New Castle News

Mitchel Olszak

October 7, 2013

Mitchel Olszak: Budget nonsense bugs nation

NEW CASTLE — The other day, I was watching a stink bug as it tried to crawl up the inside of a glass lampshade.

Looking at the trapped, mindless creature, I couldn’t help but think of the United States Congress.

Amid the partial shutdown of the federal government, caused by the inability of Congress to reach even the most basic of fiscal agreements, we are being treated to an assortment of excuses, rationalizations and accusations from our federal lawmakers.

It’s garbage. This problem is the sole creation of Congress, which had ample opportunities to avoid reaching this point.

The dispute stems from a continuing effort by Republicans to stop Obamacare. They were seeking concessions from Democrats that would have avoided ongoing implementation of the health insurance reforms.

But Democrats won’t budge. We’ve all been down this road regarding GOP efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act. It’s not happening.

And if any Republican lawmakers are crowing about their efforts to stand firm against Obamacare, ask them this: Why is it that large portions of the federal government are in shutdown mode, but the health reform program is progressing as planned?

In the real world, we call that an abject political failure.

Supposedly, the current standoff is the result of 30 to 40 conservative Republicans lawmakers who are demanding action against Obamacare before agreeing to have a vote on federal funding. This comes on the heels of scores of previous failed efforts along these lines.

It should come as no surprise that zealots hold several seats in Congress. With boneheads making up a portion of the general population, I suppose they deserve representation in Washington. However, that doesn’t mean they should be able to force other lawmakers to do their bidding.

But that’s exactly what’s happening now. This minority of ideological extremists has succeed in forcing the House Republican leadership to bow to their demands.

The fact is that if the Senate-approved spending plan were put up in the House for a vote, it would pass with Democratic and moderate Republican support. But Speaker John Boehner won’t allow that, so the standoff persists.

Meanwhile, you get the sense that congressional Democrats and President Obama have calculated the shutdown will further damage Republicans in the eyes of most Americans. And despite their public demands for an end to the current sideshow, they privately hope it will drag on for a while.

In an ideal situation, the knowledge that most Americans are fed up with the nonsense coming out of Washington and oppose the shutdown would cause House Republicans to fall in line and resolve this issue quickly. But the political situation in America is far from ideal.

A key problem is gerrymandering. The current process of mapping congressional districts across the county carves out seats that are so safe for many Democrats and Republicans that the normal political practices of compromise and negotiation are treated as tantamount to treason.

So the ideologues who are now calling the shots in Washington have nothing to fear. To the contrary, the damage they are inflicting on the nation will probably help to ensure their re-elections.

But keeping their party in control of the House is a different matter. In GOP-held districts that aren’t solidly Republican, this debacle could give the House back to Democrats.

Then again, the best thing going for the Republican Party these days is the Democratic Party, and vice versa. It’s all pretty pathetic.

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Mitchel Olszak
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Beginning tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the NHL playoffs. So, who ya got? And in how many games?

Penguins, in five games or fewer. Too much firepower for the Blue Jackets, especially if Evgeni Malkin is ready to go.
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Blue Jackets, in six or seven games. Bobrovsky gives Columbus the edge, but it won’t be easy.
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