Government shutdown is indicative of the problem with Washington

The current stalemate between Congress and President Obama seems to have reached an irreversible impasse that will likely lead to the federal government closing its doors next week.

It is often said that national government is the most inefficient form of government. This is perhaps more evident in the United States than anywhere else. City Mayors and State officials cannot afford the luxury of standing on points of principle – they have to get things done. Schools have to open on time, potholes must be fixed, and rubbish must be safely disposed of.

Yet the present situation at the Federal level is somewhat ludicrous. What may surprise people is that even most Americans, despite having gone through this before in 1995, find the situation absurd.

Most find the actions of their elected representatives embarrassing and their intransigence to be juvenile and unprofessional.

The political grandstanding has led to the situation where both sides have backed themselves into a corner. Actions are now governed by a fear that even the smallest compromise will be seen as a defeat.

The Republicans in Congress have made this into another battle about ‘Obamacare’ and the notion of using the budget to defund it seems like a desperate last attempt to destroy a program which has the support of the majority of people and has been upheld at every juncture.

The President however has also come across badly by steadfastly refusing to negotiate with the body that has the constitutional authority to set the budget.

How dare they not just go along with me President Obama might think, I won’t negotiate with these people.

The nature of the US system however is that the President is the executive it is his job to execute the will of Congress and represent America’s foreign interests, it is not really his place to impose a budget on the House of Representatives which as the chamber that is most representative of has the right to determine how America spends its money.

If the President wants an easier time dealing with the House he should either push hard to get more Democrats elected in 2014 or try negotiating with them, a concept that the current crop of legislators in Washington seem to see as somewhat of an unnecessary novelty.

Both sides are at fault here.

The two parties must realise that they have to do a deal at some point but the longer this farcical attempt to look strong lasts the harder it will be to come to a mutually beneficial resolution.

The real losers once again are the citizens that they are supposed to represent.

A government shutdown is the last thing an already fragile economy needs; it costs jobs and money and does nothing for the reputation of the United States.

Ted Cruz

The stomach turning showmanship of premature presidential candidate Ted Cruz was a particular low point in negotiations this week.

Here was a senior legislator in the upper house of the most powerful country in the world reading Dr Seuss on national television and comparing universal health care to Nazi Germany.

His assertion received a stinging rebuke from one time presidential candidate and senate grandee Senator John McCain who demonstrated for all who were watching that there were still some serious political heavyweights left in the US Senate.

This however is the problem with the whole shutdown issue.

Once the US was governed by serious politicians with real world experience, even in the last shutdown both President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich were blessed with the political talent to be able to come to an accord.

This time around sees a new cast and it seems for all watching to be a class of amateurs.

Desperate freshman politicians attempting to make a name for themselves as quickly as possible from which they can build an Obama style campaign for the Whitehouse in 2016.

The budget situation has been a case of the blind leading the blind.

I truly hope for a resolution before the deadline if not then at least something early next week.

Otherwise the situation could get out of hand fast.

This is made even more pressing by the looming debt ceiling negotiations to come that could if not resolved be an economic disaster that could plunge the entire globe into further uncertainty.

This is a time for serious men; a time for statesmen and for leaders, let us hope that there are still some left in Washington.

Samuel Kerr

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