Thursday, October 17, 2013

Winners and Losers

Well, one more manufactured crisis has concluded. The Government has reopened, and default has been averted. That's all to the good. The news media, which habitually reduces all substance to process and all policy to politics is busy pronouncing who won and who lost. Obviously, the Republican architects of our troubles are the big losers in immediate political terms - even literally so, since so many of them voted on the losing side when the Speaker finally permitted the House to vote last night. The key thing about that vote is, of course, that it went the way it would have gone weeks ago had the Speaker permitted it then. In other words, all the damage done these past several weeks easily could have been avoided and accomplished absolutely nothing for those who forced the country into this debacle.
So certainly the Republicans are the big losers (although since so many of them are from safe districts where they are spared any real encounter with the majority of America, this defeat will not likely have any negative consequences for most of them). By extension, then, the Democrats - especially the President and the Senate - seem to be winners. They held firm and lost nothing that they had when this began. Presumably, a lesson has been learned and the President has finally been healed of his former negotiating inclinations and understands how to deal with his opponents better than he did in 2011.
And, of course, the millions of Americans who will depend on the Affordable Care Act for health insurance they would otherwise not have been able to acquire or afford are winners.
On the other hand, those who depend upon government services and those whose businesses suffered during the shutdown all suffered some loss. They are the most direct victims of political posturing in Washington and nation-wide citizen indifference.
But, in a much larger sense, we are all losers. There is something profoundly humiliating to this country to see the Prime Minister of Italy (of all places!) commenting on TV about American political dysfunction! Americans' confidence in our institutions is low. And that has ripple effects throughout society. Government is who we are together. It is Americans at our best. When government does not work - or does not work as well as it should - we are all diminished. 
The only ones who benefit from this deterioration of our society are those who don't believe in society - those, for example, who believe it is wrong for younger, healthier people to have to buy health insurance so that society as a whole benefits. It is the purveyors of that malignant mentality that are the only real winners when government doesn't function and the social bonds that bind us together across time and space are frayed and wither.

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