SHUTDOWN AND DEBT CRISIS: A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD

 

SHUTDOWN AND DEBT CRISIS: A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD

By Harry C. Blaney III

While the end of the current shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is now over it has NOT ended. It has simply been postponed. Further, while some have been writing that the Tea Party faction has been chastened, the first reading is that they are mad and have no intention of backing down on their absurd goals which will only hurt America and hurt the majority of Americans. Not least, however, is that they have severely damaged America’s global image and brought into question the full faith and credit of the United States. Our friends and allies are still worried and our adversaries are taking advantage of our dysfunction.

 The debt and shutdown fight uncovered and created added American vulnerabilities abroad. Other nations question more our reliability and soundness of our commitments. This includes in our negotiations of our new Atlantic and Pacific trade pacts, in pushing nations to do more against weapons of mass destruction, in our requests for help by other nations in reducing dangerous conflicts, and in cooperation to deal with our continued global economic and financial problems.

 The major problem of our current governmental and political dysfunction continues as long as a minority of a minority can halt all legislation and tie in knots efforts at reasonable negotiations and seriously addressing our challenges at home and abroad. No one can deny that having a strong domestic economy, growing employment, better education of our children, taking care of our aged and poor, and improving our science and technology, providing health for all citizens, and rebuilding of our decrepit infrastructure, are key to our continued progress and global leadership.

 Yet all of these goals the Republicans and especially the Tea Party faction are still opposed and so far they are backed by billionaire malevolent forces that seem more interested in keeping their billions than in moving the country forward. They also seem more interested in not addressing many of our key global interests like climate change, getting our national security balance and costs right, supporting arms control and non-proliferation, and least of all, helping the poorest nations and the growing gap between the very rich and the poor to change.

 America and Americans have a stark choice. We can either in these next three years help President Obama and our other leaders address our needs and our responsibilities at home and abroad or we can dither, decline, and become inured to the plight of our own people and their needs. And the Tea Party and many Republicans on the right would do the same to the growing danger signs abroad. They have no interest in addressing these issues despite a need at major a effort to rethink our national security instruments and policies and our international landscape.

 All this cries out for leadership, added resources and greater cooperation with other nations and in strengthening and reforming the United Nations and other international institutions to address better issues like environmental decay, health care, increasing our capability of stopping conflicts and genocide, slavery, terrorism, hunger and working to advance human rights and democracy. The Tea party would walk away from a functioning U.S. government and they would walk equally away from America acting as a force for a more decent world as well.

 So the struggle for America’s soul is not over. This was only the opening salvo and a great debate should ensue as to what America is about and what is our role in the 21st century to ensure we give to our children a safer more fair world so they don’t have to endure the stupidities that we have just gone through.

We welcome your comments!

4 thoughts on “SHUTDOWN AND DEBT CRISIS: A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD

  1. Harry Blaney October 30, 2013 / 12:23 PM

    Chuck made some very good points in his comments and especially in his last lines:

    ‘Ultimately, this flaw in our constitutional frame work should be reversed. But even if our nation strives for a more perfect union, political extremists anywhere in the world increasingly have the power to influence the economic, political, health, security, environmental and legal aspects of our nation. Neither the national or the global lack of accountability is unlikely to be addressed anytime soon. And we all live with increased risks because of it.’

    There is no question that the extremism of our politics and the desire of the few to stop the ability of the government to function is a serious weakness both at home to solve the many problems our citizens face including education and health care, but also dealing with all the many problems we face abroad.

    The real question is how do we deal with this fanaticism in a way that preserves our democracy and moves our nation towards greater effectiveness and responsibility to our people and not least that 99% that has been left behind ? We need to go back to the fundamental elements of our Constitution and the idea that the majority can and should be given the ability to address the issues on which they won the election but with due regard to the views of the minority and of fairness.

    But the Republicans in the House of Representatives have gone wild and destructive of good government. The Senate wrongly, originally to preserve racism, keeps the ability of a minority to bloc legislation which was never put into the constitution. We need to go back to the original intent to have most legislation and nominations to pass on a majority vote. Finally, we need to fix the illegal and pernicious redistricting and efforts to stop citizens from voting so as to preserve the rule of the now extreme minority.

    One of the best things we can do to preserve our nation’s democratic and humanitarian values is to return to a cooperative stance by our political leaders work to help our people and the world to deal with our many challenges and at least to not endanger our ability to function effectively on the world stage to ensure our security and prosperity.

  2. chuck woolery October 19, 2013 / 4:51 PM

    Shut down threatened US National security and Global economy! Flaw in US Constitution empowers extremist views and potentially catastrophic actions.

    The October 2013 US government shut down exposed a significant weakness of our Constitutional republic. The consequences were felt locally, nationally and globally. Basically, our democratic system allowed a tiny fraction of a political opposition party to dictate whether the US would pay its ‘non essential’ government workers. Even if those workers were ultimately essential to our nation’s security and protecting or saving the lives of individual Americans.
    As Congress debated and another debt ceiling approached this tiny minority put the US economy at risk of default. A default that most political and economic experts believed would have had catastrophic effects on the US economy and ultimately the world economy. The global effect would have fueled the lawlessness that gives further advantage to terrorists and global organized crime which are increasingly working together to weaken US power.
    The minor structural factor of the US Constitution (based on the concept of independence) that allows political parties to gerrymander Congressional districts virtually ensures a particular party will win the District election. This legal rule pits members of the same party against each other and leads to favoring the purist party ideologue. This closed system strongly encourages more radical posturing. While it may hurt that party in the long run, the short term consequence can produce politics and politicians that push extremist policy and put the whole world at risk. And, the rest of the world has no vote how it turns out.
    The bad news is that Americans rarely change their political structures without the motivation of actual pain and suffering here at home.

