John McCain is still seething about the government shutdown and those darn conservative upstarts who caused it. For no good reason, the lives of thousands were interrupted in “real and painful” ways.
In a recent column, the senator recounted how 580,000 visitors were turned away from national parks. Rafters lost their once-in-a-lifetime trips, while farmworkers, homebuyers and biomass suppliers were all victimized by those stubborn right wingers.
President Obama must be astonished to learn that a veteran senator was hoodwinked by the antics of his administration that were only intended to impress the most gullible low information voters. There were funds available for every single thing denied to citizens. There was money for the massive White House personal staff, for the gyms on Capitol Hill and for payments to millions of Social Security recipients.
To resolve any doubt, Republicans sponsored bills to provide military pay, keep parks open and fund any government operations except Obamacare. They were denied. Instead, guards were sent to keep veterans from walking around the World War II Memorial on their own and motorists near Mount Rushmore were forcibly prevented from viewing the presidential rock carvings from their cars.
The administration obviously tried to inflict maximum pain and the strategy worked. The debt ceiling was raised with no significant spending cuts. Even better, they were able to deflect the majority of blame to the fiscal conservatives even though President Obama had ostentatiously refused to negotiate.
One big reason they were able to pull off this unlikely trick is that Sen. McCain and his buddies joined the reliably lapdog mainstream media to insist it was the fault of the conservative reformers. He’s not dumb enough to believe that, of course. He’s apparently just trying to discredit the newcomers in his struggle to control the Republican Party.
The shutdown didn’t matter very much. Polls showed most Americans didn’t see much change in their lives. About a fifth of the government closed. Some federal workers took time off — with pay legally assured. Foreign governments blustered a bit but were more put off by revelations of snooping on their cell phones than any internal dysfunction over here.
What does matter is the national debt. Once again we flubbed a chance to do anything about it as Republicans told themselves that they would tackle it instead at some mystical time in the future. Yeah, right.
It’s hard to know what more we can ask fiscally conscientious legislators to do at this point. Polls reliably show that most Americans realize Obamacare can’t possibly work, they believe government is far too large and are deeply concerned about mounting debt, which they should be.
Yet for those earnestly trying to do something about it, no strategy is the right strategy, no government program is the right one to cut. Talking tough during elections and then kicking the proverbial can down the old road is the safer course.
It’s unlikely there will be a better chance down that road to stop Obamacare, with the program reeling now and the massive subsidies not yet rolled out. But since their comrades ducked and ran under fire, the would-be reformers are being blamed for everything from the stagnant economy to the unpopularity of the Republican brand.
They’re being lectured that elections have consequences and so they do. Americans in 2012 elected as the lawmakers in the House, the body representing the people, a majority who had campaigned against Obamacare and for serious deficit reduction. They elected Barack Obama to execute the laws passed by Congress, at least according to the Constitution.
Yet the election for the house paradoxically had fewer “consequences” then the presidential election. Congress couldn’t even eliminate their own unpopular Obamacare subsidies.
Republicans have to face the fact that they will someday have to run the media gauntlet if they are ever going to be real players. Meanwhile, Americans have to decide what we want. If we are serious about avoiding a future of economic decline and socialism, we have to elect lawmakers who provide more than campaign rhetoric, who are there for us when the chips are down.
East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at email@example.com.