Guest Column: Why the GOP wanted a Government shutdown

Dave Utrata is a member of the Albion College Democrats

The ranks of the 18 No votes in Senate Vote 219 on Oct. 16 to disapprove the Continuing Appropriations Act included relative newcomers Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). All have become darlings of serious media coverage for a null position on any spending by the Obama administration. Ted Cruz spearheadedthe current Republican road blocking in Congress, and he and his cohorts are taken seriously because of headlines and rhetoric, not because they understand economics or the demographics of the country.

Take for instance Rand Paul’s concept of tax reform. Conservative American Enterprise Institute fellow Ramesh Ponnuru explains in an article in Bloomberg that Paul’s proposed 17 percent flat tax would “cut tax rates for the rich and raise taxes on the middle class” and consequently bolster a “conviction of most Americans, too often justified, that the party is uninterested in strengthening the struggling middle class.” Marco Rubio in 2010 championed a position of tax cuts with the espoused intent of reducing deficit spending, a position referred to by Greg Mankiw, former chairman of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, as one of “charlatans and cranks.” This time around, Ted Cruz took the spotlight, having at one point during a marathon of C-SPAN coverage last month read Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham in the Senate chamber for his daughters’ bedtime in what was not even a true filibuster (as the Senate had adjourned for the day).

Cruz returns to Texas branded a hero by an adoring fan base after such antics defamed as “immolation” (martyrdom) by Republican colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)and castigated by conservative pundit Brit Hume who claims Cruz and ilk “do not view things in conventional terms. They look back over the past half-century, including the supposedly golden era of Ronald Reagan, and see the uninterrupted forward march of the American left” and will follow their strict ideologies even “if some of those things turn out to be reckless and doomed.”

It’s en vogue to get the public riled up for action by the analogy of the Federal budget to that of a household’s budget. This argument is totally fallacious in at least five ways, not the least of which being there is no risk of being unable to repay debt issued if the debt is denominated in the same currency the debtor nation controls. Just how manufactured is our budget crisis versus how much can politicians capitalize on the fear and distrust of an American populace for anti-establishment support?

We all potentially lose when the government shuts down, even partially. What do furloughed workers do to pay bills while on forced leave? What happens if a regular FDA safety inspection is skipped that turns out to create an e Coli outbreak? Native Americans living on reservations are immediately affected in nutrition and schooling, and budgets already cut by sequestration could lead to budget deficits that could force tribal governments, unlike the U.S. government, to default on programs and debt.

Ted Cruz, however, “wins” by shoring up his base for a 2016 Presidential bid. A recent TIME Swampland article reveals that the audience of Cruz’s antics was not fellow Senators or the President, but the conservative base that might fund his campaign if Cruz styles himself as the “purest” conservative in Congress. But how culpable is Cruz in the “showdown” that ensued as his grandstand against the Affordable Care Act? What if we created the stymie, and by extension the shutdown? In a political realm where pageviews, reblogs and Facebook likes equal financial backing, how at fault is Cruz for being just another blogger, running up business through attention and crisis? Cruz is the “winner” and we may be even bigger losers than we thought with our system of governance ever more subject to whims and tantrums.

Photo via EdBrown05, Wikimedia Commons

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