Friday, April 8, 2011

Shutdown Showdown

Well it is now the eleventh hour, both figuratively and actually, before the U.S. government shuts down due to the current budget impasse.  (It's 11:20 pm, Thursday night, in D.C. as I write this.)  A few more details of the budget negotiations have emerged over the past few hours and they're plenty disturbing to this otherwise-detached observer.  First, the good news: rumour has it that the sides are within $5 billion or so of each other, peanuts these days!  Now the bad news: it has been revealed by the Democrats (and freely acknowledged by the Republicans) that two social engineering "riders" (conditions for passage) are the real sticking points.  (The first states that no federal funds can go to abortion or Planned Parenthood.  The second bars the EPA from anything to do with greenhouse gases.  Ironically, there is already a law banning federal funding of abortions apparently, so I don't understand ...)  "Riders" like these look like nothing more than extortion from here.  Extortion against federal employees and - if the dire predictions of economists about the dangers of a shutdown are correct - against the American public in general.  Budgets are not the vehicle for social engineering in a democracy.  While both issues may warrant debate in congress, they should not be holding up passage of a money bill.  However it appears the Tea Party elements of the Republican Party would rather fight than switch, as several Republican congressmen exuberantly declared in televised speeches today.  If this shutdown happens it can be laid squarely on the Republicans IMHO.  John Boehner, who looked like a pretty good leader of men to me, is failing to lead in this, his first big test.