Government Shutdown

Some inconvenient shutdown truths

Alan Balutis

As the United States reaches the edge of yet another fiscal cliff and totters dangerously close to breaching the debt ceiling, it might be good to pierce the partisan rhetoric, blame-casting, name-calling, and soap opera theatrics to lay out some inconvenient truths. So in no particular order:

  • The Republicans had no chance to "shut down" or delay/prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (I don't refer to it as "Obamacare" in the same way I don't refer to social security as "Roosevelt's Retirement.") Most of the funding for implementation is in the entitlement portion of the federal budget, not the discretionary part covered in annual appropriations. The small part that is could easily be covered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • A delay in implementation of 4 to 6 months would have been welcomed by many senior career and political officials at HHS, who knew the system and the software were not ready on Oct. 1. The problems citizens encountered in logging on to the system and enrolling were predicted and expected.

  • The ACA passed both houses of Congress nearly three years ago. In June 2012, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of its fundamental elements. In November 2012, President Obama, who had devoted much of his political capital to the ACA, was re-elected.

  • On Oct. 1, on the first day that you could sign up for insurance through the new health-care exchanges, 2.8 million people visited the federal government enrollment site. Surely that's evidence that the legislation is fulfilling a real need: that of the 15 percent of Americans who are uninsured.

  • At least two well-regarded recent polls indicate Republicans are bearing the brunt of the public's anger over the government shutdown. Gallup and Wall Street Journal-NBC News surveys suggest the shutdown has been a political debacle for the Republicans.

  • There are some fundamental problems within a government bureaucracy that, after years of preparation, cannot handle the roll-out of an important White House initiative.

  • The deficit has been declining. And while that trend may likely only be short-term, the nation is moving in the direction the Republicans desired.

  • And finally, the current foolishness and irresponsible congressional behavior have driven up the rates for short-term Treasury bills -- which will add to the deficit in the longer run if an agreement is not reached soon.

About the Author

Alan P. Balutis is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems.

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