As of this writing, a shutdown of the federal government appears to be a serious possibility. Perhaps sensible heads will prevail, but either way the Republicans now leading the US House of Representatives have been exposed as destructive fools with no interest in governing, or in the fates of real people.
Mind you, Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama could have prevented this by passing a full-year budget last fall.
But that failure was relatively harmless — if anything, it freed them to concentrate on passing impressive legislation, including two laws (the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act) specifically intended to create jobs.
Republicans, by contrast, have used this budget showdown to effectively paralyze the legislative branch from doing anything. With Speaker John Boehner trying to please his new Tea Party members, Capitol Hill is consumed with fretting and posturing up to each deadline, at which point a continuing resolution ensures two or three more weeks of the same.
Or, perhaps this is all a show, creating an illusion of paralysis to cover up the fact that they have nothing to do.
Three months into the 112th Congress, the new Republican House majority has passed absolutely no significant legislation of any kind.
Now, they seem intent on shutting down the federal government — leaving millions without needed services, benefit payments, and paychecks. And why? For what great principles do they claim to be risking genuine human pain?
The answer: a few billion dollars of budget cuts, and "riders," which mean nothing toward the serious task of long-term deficit reduction — but which would further ideological goals such as defunding Planned Parenthood, and barring the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.
Republicans are free to propose such ideas, and to campaign on them in hopes of winning the Senate majority and presidency that would allow them to implement their extremist measures.
But until then, they need to learn something from the constitutional framers whom the Tea Partiers ignorantly claim to revere: that divided government is meant to promote compromise.
Of course, the Founding Fathers expected that the people's government would be driven by a desire to promote the general welfare — that is, to use the government to improve people's lives.
Modern Republicans couldn't care less about the general welfare. They could not be making that fact more plain than they have during this pointless budget battle.
THE GITMO BLUES
Those congressional Republicans also disdain the rule of law, particularly the liberties enshrined in the Constitution. They won their objective on that front this week, when Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, agreed to have alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried by military tribunal, rather than in civilian court.
It is a despicable move, forgoing all the rights that the accused — which could mean any one of us — have against capricious treatment at the hands of our government.
Disappointing as it is to see the Obama administration go this route, their hands were effectively tied by the GOP — who tucked into one of the handful of bills actually passed this year (a defense appropriation bill) a ban on bringing Guantánamo Bay detainees onto US territory.