With the federal government shutdown looking to drag on for a while, an array of public opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the Republicans’ “strategy” of choking off discretionary spending programs to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
One of those national polls, by Quinnipiac, reveals the breadth of the opposition. Seventy-two percent of Americans are against it. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of Democrats frown at it. Independents? Seventy-four percent. Even Republicans only narrowly back the move: 49 percent to 44 percent.
One wonders why the 44 percent of the GOP can’t buy the 49 percent a beer and have a heart-to-heart about the folly of committing bad public policy and of shoving the U.S. into the territory of global dunderhead.
Because the shutdown, not to put too fine a point on it, is a colossus of stupidity.
But I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs. That, and an even greater threat to our livelihoods: that the U.S. will crack the debt ceiling in less than two weeks.
First, an important point needs to be made: While the Republicans are feeling the heat of overwhelming public disapproval, that doesn’t necessarily mean the extremists among them will cave to pressure.
To wit: “We’re not going to be disrespected,” Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana told The Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Of course you don’t, Marlin.
What we do know is that the shutdown is having detrimental and unnecessary impacts. They include curtailed federal prosecutions, threatened nutritional programs for the poor, a halt to helpful reports about the country’s economic performance, and closed-down tourist centers at national parks — tourist centers that small businesses and local economies depend on.
In Clark County, where several local offices are connected to various federal departments, “several hundred jobs at least” are being lost and services are not being provided, according to Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the state Employment Security Department.
Even Bailey’s job, because it’s linked to the nation’s tracking of the job market and related statistics, is headed for leave without pay. If the shutdown continues, he told me last week, he’ll turn off his computer at Monday’s close, “and we’re done.”
But while the shutdown is dumb, the threat on the part of some Republicans to breach the nation’s debt limit to extract economic policy concessions is dumber — and far more terrifying. It’s one thing to introduce a bill to rein in the nation’s long-term debt (even though the deficit, which is far more important, is significantly down). It’s entirely something else to endanger the integrity of local, national and global economic markets by threatening to not pay the country’s bills.
If we rupture the debt ceiling, Bailey said, it will translate into “higher interest rates across the board” and will likely prompt a recession. That means “more people losing their jobs,” he said, “which of course is not exactly what we need at this point.”
Instead, what we’ve got at this point are some “leaders” like Rep. Stutzman who’ve got their ideological goggles strapped on tight.
The rest of us, meanwhile, are eyeing what seems like an insurmountable mountain of deeply disturbing stupidity.