SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 26, 2013

Watson: Budget debate ignores real problems

In the days left before Oct. 1 — the date on which parts of the federal government will shut down if further funding is not authorized by Congress — we’ll be reminded how uncompromising some members of the Republican Party are in conducting their politics.

I’m referring to those Republicans who would deliberately let the government run out of money on Sept. 30 in order to avoid the funding of the Affordable Care Act (”Obamacare”). Encouraged by tea party Republicans, the House of Representatives voted last week for a bill that would continue government spending, but only if funding for implementation of the health care law were eliminated.

The Senate, which also has to approve any legislation that would extend the government’s ability to underwrite its expenses, is not remotely about to kill the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, it will remove the health care cuts from the bill and send proposed legislation back to the House to keep all parts of the government up and running.

There is nothing wrong with questioning the health care act. It is ambitious, complex and long, and it will take some years of reform and monitoring before we’ll know if it is successful in reducing health care costs. But linking one’s opposition to it — as some Republicans are doing — to the bill that funds almost all of government is inappropriate. That action needlessly risks the damage that would be caused by interrupted government services; and because it is a futile protest, it displays a carelessness that signals an actual hostility to the necessary work of crafting political solutions in a big, diverse country where, usually, nobody gets his own way.

The other distressing aspect of this drama is that it distracts attention from the real problem, which is the stubborn recession we’re in, and the relationship of the federal budget and its spending priorities to the serious breakdowns in our hobbled economy.

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