Our government has failed us. As we complete our first week of drastically scaled-back government, the impacts can be seen everywhere. On Tuesday, Utah stopped issuing WIC vouchers and closed its health clinics, denying children and pregnant women much-needed food and medical care. NPR reports cutbacks in Meals on Wheels programs in states across the nation, so the elderly poor aren’t getting fed either. Paid reservations at national parks, including the Grand Canyon, are not being honored. And the indirect effects are even worse: communities that rely on autumn tourism are being hit hard because of the national park closures. Even our cheese business is suffering, since three of the six markets we attend each week rely on tourist traffic for success. Our sales yesterday were a dismal 20% of normal. Reduced income for local businesses ultimately means less tax revenue for states, and for the Fed itself.
And there’s a moral effect to all this as well. Our government is now faced with the choice of not paying its furloughed workers, which is hardly fair to the men and women who serve our government and have bills and mortgages to pay, or paying 800,000 workers for work they didn’t do, which is unfair to the taxpayers. Neither is a good choice. As the U.S. is promotes Presidential democracy as the ideal system for nations throughout the world, this is hardly an example worth imitating. Our system has failed – why would anyone else adopt it?
The Tea Party members in Congress have little incentive to resolve this dilemma. They want to see all non-essential government shut down anyway. What we’re experiencing now is what government would look like under Tea Party rule.
On the other hand, I have little sympathy for the Democrats, who continue to spend as if money can be printed at a whim without economic consequences. Borrow-and-spend economics has inflated the money supply five times faster than our GDP growth over the past twelve years. The national debt began exceeding GDP in 2011 for the first time since World War II, and shows no sign of improving. We are a nation hovering on the brink of financial disaster.
China, of course, is using this opportunity to suggest that their system is a better choice. At the moment, it would appear so – though to accept the two models as the only two options is as much a failure as allowing only two parties to run the U.S. government. There are never only two choices. Our current system is premised on a fallacy.
In any case, it is time for Americans to admit that our system has indeed failed. It is time to look for a new system. Whether that is a parliamentary democracy or something else is a matter to be decided by the people in a Constitutional Convention. Perhaps it will be decided that our nation is too big and too diverse to remain a single unit.
The current political impasse emphasizes that there’s one choice we cannot afford to make, and that is more of the same. Our government has failed us, and it is time for a change.
The Shutdown Prophet
Washington couldn’t have gone dark without a radicalized Republican Party. Or maybe it was destined to all along.
In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.