Republicans are slithering forward with a far more ambitious, and sinister, scheme than simply creating a needless government shutdown and, perhaps, refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Their belief - as irrational as it is - seems to be that they can continue to hold President Obama and Harry Reid ransom and ultimately achieve their penultimate victory: A complete teardown of the federal government, including federal programs they don't like, federal regulations they don't like, and, of course, the health care law that they loathe. Their belief is rooted in the fact that, once before, the President made concessions to protect the American public. They're convinced that if they only hold out long enough, he'll do it again.
Wrote Jonathan Chait of NYmag.com: "Obama foolishly set the precedent in 2011 that he would let Congress jack him up for a debt-ceiling hike. He now has to crush the practice completely, lest it become ritualized. Obama not only must refuse to trade concessions for a debt-ceiling hike; he has to make it clear that he will endure default before he submits to ransom. To pay a ransom now, even a tiny one, would ensure an endless succession of debt-ceiling ransoms until, eventually, the two sides fail to agree on the correct size of the ransom and default follows . . . ."
The ransom price is, clearly, what has in the past five plus years been the Republican clamor for smaller government, and, to them, this anti-government stance begins with the rollback of Obamacare; in their deluded state, Republicans believe Obamacare symbolizes all the evil that government can levy against its citizens, and Republicans intend to make Americans pay for electing the man that gave birth to it. I repeat: Republicans intend to make Americans pay.
The Republicans maintain a classic "us against them" mentality; any Republican who dares speak out against the radical tea party element, who calls this shutdown out as the nonsense that it is, who urges House Republicans to come to their senses and knock this off, is immediately and permanently deemed a RINO (Republican In Name Only). Remember poster-boy Republican Colin Powell? Opposing war, supporting any part of the Obama Administration, calling out the nonsense of the tea party-driven policy wish list - all that, and much more, will automatically land a Republican on the list of those who've failed the new and ghastly "purity test."
We're on a collision course here, and there seem to be myriad reasons the tea party caucus in the House is holding so fast to its position against Obamacare - public polling clearly demonstrates that the Republicans' best interests are not being served by continuing with this disastrous course. But since the election (and re-election) of President Obama, Republicans have been crazily beating the "small government vs. large government" drum - and Obamacare, in their small, nailed-shut minds, symbolizes large government at its most evil. Forget the pesky fact that Obamacare consists of private insurance companies competing in the marketplace (free market capitalism at its finest), that the providers are privately run hospitals and clinics, and that the physicians are in private practice; Republicans refuse to be confused with facts when their minds are made up. The launch of Obamacare, coinciding with the funding of the government and the raising of the debt ceiling, represents the perfect storm; Republicans, in their rabid quest for what they deem "smaller government" don't give a fig if government workers are furloughed and government offices are shut down. In fact, it's what they've wanted all along. Republicans believe that the fact that this nation can stumble along while many "non-essential" (not to be confused with unimportant) departments are hog-tied and individuals are furloughed represents their point all along, that this nation can do without many departments and individuals within the federal government. The fact is, as we're seeing more and more since the shutdown, this nation, in fact, can't fully function - essential services can't be provided - without nearly all of our government departments and employees operational.
Along with the Daily Caller, the survivalistblog.net, and other right-wing sites, Nick Gillespie, writing for Time Ideas, trumpeted this notion in an article entitled, "Shutdown Highlights Basic Fact: Most of Government is ‘Non-Essential’." Writes Gillespie, "The shutdown may have started over a hare-brained attempt by Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to delay and/or defund President Obama’s signature health-care reform (it is sure to fail because Obamacare’s implementation is not contingent on passing a federal spending plan). Nevertheless, the shutdown provides the country with a perfect moment to ask why a federal government whose spending habits are an insult to drunken sailors everywhere is paying above-market compensation to hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” workers." Gillespie goes on to list The Department of Education, the EPA, FCC, SEC, Department of Treasury, Housing and Urban Development and Department of Homeland Security as departments that are virtually useless - and it's no coincidence that Republicans' 2012 front-runners, Romney and Perry, both wanted to eliminate some of these same departments; even within the grip of his "oops" moment, Perry remembered to list the Department of Commerce, Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior as departments he'd dump. The short answer for most Republicans, when asked what departments they'd like to see in their rear view mirrors, would probably be, just about all of 'em.
Writes Catholic author John Zmirak on Aleteia, "I read that 800,000 non-essential government employees have been laid off. Which raises the question of why we have 800,000 non-essential employees. The government provides far too many services that would be better offered by the private sector, and far too many Americans are dependent on transfer payments--lulling them into serfs of a big, secular government. It would be healthy to learn to live without much of that. This could prove a salutary lesson."
One Republican, Florida Rep. Dennis Ross, made no bones about what this newest battle has become, and what Republicans are actually striving for: "Republicans have to realize how many significant gains we’ve made over the last three years, and we have, not only in cutting spending but in really turning the tide on other things . . . We can’t lose all that when there’s no connection now between the shutdown and the funding of Obamacare . . . I think now it’s a lot about pride."
Republican pride notwithstanding, if Republicans were granted any concessions at all from the President and Harry Reid for their most recent (but definitely not final) list of ransom demands, they would likely consider that the first significant step in their ultimate goal of eliminating the parts of the federal government they don't like and "turning the tide on other things." Most of government and most government jobs are considered "non-essential" in their minds - except, that is, their own jobs; they have yet to vote to furlough themselves.