The state shutdown in Minnesota brought upon by the lack of a budget agreement between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislators only slightly illustrates some of the adverse effects that United States citizens would suffer if the federal government shuts down.
What is the point of contention? The Democratic governor wants to close his state's budget shortfall by raising the taxes on the wealthiest citizens in Minnesota, while Republican legislators refuse any increases in taxes.
Citizens of Minnesota are in favor of increases in taxes to the wealthy to help ease their deficit crisis. Chants of "tax the rich" have echoed throughout their state capital prior to the shutdown and have a reached a much higher crescendo since the shutdown began.
On the federal level, the effect of Republican lawmakers' zeal for shutting down the government and willingness, if not eagerness, to refuse to raise the debt ceiling will be far more brutal to the United States' economy at a time when we can least afford it.
The Republicans have declared that they will not vote for an increase in the debt ceiling unless there are substantial cuts in programs across the board, and that they will not consider any tax increases to reduce the deficit. Under President Bush, Republicans voted multiple times to raise the debt ceiling without requiring similar concessions and with considerably less drama. Apparently having a Democrat in the White House makes all the difference in the world.
Indiana Congressman Mike Pence's arrogant, irresponsible "cut it or shut it" mantra that he loves to invoke at public events and in front of cameras may make him popular with the Revolutionary-War-costume-wearing crowd, but it represents nothing less than a willingness to damage the economy and the slow recovery in such a profound way that Americans will continue to experience recession economics for far longer than we otherwise would have.
If you look closely enough at the Republicans who are aggressively advocating for shutdown of the government, you might be able to see a glint in their eye and when they walk away; some may walk with a little skip in their step and others will saunter off with their hands on their imaginary six shooters like John Wayne. The song "Wild Thing" is certainly being played in their heads as they scurry off to receive voluminous amounts of praise from people who think that Michele Bachmann is brilliant. Once home, they head to the medicine cabinet where they have a copious supply of Bengay, which they rub on their shoulders. This is necessitated by the awkwardness of repeatedly patting their own backs.
Poll after poll demonstrates that not just a slim majority but a wide or overwhelming majority of Americans wants to increase taxes on the wealthy, yet Republican's continue to say that they do not know anyone who wants to raise taxes on the "job creators." I actually suspect that this might be true, given that they rarely leave Grover Norquist's bed.
During the health care reform debate, you could pull a string on John Boehner's back and he would utter words such as, "The people have spoken and the President needs to stop ignoring the will of people."
Why was he able to say this? After perverting the realities of the politically center-right health care reform bill with words such as "death panels" and "socialism" and then suggesting that America would become just like the evil nations of Canada and England, polling would eventually suggest that Americans did not like health care reform.
More importantly, conservative activists showed up at town hall meetings and gathered at protests. This allowed Boehner to appear in front the cameras and ask Democrats to watch the outrage and suggest that the people will not stand for health care reform and that they must listen to them.
What if the President were able to call a press conference, look at the camera and say, "This weekend the streets of Washington are filled with people who think that raising taxes on the wealthy is a better way to ease our deficit crisis than mass cuts to programs that benefit the middle class, our senior citizens and the poor. We need to listen to them. While Republican leaders choose to ignore the will of the people, I cannot. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell need to stop listening to their largest campaign donors and start listening to their constituents. The polls have been saying for quite some time what the people wanted and now the people are shouting it out loud and clear. It is the right thing to do for the people. It is the right thing to do for America."
This is political cover. By definition, we are the only people who can offer this playing card. While it may not be imperative, it does make the President's job a little easier.
Although it is getting better in certain states, there is still an outrage deficit throughout much of the country. Many of us get mad, but we do it from the couch. We express our anger on our laptops by sending online petitions that I suspect mean very little. We shake our fists at the TV when we watch Hannity. We shake our heads in disbelief when we watch Maddow. We must do more.
When we scream at our televisions from the comfort of our living rooms, the only thing that results is that we get strange looks from our children, and our pets run out of the room.
The streets around my home allow people to go to the grocery store, to their children's soccer games and to work, if they are fortunate enough to have a job. The streets in Washington, D.C. are made to hold the masses -- thousands of people carrying little more than cardboard signs and expressing outrage over our government's willingness to allow the rich and corporations to increase their wealth while the middle class and poor pay with their health, their security and their future, people filled with rage that our government continues to prioritize the desires of the few over the needs of the many.
If we fill the streets, people will listen, whether they want to or not. The echo of our shouts off of the pavement of Washington carries much more weight than the muted sounds of our voices bounced off the shag carpet in our living room.
A raised fist in our house means that we are more than likely just playing the Wii, but when we raise our fists in public, people tend to flinch.
It is time for Republicans to flinch.
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