There is a long history of wars starting where both sides expected the war to be over in a few weeks, but in reality hostilities dragged on bloodily for years. The American North thought the South would be destroyed handily, so much so that many politicians brought their families to Bull Run in Manassass for an afternoon's entertainment of seeing the Confederates thrashed; several paid for this error in judgment with their lives and freedom. Most of Europe thought the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was a tempest in a teapot, and even once the entire continent's armies were mobilized many thought it would all be over by Christmas.
Korea, Vietnam, Iraq - other than the amazingly brief wars fought by Israel, it seems that almost every modern war goes on far longer than anyone admits to expecting. So it is with our government "shutdown" - it's been a week now and there is no end in sight.
Everyone tends to underestimate because the very label "shutdown" is false - it's been estimated that 83% of the government is still running. All too many Americans have seen their employers cut back by way more than 17% and still be a going concern. That sort of slimdown is generally considered to make companies healthier despite the havoc they wreak on ex-employees.
There's one major difference, though: The CEO's of companies going through layoffs want the company to survive and prosper. They don't want customer service or quality to be harmed even though the staff are being reduced.
The exact opposite is true with government cutbacks. Governments which are forced to spend less than they desire invariably make the cuts in the most visible, irritating way, like the famous "Washington Monument strategy": close beloved public attractions with much fanfare so voters will be willing to pay more in taxes.
Never, though, has an administration pursued the strategy of annoying cuts as aggressively as Mr. Obama has. Of course the Washington Monument is closed, since there are no park rangers to operate the elevators, but so is the World War II Memorial which is simply an outdoor monument that offers no staff nor facilities at all. In fact, since the barricades used to close it are rented, "shutting down" the Memorial is more costly than leaving it open.
This isn't just an isolated incident. Rented barricades and traffic cones are sprouting all across the fruited plain, closing off paved parking lots and scenic overlooks which, again, cost nothing to "operate" because nobody works there and they already exist. The Park Service has booted people out of their own homes (because they're surrounded by a park which is now "closed"), and even tried to block patrons of privately-operated businesses in park environs.
Why this madness? An unnamed park ranger gives the explanation:
We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.
All fingers point to one culprit: the Government, by which we mean the Executive Branch that oversees the operation of our vast Federal bureaucracy. Congress has the power to fund (or not) the Government, but has next to no say in day-to-day operations. That falls to the civil service, Presidential appointees, cabinet officers, and ultimately the President himself.
There is no doubt that Mr. Obama has sent down the message relayed by the park ranger: the American people have refused to give him what he wants and they must be punished for their temerity. This is not the action of a president or a democratically-elected leader at all; it's the action of a king, and a selfish, petty, petulant king at that.
Of course, Mr. Obama is far from alone. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a similar moment of truth, when asked why he refused even to vote on a special bill providing funding for children's cancer treatments:
"If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?" the reporter asked.
"Why would we want to do that?" Mr. Reid snapped back. “I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless.”
Why would you want to do something to help kids with cancer? Because you're human, Sen. Reid - or at least, you're supposed to be. Even the uniformly liberal media found this exchange disturbing.
For the rest of America, it's educational. Sen. Reid, President Obama, and the rest of the reigning Democrats don't give two hoots about helping real people. Just because you can only help some of the people, not all of them, doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you can. Mr. Reid and Mr. Obama would rather let everyone suffer in the hopes of having the full power of their gargantuan government restored than cooperate with Republicans to help at least the most suffering ones.
There's a simple saying that explains what's going on here better than we ever could:
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
When Reagan said these words, he had in mind general government incompetence, where the government screws things up by mistake. He didn't anticipate the Obama administration, whose predations are far from accidental. As the park ranger explained, government is setting out to make problems worse with malice aforethought.
In America this kind of active evil is fairly new, at least on this scale, but the rest of the world and of history suffering under corrupt, venal, self-centered kleptocrat rulers would recognize it perfectly. When Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid say we're becoming a banana republic, they're exactly right - and it's their doing, because they've freely chosen to maximize the pain to the people. In fact, they're working overtime to prove another well known saying, this one from Gerald Ford:
A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
Our country hangs in the balance this week. Our Government has explicitly threatened to "take away everything you have" in a fit of pique because we won't give it everything its masters want.
A government that intentionally sets out to harm the people it purports to govern has lost all moral authority to do any governing at all. Fundamentally, this was the issue our Founders charged against King George in the Declaration of Independence - that, rather than treating Americans as citizens to whom he had a duty of protection, he acted as if they were slaves or enemy aliens who had to do whatever he darn well pleased.
The events surrounding this shutdown make it plain that America once again faces the exact same problem of a government that cares nothing for the people. Will today's Americans knuckle under, pay up, and let the government keep growing and oppressing?
Or will Americans finally, finally, realize that in order for government to give them anything, it first has to steal it from somebody else - and most likely, they themselves? Maybe this to-the-death fight over Obamacare is just what the doctor ordered, as a stunning story from California reveals:
People with no pre-existing conditions like Vinson, a 60-year-old retired teacher, and Waschura, a 52-year-old self-employed engineer, are making up the difference.
"I was laughing at Boehner -- until the mail came today," Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.
"I really don't like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family's pocket each year, that's otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy."
Both Vinson and Waschura have adjusted gross incomes greater than four times the federal poverty level -- the cutoff for a tax credit. And while both said they anticipated their rates would go up, they didn't realize they would rise so much.
"Of course, I want people to have health care," Vinson said. "I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally."
Of such realizations are revolutions made. Hope - and pray.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.