Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Holding nation hostage is not appropriate negotiating

Welcome to the lunatic asylum. Welcome to the House of Representatives of the United States.

We’re days into the government shutdown and, if you can believe most of what you read, hear and see, it appears there is no immediate end in sight. What we have witnessed during the past few days are people from both parties trying to spin their way into the public’s consciousness in an effort to place blame squarely where it belongs — on the other guy.

Americans ain’t that stupid. Not this time. At least most people aren’t falling for the lunacy that is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. A majority of that party is insisting on bringing the government to its knees when they don’t have a chance to get what they want. Which, of course, is an open question. Most of them can’t tell you what they want.

What we do know is that there are some 30 congressmen, the Tea Party faction, who insist that their constituents want to close down the government until President Barack Obama agrees to scuttle Obamacare. This is happening in the same week that millions of Americans are trying — without a great deal of success — to sign up for lower-cost medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act, many for the very first time.

I, like most Americans, have been thinking about this act of political terrorism (yes, that is what this is) because it is being sold to us as part of being a conservative. Let’s get this straight. There is nothing conservative about putting the United States government, and soon the full faith and credit of the United States, in great jeopardy over some philosophical disagreement. Our Founding Fathers would call this a radical act.

What they did is create a Constitution to establish rules under which this democracy should work. Everyone is supposed to play by those rules. When you don’t, that is anarchy.

Take Obamacare. To establish it as the law, both the Senate and the House have to pass it with majorities. Check. Then the president has to sign that bill, making it a law. Check. If there is a legal challenge, the Supreme Court will rule on its constitutionality. Check. If the people still don’t like the law, they have a national election in which the president runs in support of Obamacare and his opponent promises to get rid of it. The president wins. Check.

That’s it. That is how democracy works. If people want to change the law, refer to the part about elections. Nowhere in this democracy scheme is there room for a radical idea like shutting down the government. In fact, everything the Founding Fathers considered was designed to encourage give and take — call that compromise — but prevent the lunacy that we are witnessing today.

That’s the civics lesson. In the real world — where real people have to live with the consequences of Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to keep his wacko fringe in check — the story gets much worse.

Whether it is hot meals for small children who otherwise don’t get to eat, or clinical trials for cancer patients who don’t have options, or processing applications for small-business loans and home mortgages, there are real people who pay the price. I was thinking about this when I heard the story of one woman who is working her federal government job because she is deemed essential. Her story goes something like this:

Her husband is disabled; she’s the breadwinner. They live, like many working Americans, from paycheck to paycheck. She doesn’t know whether she will actually get paid or, if so, when. She is considering going on unemployment to help pay the mortgage and the car payment, but she isn’t sure she can do that. It’s a great deal of stress.

And, oh yes, one more thing. She needs a root canal because her teeth are killing her. I can only imagine the constant pain she is in. But, because her job and her paycheck are uncertain, she has to postpone the dental work. More pain ahead for her.

I was watching her story on television while I was considering flying to Los Angeles this weekend to see my grandchildren.

I am certain there are hundreds of thousands of people who are directly affected by this nonsensical shutdown by the lunatic fringe, which is aided and abetted by the Speaker of the House.

As an aside, say whatever you want about Obama, but if this were President Lyndon Johnson or even President Ronald Reagan, I am pretty sure one of them would say something like this:

“Take those 30 congressional districts where the Tea Party congressmen say their constituents want the government shut down and give them what they want. Shut everything down in those districts. Not one penny of federal money for anything in those districts. If Americans are going to be hurt by these nut jobs, let the people who elected them get hurt the worst.”

But we’re dealing with a different president. That doesn’t make him wrong, it just means that the voters will have to weigh in more heavily. If we can’t do anything about those very red and radical districts that have sent those wackos to Congress and cheer their reckless actions, then we need to be clear with the rest of them. Starting with Speaker Boehner.

Come the next election, vote the bums who shut this down out of office.

So, what happened to my weekend trip to Los Angeles? The answer is simple. That lady with the financial problems that wouldn’t quit, the husband who couldn’t work, and the bills that couldn’t get paid? You know, the one whose teeth hurt her but she couldn’t afford the root canal? She has as much stress in her life as anyone has a right to have. You remember her, she was an essential government employee.

Her job? Air traffic controller!

I drove to Los Angeles.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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