10/02/2013 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2013

What the U.S. Media Are Ignoring in Government Shutdown Coverage


Forty years ago, Congress got tired of the president refusing to spend money that it had allocated.

The president at the time: Republican Richard Nixon, who was a little preoccupied with Watergate.

In frustration, Congress passed the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (introduced in 1973) which governs the procedures for adopting a budget resolution. It also established the Congressional Budget Office (among other things).

The bill was enacted despite Nixon's veto.

But times have changed.

In 1973, Martin Cooper made the first cell phone call using a Motorola phone. Today there are more cellphones in use in the U.S. than there are people.

And Congress today?

It has "more leverage over the budget, but unfortunately [is] ill-equipped politically and intellectually to handle the responsibility," according to W. Elliot Brownlee, a professor emeritus of economic history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Writing in It"s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein argue:

[T]he Republican Party continues to demonstrate that it is an insurgent force in our politics, one that aspires to rewrite the social contract and role of government developed and affirmed over a century by both major political parties. The old conservative GOP has been transformed into a party beholden to ideological zealots, one that sees little need to balance individualism with community, freedom with equality, markets with regulation, state with national power, or policy commitments with respect for facts, evidence, science, and a willingness to compromise.

And the men contend that media "continues, for the most part, to miss this story." It's not just that media miss key elements of the story, it's how media frame the story; after all, research shows that words and tone do shape opinion.

For example, it's unlikely that media headlines would clue you that the current impasse isn't really about the budget. It"s not even about government shutdowns.

It's about the Republican party's opposition to health care reform and its refusal to accept that it has lost this fight. Not just once, but more times than most people would want to count, as Stephen Colbert reminded his audience last month. As of September 20, Republicans had voted 42 times to block the Affordable Care Act. That's 42 acts of temper-tantrum-like protest.

Mann and Ornstein describe this behavior being "beholden to ideological zealots."

Republican opposition also led to a Supreme Court showdown... where the bill was upheld.

And the Republican 2012 presidential candidate ran on a platform to overturn the bill ... and lost.

Yet Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by 63-year-old Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), decided to hold the Affordable Care Act hostage -- delay its implementation and, in exchange, they'll approve a spending resolution. Otherwise, close and lock the doors.

But by taking the government hostage, Republicans have taken us hostage.

We Are The Government.

There is no "them" there is only "us."

But you're probably not reading this if you are a Republican. That's because support or opposition for what is happening inside the Beltway is predictable based on partisan affiliation.

We -- the United States of America -- can't go on like this.

If this were a marriage, could it be saved?