Archived Story

Budget ideology has changed

Published 9:13am Friday, September 13, 2013

Once upon a time our federal government worked by a process described as compromise.

It was a kind of unique idea for governing, one very unlike what has recently occurred in Iraq and Egypt, where minorities simply work for their own interests at the expense of any other goal.

In Iraq that has made the Kurds outsiders more or less governing themselves and the Sunnis and Shiites locked in political warfare that has led to increased violence in the streets.

In Egypt the extremes of the Islamic Brotherhood made them unable to govern for a more broadly secular nation, but their replacement, the military, has equally little interest in governing by compromise.

Which brings us back to our own government and the current mood of anti-compromise advanced by the most conservative legislators; compromise is a concept worthy of dismissal.

The issues vary with the most current ideological argument being, as always in many ways, Obamacare, the law passed in 2009 to expand health care in America to many uninsured.

While all Republicans tend to hate Obamacare, a number of House Republicans have decided that they are willing to shut down the federal government to de-fund the legislation passed by Congress.

The conservative theory is that if the idea (Obamacare) is wrong, then, in spite of its passage in congress, and in spite of the re-election of a president who fully intended to continue his landmark program, and regardless of an elected Senate majority of Democrats who will never void the law, conservatives should, on principal, refuse to fund the program.

That thinking, opposing the funding of Obamacare when the only possible outcome is a government shutdown, is an ideological argument, where compromise is impossible because to vote otherwise is, to an extent, unethical.

As of this writing about 80 House Republicans have sworn to never vote for a continuing budget resolution, short term or not, that funds Obamacare. Several conservative senators have also indicated their opposition to any budget that funds the Affordable Care Act.

The last time the debt ceiling was used as a blunt political instrument by conservatives and the outcome was the first ever lowering of the U.S. governments’ credit rating.

Now, whether the leverage is to be the debt ceiling again or failing to fund government already determined by Congressional legislation, the outcome will be similar.

We should expect, if ideology trumps compromise in the upcoming budget resolutions, a negative effect on the fragile recovery, possibly another reduction in credit for the government, and a kind of political selfishness not unlike that seen in Iraq and Egypt recently.

We may just have to remember with historical fondness the period of American greatness when compromise built our highways, our airports, our education system, and things like NASA and rural electrification, memories of a better time.

For now at least it appears some will be unwilling to do more than de-construct what once was the most successful form of governing ever devised.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.







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