The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Crisis averted, or is it?

What does the near-shutdown say about our government?

Well, crisis has been averted. Just a little more than an hour before the federal government would have been forced to shut down, leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties managed to find enough common ground to pass a stopgap spending bill and keep the federal machinery running. What a relief.

There’s an awful lot of parsing to be done over the coming weeks as to whom to blame and who came out looking best (we’ll use that term very, very loosely) from this long national cluster-you-know-what. Lest either party try to claim the high moral ground or cast this as anything other than a national embarrassment, let’s consider a few things:

One of the big sticking points of negotiations was whether to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides vital preventive services and family planning advice to medically underserved communities. While I’m not sure I’d go as far as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in calling this a Republican “war on women,” I fail to understand the logic of a party that is so opposed to abortions that it would restrict many couples’ access to contraceptives and responsible counseling about sexual and reproductive health.

I’m not an expert or anything, but my guess is there’s a correlation between reducing unwanted pregnancies and lowering the rate of abortions.

Michele Bachmann, whom many conservatives have embraced as a slightly-less-nutty version of Sarah Palin, actually turned out to be one of the more responsible members of the House of Representatives.

While many Tea Partiers and other conservatives seemed giddy with the idea of a shutdown, Bachmann stood firmly on the side of sanity and resisted such grandstanding nonsense. As the threat of shutdown became more real, Bachmann promised to donate her salary to military families whose pay was threatened. To my knowledge, this was the single glimmer of human feeling to emerge from the Capitol this past week.

Democrats have been all huffy about Republicans holding up the budget process and inflicting draconian cuts on important government services. I’d be more inclined to sympathize with them if they hadn’t neglected to pass their own budget last year when they controlled both houses of Congress by absurdly large majorities.

Similarly, the liberal intelligentsia has been quick to jump on Representative Paul Ryan’s proposals for next year’s budget and his long-term vision for a painful, but necessary, return to responsible government. Say what you will about Ryan’s plan, but it’s the only one realistically confronting our very pressing debt crisis.

This would be an excellent opportunity for President Obama, the most serious thinker and articulate champion of expanded government, to hold the White House in decades, to offer a contrasting vision of America’s future. But if Obama’s recent behavior is any indication, my guess is he’ll choose the easy road of demagoguery over the much harder one of dealing with fiscal reality.

It looks like we’ll have to look elsewhere for a worthy liberal champion in the debate to come.

And of course, aside from this Planned Parenthood nonsense, the main sticking point of budget negotiations was how many billions Congress should cut from the budget. The two parties eventually agreed on $39 billion, which sounds like a lot of money until it’s compared to the trillions upon trillions of dollars the government currently owes.

The deal eventually reached did nothing, nothing to address our fiscal woes: the whole shutdown game of chicken was in other words much ado about jack. I leave it to you to decide what it says about the size of the federal behemoth that $39 billion is such a trivial sum.

So a deal was reached, the government chugs along, and everyone gets to congratulate themselves on having formed a bipartisan consensus to avoid the tough questions that must be answered now. I can’t help but think that maybe a shutdown wouldn’t have been so bad if only it had also meant shutting down the infantile temper tantrums coming from the monkey house that is the U.S. Congress.

Nathaniel French is a senior theater major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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