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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Reader comments

Tue, Oct 22, 2013

I know this comment is a bit late, but I just read Mr. Balutis' comment "The deficit has been declining". If that was true, then why has our deficit apparently doubled in the last 5 or 6 years and why do we need to drastically increase the debt ceiling? I realize that I am not in the know, but if it were my house hold budget and he were my accountant I would sue him for malpractice.

Mon, Oct 21, 2013

Cowboy Joe, what "unaffordable health-care subsides"? It's far from clear that anyone knows what the cost of the new health care program will be. It could indeed be a disaster or it could be a blessing. What is clear is that the previous national health care system was a ineffient, inequitable, and one of those "unfunded Federal mandates" that true conservatives dislike so much; that's not to mention that was a finanical disaster in the making. Whether the current plan will fix things or not is up in the air but I certainly didn't see any other proposals that looked to be of much use.

Mon, Oct 21, 2013

Well Al, your fisrt fact isn't. If prior budgets have been passed that obligate funds then unless the legislation passes to "deobligate" them the House is kind of stuck. 2 is a fact but it's not clear just what legislation was responsible and we're likely to see more next election. that less than 1% visted the site is hardly evidence that no is interested. To guage the level of interest with any real validity you would have to look at who needed to. If you are a minor there's not much need. If you have insurance through work or your spouses work there's not much need. Indeed if you didn't want to be in the first crush there was little need. So all in all I suspect the number that did visit indicates a significant interest and it certainly indicates that some are interested rather than the "no one is ienterested" that you suggest. As for 4 I don't have the data at hand to judge either way. Looking at 5 both the House and the Senate refused to compromise for some time but attaching a irrelevant bill to the budget as a means of getting it past is reprehnsable even if it is standard practice. Furthermore the House prevented a vote at times when it's been suggested that the Senate version would have passed. So saying they House were the only ones acting like adults is clearly fallacious. Now that doesn't mean the points in the original article were accurate or unbiassed but you should be a bit more careful when claiming to post facts.

Fri, Oct 18, 2013 Al

More Facts! 1. The House is no obligated to fund anything it doesn't wish to- it was referred to as "separation of powers" in my middle school civics class. 2. An number of Senators and Representatives lost their jobs as a result of voting for this legislation that no one wants. 3. Less that 1% of our countrymen visited the federal government enrollment site.- surely that is evidence that no one is interested in this. 4. The prices that were obtained were much higher than promised (If the care is not affordable, I think we should probably refer to is as ObamaCare after all). 5. The Senate refused to pass a number of budgets offered by the House- who were the only ones acting like adults throughout this process. Yay facts!

Thu, Oct 17, 2013

What a wonderfully biased comment!

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