McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 1, 2013

Shutdown corner: Welcome to third world

ENID, Okla. — Quick geo-political quiz. What do Somalia and the United States have in common?

They have no functioning government.

Somalia has devolved into a lawless land ruled by warring clans with names like Abgaal, Leelkase, Wabeeneeye and Yibir.

The U.S., likewise, now is being controlled by two warring militias with names like Republicans and Democrats.

Oh, wait. It says here that Somalia was without a functioning government from 1991 to 2012, but they have at least a semblance of one today.

My mistake. That means the U.S. stands alone. Good for us.

Belgium went without a government for 589 days in 2010 and 2011, but finally elected a new government in 2012.

So here we are. The richest, most powerful nation in the world no longer has a funded, fully functioning government.

Welcome to the third world.

We are in shutdown mode. They even hung a “closed” sign on the Statue of Liberty, as well as all other national parks, museums and monuments. NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency are shuttered.

Federal workers not deemed essential will be furloughed or will work with their pay suspended. Anyone awaiting a government-backed loan will have to keep on waiting.

But don’t worry, Congress and the president refused to receive their paychecks. Whew, I was losing sleep over that.

Those hoping to take their minds of the shutdown by watching Saturday’s Air Force-Navy or Army-Boston College football games might have to think again.

All sports at service academies have been suspended for the duration, meaning those games might not be played.

In the meantime, we will have to content ourselves with watching the biggest feud since the Hatfields and McCoys.

Each side is hurling accusations at the other. The Dems blame the GOP, the Republicans blame the Democrats and the American public blames both sides.

The battle has come down to a clash over the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans want it repealed or delayed, the Democrats want it enacted on schedule and in its entirety. Neither side appears willing to compromise.

A pox on both their houses.

So for the time being at least, America operates without a government. We will keep receiving mail and Social Security checks will continue to be sent out. But the longer the standoff lasts, the more impact it will have.

The rest of the world has reacted with incredulity and laughter. We have become a punchline.

The Tea Party branch of the Republican clan, er, party, wants to cut spending, cut taxes and save money. The Tea Party is one of the key factions in forcing the shutdown.

The shutdown will cost the country $12.5 million per hour, $300 million per day and $1.6 billion per week, according to an estimate from IHS Global Insight, an economic consulting firm. The last time the government was shut down, on two occasions in 1995 and 1996, it cost the government $1.4 billion dollars. How is that cutting spending and saving money?

The Congressional oath, enacted in 1884, includes the words “will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.” The presidential oath talks about faithfully executing “the office of president of the United States.”

Perhaps both should be rewritten. How about this.

“I (state your name) solemnly swear to do the job for which I was elected to the best of my ability, not to put politics above common sense and not to do anything to hurt the American people just to please my party’s leadership. I swear that if the government is shut down, I will not take my paycheck and will spend my time trying to pass a funding bill, not appearing on network news shows. I swear that if I ever put myself and my political ambitions above the well-being of my constituents, I will immediately step down. I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, but I also will not vote for, stand for or speak for any legislation that is not in the best interests of the people who elected me. So help me God.”

I’ve got an idea. Let’s round up every member of both houses of Congress, and the president, take them to the Capitol and lock them in until they pass and sign a funding bill.

Then bring in food and water and let them eat and drink all they want while they negotiate.

Then lock all the bathroom doors. The government will be up and running in no time.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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