“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” So said Thomas Jefferson over two hundred years ago, yet that maxim holds true today in a way the founding fathers never could have foreseen. The United States of America just came out of the third longest government shutdown in US history (there have been 18). That, combined with the debt ceiling, demanded prompt action; luckily for us, our great leaders are responsible, logical adults who know how to compromise…yeah right.
No one, no matter what political affiliation they hold, can say that the government has been doing a good job for the past month. Approval ratings of Congress plummeted as infighting broke out in the House and Senate; when the shutdown hit, they were made to appear even greater fools. “It’s ridiculous!” says Sam Van Pykeren, senior at SLVHS, “It’s ridiculous that a small group of unhappy individuals can do this!” Whether or not the Republicans are completely at fault is up for debate, but everyone can agree that they are the ones who first dug their heels in.
That proverbial first blow was struck sixteen days ago, in a desperate attempt by House Republicans to halt Obamacare from materializing. Now, finally, some of the people on Capitol Hill have come to their senses. The Senate recently passed a bipartisan bill with a majority vote that brought back a functioning government and raised the debt ceiling. The House, giving in to the inevitable, also passed the bill, restoring the government to all it’s former glory…well, at least until January, when the bill expires and the government will again face shutdown. Maybe Santa could bring us a shiny new government for Christmas.
So, how does this government shutdown compare to the ones that have come before? It ranks pretty poorly, according to Mrs. Martinez, the AP Government teacher, “The factions seem more entrenched and less willing to compromise than they have in the past,” Martinez says. “The government is in disarray. It’s just showing how polarized things have gotten.” Though there have been longer shutdowns to date—the 1995-1996 shutdown lasted 21 days—this shutdown has been particularly useless and confusing.
The entire reason the government shut down was because of the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”. Unfortunately for Republicans, the shutdown did not even slow the bill’s progress; Obamacare will soon become a part of our day-to-day lives, and nothing from computer glitches to public outcry will stop that. So, in retrospect, the entire mess of the past three weeks has been for no reason at all. “It was completely avoidable.” says John Spriggs, senior at SLVHS. If our government can’t be trusted to carry out its function on the most basic level, what is it for?
Thankfully, the government has been able to resolve this latest crisis peacefully and will keep on rolling for another three months, and then it will be time to begin the budget debate again. Who knows; perhaps this latest disaster in communication will help prevent future government crises. Already, some Republicans in Congress are beginning to see the light. “Let’s just say sometimes learning what can’t be accomplished is an important long-term thing,” says Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, “and hopefully for some of the members they’ve learned it’s impossible to not fund mandatory programs by shutting down the federal government.” Good advice, that.
There is one very important lesson to be learned from this recent democratic malfunction: in this day and age, with threats from every side and a rapidly changing world, it is important to be able to compromise. When pride and principle begin to impact other people’s lives, it is time for change; if change does not happen, the proud parties will batter away at each other until nothing is left. Let us hope that it won’t happen again.