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Shutdown: Congressional Childishness and Its Consequences


Calling the GOP's antics childish is an insult to children. Their budget shenanigans surpass the worst childish behavior, and are far more damaging. The Republican-engineered government shutdown is doing real harm to real people, and endangering an already fragile economy.

Demand What You Know You'll Never Get

With two kids, sharing and taking turns is mandatory in our house. But it's not always easy. When there's trouble, it often involves the television. After playing outside, eating dinner, and finishing homework we let our boys watch some television before bedtime. Since children's shows are usually half an hour long, every 30 minutes they take turns choosing what to watch.

Most of the time this arrangement works smoothly. But if homework takes a little longer than usual or dinner is delayed, someone ends up with a shorter turn or misses a turn altogether. Explaining to the aggrieved child that it couldn't' be helped, and promising he'll get a turn next time usually calms things down.

Sometimes it doesn't. Once, our oldest was inconsolable over losing a bit of his television time. In exasperation, I asked him, "Well, what would make you happy?" He responded, "A thousand turns!"

I thought about that exchange when House Republicans sent the Senate a continuing resolution tying government funding to delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act. It came to mind again when GOP concocted an even more ludicrous list of demands for raising the debt ceiling. The difference is that our son stopped his grumbling and pouting, because he knew that what he was demanding he'd never get.

Our 10-year-old may be smarter and more mature than congressional Republicans. Who could seriously believe that Senate Democrats would vote to defund or delay health care reform, or that President Obama would sign any bill that derails his signature legislative achievement? The most unreasonable child wouldn't demand as much, and actually expect to get it.

If You're Losing, Change The Rules!

There are a lot of families with children in on our street. We live on a cul-de-sac with very little traffic, except for residents and lost drivers looking a place to turn around. On a nice day, it's normal to see half a dozen or more kids playing together outside, and running from yard to yard under the watchful eye of a parent or two.

The kids usually make up their own games. The rules and scoring methods are often so abstruse that only a mind between the ages of 5 and 10 can possibly understand them. Parents step in to resolve disputes and disagreements that inevitably arise.

Eventually, we realized what was causing some of the disputes. Whatever the game, the rules were constantly changing. Changes were often indicated by cries like "That's not the base anymore!", "No one is getting points for that anymore", or "That's not fair!" As soon as one kid or one team realized they were losing, they'd change the rules of the game.

That's kind of what Republicans are doing.

The president ran on health care reform in 2008 and won. Right after inauguration, President Obama announced to a joint session of Congress his intention to begin work on health care reform legislation. After all, he campaigned on the issue and won.

After considerable debate, Congress passed a health care reform bill similar to the reform Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signed into law in 2006. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act incorporated provisions that Republicans had previously supported.

(The individual mandate was proposed by the Heritage Foundation in 1989. It was part of the Republican alternative to President Bill Clinton's health care reform proposal in 1993, the Massachusetts' health care reform bill signed by Romney in 2006, and a reform bill introduced by senators Bob Dole and Ron Wyden in 2007.)