“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.” —Denis Diderot  (1713–1784)
“I love gridlock. I think we’re better off when we’re gridlocked because we’re not passing things.” —Sen. Tom Coburn  (R-OK), Feb. 2010
Amid all the talk and worry of a Shutdown Showdown, is anyone else noticing that this crisis is happening as the United States is embarking on yet a third or fourth  simultaneous, costly war? We and other prophets could see this thing coming even before last November’s mid-term election when the Republicans were already warning  that a Shutdown might be necessary to curb Washington’s “out of control spending,” though of course they hoped it wouldn’t have to come to that. And if it did happen, it wouldn’t be their fault. (Remember 1995 ?) A budget crisis complete with the grinding of chainsaws and the flashes of bloody meat cleavers was foreseeable last December when the Republicans were forcing an extension of the Bush (now Obama) Tax Cuts for Million- and Billionaires. Yes, the party demanding billions in spending cuts is the same that fought furiously for a high-end tax cut that will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The same one that sold us the $3 trillion  Iraq war.
The Obama administration, which has gotten itself backed up against a wall yet again by “seeking common ground” and waiting again till the 4th quarter to speak up, warns  that a government shutdown could furlough over 800,000 federal workers, interrupt military pay, and slow tax refunds.
We blame the Tea Party-infused Republicans for this mess, but we also hold the timid, mute Democrats  responsible. (Democrats have already agreed to $33 billion in cuts and still the Mad Tea Party demands more blood.) And We the People are also responsible for this because we have not demanded forcefully enough that Congress and the White House stand up against this madness. Some of Us even voted for these extremists.
It’s Not About the Budget Deficit
“Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.”
—Alan Wolfe, “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern ”
Those driving the G.O.P. do not care about creating jobs or providing relief for the 24 million un- or underemployed—nor it seems do those trying to appease them. The ideologues are forcing this fight not so much to reduce the deficit  as to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood  or any abortion or family-planning services; to cut funding for NPR, health care reform, and the new consumer protection bureau; and to prevent regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency. (In 1995, too, G.O.P. insistence on unrelated policy  objectives forced a shutdown.) Some of the basic, public-protecting functions of government are being gutted while the president seeks “common ground” (and reelection). Where are the forceful voices of the pro-government faction of the Democratic party? Why do they not boast of the many good accomplishments of the last two years? Why didn’t they before the mid-term elections? (See “A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern ” and “Yes We Can Pass Good Legislation .”) Do the networks still allow Democrats to appear before a camera? Are progressive Dems allowed inside the Meet the Press studio?
Who knows what will happen? No one knows how this plays out. It cannot end well, though, with an overly conciliatory , “post-partisan” president who wants to find common ground with extremist ideologues intent on shutting down the government. All we know is that it’s time for Democrats and moderates and any sane, responsible Republicans still breathing (Dick Lugar is one) to stand up and begin, at last, to make the case  for why government is good  and necessary and must be not only preserved but reinforced with tax revenues from corporations and the very well-to-do—many of whom (like the Koch -funded “Americans for Prosperity” and “FreedomWorks”) have fueled this fire. It is pathetic that the one nation on earth with the most stable, long-lasting democratic, representative government with a built-in balance of powers, so carefully constructed by wise and prudent men, is now apparently at the mercy of zealots driven by corporate money and 24-hour anti-government propaganda. Verily, the rich are killing us all.
They will over-reach, they will have to retreat some, but will the moderate general public ever rise up and say “Enough!”? We have little hope in our elected officials. The determined and courageous pro-labor citizens of Wisconsin  and elsewhere in the Midwest give us some hope, but how bad does it have to get?