Edited to add: Looks like I goofed on my premise about the debt ceiling. It’s a spending bill Congress didn’t pass. I’m so conditioned to see that as the negotiating point. This doesn’t obviously reflect well on my reliability as an observer of federal politics. Maybe I’ll just repost this the next time the debt ceiling fight comes around.
So, Congress couldn’t come up with an agreement on how to raise the money it already spent, so the government has shut down. Or, rather, parts of it are shutting down. When a constituent starts grumbling about this or that government function not being performed, a lawmaker will inevitably say, “oh, it’s not that part of government I want defunded; it’s all of those [vague gesture] other parts of government that are wasteful.”
The most recent incident precipitating the shut down was the House Republicans passing a bill that tied continued payment of our creditors to Congress undoing health care reform. The Senate decided it couldn’t go along with that.
The news is full of opinions about “who will the public blame” for the shut down? The general public will blame the House Republicans. If the Senate Democrats demanded adoption of a single payer health care system in return for raising the debt ceiling and the House Republicans wouldn’t go along; the public would (rightly) blame the Senate Democrats. Congress has, for the better part of 4 decades, authorized spending in excess of the revenues it takes in. The status quo among Republicans and Democrats alike has been to raise the debt ceiling without much fuss. House Republicans are now routinely using the debt ceiling as a negotiating tactic to obtain concessions from political opponents who (rightly) view defaulting on our debts as an unmitigated disaster.
Again, this debt ceiling business isn’t like a family tightening its belt and deciding, for example, not to eat at restaurants. Rather, it’s more like going to the restaurant and deciding to skip out on the check. The way to go about resolving the debt problem is to identify those specific government functions whose costs outweigh the cots and eliminate them and to raise taxes sufficient to pay for the remainder. Skipping out on the check isn’t a solution. And threatening to skip out on the check unless your spouse does everything you want is just plain dysfunctional.