Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand! President Obama has spent six years now, fighting a petulant bunch of “haters” in his own government. He’s been beaten, scorned, publicly flogged, ridiculed, and tarred and feathered over just about any policy or bill he’s presented to Congress. In my opinion, he’s held his own and looked like a statesman and conciliator through all of this.
But a pattern has emerged that should send chills through the spine of lovers of democracy everywhere. That pattern endangers our entire system of government and the brilliant system of checks and balances that the founders used as a foundation for “government by the people”! I’m calling that new pattern, “appropriations by extortion”! Please allow me to elaborate.
We’re all aware of how compromise and shared sacrifice are a cornerstone of democracy. One party introduces a new bill, the opposing side in good faith, either rejects the idea, or comes back with counter proposals that are meant to satisfy the views of their constituents. They kick the bill back to the first body and the game continues until the bill is passed under joint agreement, or dies from lack of consensus. So far, very cool, very “founding fatherish”! But what if letting the bill die isn’t really an option? Enter Tea Party America.
“A continuing resolution is a type of appropriations legislation used by the United States Congress to fund government agencies if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the Congressional fiscal year. ” It is a temporary fix, in the absence of a joint budget resolution, that allows government services to continue to operate, government employees to get paid, and citizens who depend on government services to get what they need. (Sometimes, these services are life and death!). So to let that die, isn’t a responsible option. It’s not something a statesman would allow.
Since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010, they have consistently used both the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip. By doing so, they have successfully extorted more than $10,000,000,000 in spending cuts including cuts in teachers, safety net programs, food stamps, and other programs that unilaterally affect the poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and the disenfranchised. Democrats have also established a pattern, of rolling over and giving up. It’s not that the Democrats accept the first Republican shot, but the continuing resolutions and debt ceiling bills are always presented as “clean bills” from the outset. In other words, the Democrats ask for nothing except what is essential, and the Republicans start demanding concessions. It’s a system that has become routine, and a system that will destroy our representative form of government if not abated.
It’s also a system that will eventually reverse itself and allow Democrats to demand things that THEY want. They could insist on single-payer universal healthcare for instance! Or bring all the troops home. Or Medicaid for all. Or tax hikes on the uber-rich. The list is never ending and the result is permanent gridlock.
And so, I’m proud of our President for standing his ground. He has said recently that he is not going to engage in negotiations over the debt ceiling or the budget and he is right to do so. From 10,000 feet, it’s easy to see of course, but some people on the ground are not convinced. They see him as being intransigent, stubborn, or even dictatorial, but they’re wrong. He’s actually a knight in shining armor standing guard at the drawbridge of Democracy.