    So aside from the real national security risks listed below that were directly associated with the government shut down, the global consequences could have been worse.

    1. On the Wednesday after the shutdown US intelligence officials warned that the government shutdown was making our nation more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and other security risks by forcing US spy agencies to send tens of thousands of employees home. The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that furloughs of civilian employees could have an ‘insidious’ effect, degrading intelligence-gathering capabilities in ways that may not become fully clear for weeks or months. He went on to testify that “As each day goes by, the impact and the jeopardy to the safety and security of this country will increase.” Key intelligence officers considered “Essential” will be kept in place but Clapper’s office indicated that 72% of the intelligence community work force has been sent home creating holes in virtually every agency and department.
    2. Iran Sanctions weakened. The under-secretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, says the ability to enforce sanctions on Iran has been significantly hampered. “Note, our ability to do that, to enforce sanctions, to stop sanction evaders, is being hampered significantly by the shutdown,” she told the Senate foreign relations committee on October 3rd. The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury team responsible for overseeing the sanctions, was “utterly depleted”, she said.
    3. Embassy security: Intelligence staff in the US provide information that means as much or more to embassy staff abroad as the uniformed Marines that guard the embassy gates. One aspect of the security failure at the US facility in Benghazi, Libya which killed 4 Americans was a lack of sufficient intelligence.
    4. Chemical security: The Obama administration added closure of the Homeland Security Department’s chemical security program to its list of reasons why Congress should end the partial government shutdown. The Chemical Facilities Anti-terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which is in the middle of a multi-year effort to approve security plans for high risk chemical plants in the United States, ceased most operations last week as a result of the congressional stalemate over fiscal 2014 spending and health-care reform, Global Security Newswire reported. Congress has yet to permanently authorize the CFATS program, so the failure to pass a spending bill means the initiative not only lacks funds but also the legal authority to operate. “This underscores the need for the shutdown to end, and for Congress to pass a permanent reauthorization of the CFATS program,” DHS spokesman Clark Stevens said in a statement to GSN. Stevens confirmed that employees of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, which runs the chemical security program, have been furloughed.
    5. Economic Security: If the shutdown lasts long enough it could crimple the US economy (the source of our military funding and educational foundation that provides us with troops and advanced technologies). The two-and-a-half-week government shutdown probably reduced quarterly G.D.P. growth by about 0.3 per cent. Hopefully, the same mentality won’t lead to our nation’s debt default which would be catastrophic to our prosperity, freedom and security.
    6. Bio Security: NIH/CDC non-essential employees who help monitor disease outbreaks here and abroad are vital to early detection and response of pandemics or bioterrorist events. With the speed of global air travel a matter of a few hours delay in detection of a pathogen could mean tens of thousands if not millions sick and/or dying.
    7. Space security: Are NASA employees working to detect near earth objects similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs…considered nonessential employees? The amazing answer is ‘yes’.
    8. Food security: More Americans die from food contamination each year than from the attacks on 9-11. Food inspectors are helpful in keeping those numbers down and from detecting any possible intentional contamination of the food we consume. Nearly half of all Americans ingest legal drugs. Inspections and speedier drug approval also saves American lives.
    9. Maintaining alliances: Individual nations cannot effectively cope with any global threat (terrorism, pandemics, chem/bio/cyber WMD attacks, climate change, economic instability, genocide) without strong international cooperation. Obama was scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali next week but on Thursday the White House canceled it’s plans for the trip. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Bali a few days ahead of time. Obama excluded China from his planned 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Xi pushed his his rival pact, which included China and 15 other nations but not the US. Regional trade deals, offsetting Chinese power and it’s territorial claims (Japan, Taiwan, Burma…) in the region and other foreign policy developments in US interest in that part of the world will have to wait.
    Ultimately, this flaw in our constitutional frame work should be reversed. But even if our nation strives for a more perfect union, political extremists anywhere in the world increasingly have the power to influence the economic, political, health, security, environmental and legal aspects of our nation. Neither the national or the global lack of accountability is unlikely to be addressed anytime soon. And we all live with increased risks because of it.

  3. brucevanvoorst October 17, 2013 / 1:23 PM

    Harry…

    Let us hope the nation can come to its senses. Bruce

    • Harry C. Blaney III October 18, 2013 / 1:12 PM

      Bruce,
      That also requires, as you know, that our media act with high responsibility and provide greater insight, analysis, balance, and information about the cost of shutdowns and debt limit extortions. Also for example, we can’t live in a world where “climate deniers” are given the same level of exposure and value as the findings of the vast majority of expert and serious researchers. Nor should false science be taught in schools.

      We will be untrue to our children to teach them proiven false ideas as if they were equal to verified science, as when the earth was formed. But we need to go deeper into the quality of our education system, the role of unlimited money in politics, and the way the political maps are drawn to ensure the voices of the few are enhanced.

      But it also requires all of us to be more engaged in civic and political life and participate in the larger debate about the direction of our nation and our role in the world. On that basis we are not doing very well.

      Thank you for your comment. Harry

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