The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

87° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    GOP must learn how to dissent like responsible adults in order to reach compromise

    The federal government will shut down if the House of Representatives and the Senate can’t agree to pass a continuing resolution to fund it by Sept. 30. So, naturally, the House passed a budget bill on Sept. 20 that has a higher chance of growing wings and flying to Mars than it does of being passed through the Senate.

    I thought we had reached a low point earlier this year when our Legislature allowed sloppy, universally condemned across-the-board budget cuts, better known as the sequester, to be implemented. The idea was to pick something that both sides found so terrifying they would be forced to compromise. Instead, we ended up with a policy that hurt everyone.

    The Republican Party is continuing the debacle by tying the continued funding of the federal government to a proposal that would defund the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, scheduled to begin on Oct. 1. Even in light of the idiocy of the sequester, this idea is, in the words of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

    Zoey Kotzambasis, president of the UA College Republicans, said in an email that she also disagrees “with tying unrelated political issues to any bill, especially with regard to raising the debt ceiling.” But, she added, “I do not think Congress should even consider raising the debt ceiling given the monstrous deficit that already exists — they need to put down the shovel and stop digging already.”

    The problem with that logic is that the deficit is shrinking. Read that again if you need to. In fact, the deficit is shrinking at the fastest rate since World War II and is the lowest it has been since the beginning of this recession.

    Granted, the debt — which is different from the deficit — is still relatively high. It nearly doubled during former president George W. Bush’s eight-year tenure, and then increased more during the recession. But it’s far from sound to say that the best way to reduce that debt is to reduce the current deficit.

    Outside of a post-war drawdown, the only time the deficit fell more quickly than in the past five years was in 1937, just before the economy relapsed further into the Great Depression. Cutting any faster than we already are risks major damage to our tenuous current growth rates.

    Furthermore, austerity — the economic idea that governments must reduce their public debt during an economic downturn to reassure investors — has come under serious scrutiny in recent years. The methodology of the Harvard study that many austerity supporters rely upon has come to be widely criticized in academic circles, and even the International Monetary Fund has recently admitted that its austerity policies in Europe undermined economic growth far more than it initially predicted.

    In fact, interest rates on government bonds are still 0.25 percent, the lowest in our history and among the lowest in the world, but there’s no dearth of investors lined up to purchase them. The only concrete display of investor unease that might have merited a government response was in 2011, when the government’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history — in response to the Republicans playing fast and loose with the debt ceiling and threatening a shutdown.

    If the GOP were serious about cutting the deficit, it would agree to a compromise that raises taxes and lowers subsidies in addition to cutting some spending. In 2012, only 9.8 percent of federal revenue came from corporate taxes, even as after-tax corporate profits are at record highs. Unless those revenues rise, we cannot cut our way out of debt without eliminating funding for the very programs that are helping us avoid total economic collapse — unemployment insurance, healthcare and education, to name a few.

    But of course the GOP isn’t serious about cutting the deficit. Its only serious priority seems to be obstructing the agenda of President Barack Obama. Tying a budget to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act sets a new record in hypocrisy, even for House Republicans.

    According to the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan research arm of the legislative branch, repealing the ACA would raise the deficit by as much as $109 billion over 10 years.
    As Speaker of the House John Boehner walked out of Congress on Friday night after passing the Republicans’ misguided continuing resolution, he said, “Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare.”

    Statistics are apparently out of reach for the House leader. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll has been tracking approval of the ACA every month since the bill’s passage in 2009, and the results have been fairly stagnant — 40 percent support it, 40 percent oppose it and the rest are undecided. Forcing a government shutdown to prevent the timely enacting of a law that has been passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the president and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court is the height of irresponsible governance, especially when you lack a clear mandate in public opinion.

    The Republican Party is doing everything in its power to neuter and nullify the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act by refusing free federal funding to expand states’ Medicare programs, preventing the implementation of consumer protections banning discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, opposing the federal navigators who are working to help the uninsured secure coverage and restricting the free dissemination of information to those who would be helped by the ACA’s provisions.

    The Georgia insurance commissioner recently bragged that he and his fellow state officials were doing “everything in [their] power to be an obstructionist.” That is bad enough. But it is absolutely disastrous for the country as a whole when the Republicans bring that same obstructionist attitude to the table on hair-trigger issues like the debt, which has the potential to permanently damage this country’s economic prospects.

    The Republican Party dislikes the ACA. I understand that. And the Republican Party dislikes our current fiscal policies. I understand that as well. But it is time for the party to learn to dissent like responsible adults. Democracy is not a zero-sum game, and treating it as such ensures that everybody loses.

    Jacqui Oesterblad is a junior studying global studies, political science, middle eastern & north african studies. Follow her on Twitter.com/@joesterblad.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search