priorities towards something more moderate and refrain from making social conservatism one of their main focuses. Otherwise, they could steadily lose their influence in government.
Apparently, some of the House Republicans have said that they would be in favor of a ‘clean’ spending bill, a two month budget that would make no references to defunding the Obamacare law, buying the government more time to get their act together (although at this point, it doesn’t seem like any amount of time could help them sort out this issue, since both parties are resolute in their opinions).
Moreover, I think the Democratic party also needs to be willing to compromise. The root of this whole problem is the Affordable Care Act, and if a large enough majority of the country is against this bill that it can result in a government shutdown, then maybe this bill isn’t the best idea for our country. The reason our Founding Fathers divided the Congress into the House and the Senate was so that the latter would check the former (the House is supposed to represent the “will of the people”, while the Senate represents the states). In this case, the majority-Republican House is refusing to approve any funding of the government without the elimination or delay of Obamacare.
Obviously, this entire situation is very closely tied to what we just finished learning in class. The shutdown clearly demonstrates the power of checks and balances within the Congress, yet, unfortunately, these checks are preventing anything from actually getting done. While reading about the shutdown, I was also reminded of what James Madison wrote about political parties in “Federalist Paper #10”, saying that factions are unavoidable in a democracy, but can also be its downfall.
Even though I’ve only been in this class for a couple of weeks, I feel I’ve already gained a better understanding of how our country works. It’s fascinating that even though our country has been around for almost 250 years, the problems that our government faces today are almost identical to those that our Founding Fathers dealt with. Thanks to AP Gov, I already feel so more in touch with what’s going on in the news. We certainly chose a good year to learn about U.S. government—between the conflict in Syria and the government shutdown, we’ve been able to see a lot of the principles discussed in our textbook come into play outside the classroom!