Words are not adequate to describe a contrived crisis that manages to end without complete disaster. Congratulations are not in order, because taking reasonable action should be expected from elected officials. The best that can be said about the government shutdown engineered by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party is that temporary relief mixes with lingering disgust.
It’s disgusting that the end of the 16-day government shutdown leaves unfinished business. Yes, the default was narrowly avoided Wednesday as the deadline loomed, but the day of reckoning has been merely postponed until early next year. Congressional delegations will meet, but there’s no confidence that anything meaningful will be done and that crisis will not return.
An abiding sense of shame should hang over Congress, but shame seems in short supply. The deal worked out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell had 18 dissenters in their chamber. When the bill went over to the House, 144 members voted against it. That’s 162 members of Congress who would rather have seen the nation go into default and risk economic catastrophe than give an inch.
Most of these hard-core opponents are not going to suddenly learn the art of compromise. They barely realize that they were juggling with hand grenades primed to devastate the economy. As it was, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s put the cost of the shutdown at $24 billion, with 0.6 percent knocked off the nation’s economic growth going forward. So much for the Tea Party’s commitment to cutting deficits and debt.
This is irresponsibility as high art, and now it will continue through the holiday season. Do the political vandals of the right think that any of the 800,000 furloughed government workers will be spending big knowing that the Grinches will return in January? Will anybody?
Yet the Tea Party members dare to suggest they speak for the American people. What Americans want is no more shutdowns, no more crisis, but rational responses to the nation’s challenges. Congress shouldn’t have to be told these self-evident truths.