Today, and for the whole of this past week, the news channels are filled with everything "Shutdown." Given the importance of what's going on, that's probably appropriate. However, what's being missed in all that noise is the real issue.
The discussion, at least as reported by the media until last night (Thursday) was all about the differences in dollars...i.e., what should be cut and how much. I don't for a moment think that's unimportant. The deficit is way too big, and on a collision course with disaster. It is also inevitable that choosing to fund or not fund programs represents choices way beyond the dollars involved. Funding the government means making political, or maybe more accurately, social, decisions. If you don't fund Program X, it's likely because you see it as less important than Program Y. Or maybe you just don't like the idea of Program X in the first place.
All of that is fine, I guess. However, it has the effect that I described in the book, of making decisions a part of bills that have nothing to do with anything.
Here's an example, that actually blends two chapters of the book together.
The current House Bill to fund the government includes a provision (called a rider, because it's simply along for the ride) that forbids Washington DC from using their own dollars to fund abortions.
There's two problems with this.
Problem #1 is that it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with funding the Federal Government. It's not part of the Federal Budget. It doesn't increase or decrease the Federal deficit. It is nothing more than an attempt to apply somebody's (read Conservatives) personal values upon an area that not a single one of them represent. It's attached to this bill because everyone knows it couldn't possible pass if it was considered on its own merits! Apparently it's a deal killer to remove it. Tough! The House needs to do its job, and fund the Federal Government. The House Republicans, collectively, are doing the very thing they complain about: creating a nanny government that tells people what to do with their own money!
Problem #2 is that Congress, specifically the House, is abusing the citizens of Washington DC by singling them out for Special Treatment. They could not pass this law to affect any other state, or any other group of people, but because of the special provisions for the District of Columbia, they actually can do this. Because the citizens of Washington DC have no voice in Congress, they don't even have anybody to plead their case, at least nobody with a vote in the matter.
In short, while I have many many disagreements about what is or is not going to be funded through this bill, assuming it is ever passed, the fact remains that Congress is about to lay off a good portion of the working population of Washington DC, because they want to exert unreasonable control over the lives of those folks. To me, this is not an example of "less government." It is an example of complete hypocrisy, and I think John Boehner knows it. While the President is being accused of not standing up and leading, the Speaker of the House is the true wimp here!