, Port Arthur, Texas


October 18, 2013

Events in Washington require comment

PORT ARTHUR — This column is normally devoted to literature and the arts. as it should be. But I think it necessary to voice an opinion about the events in Washington over the past three weeks. Literature and the arts are profoundly affected by government, and the reverse holds true, or should, because, because literature and the arts (and I include sports) are what makes life worth living.

The two major political issues of the past 3 weeks: the shutdown of the federal government and the threatened refusal to raise the debt ceiling, did not have to happen. There was no crisis in government, and the United States was not falling  into some economic chaos brought about by “big government.”  And it certainly was not true that Obamacare (more correctly labeled Romneycare, for Mitt Romney, who was governor of Massachusetts at the time, and which has proved eminently successful) was causing any kind financial debacle, as Ted Cruz  and friends would have us think.

The point of the government shutdown and threatened refusal toraise the debt ceiling was to force changes in (or the death of ) the Affordable Health Care Act. As we all know, the bill passed both houses of Congress, was signed by the President, and was upheld by the Supreme Court (in spite of the fact that some members appear to be intellectually and morally bankrupt). It has also undergone more than 40 attempts?all defeated?in the House of Representatives, at repeal.

It ought to be a single payer system, but is not, no thanks to the Tea Party. The American system of governance does not countenance being blackmailed because a few people, misguided people, are not happy with an outcome of the legislative process. There are many statutes protective of rich people with which I totally disagree. The answer is not to shut down government.

As for the Republican Party: it somehow galls me that they complain about the “national debt” as though it were some household mortgage payment or a unaffordable monthly bill on a Mercedes, when it is not. It is a completely different animal, and in comparison with other advanced nations is relatively low. It has also been true that, since the end of World War II, it has been the Republican administrations, notably those of Reagan and little Bush, that have spent us into debt. The Clinton and Obama regimes have lowered the debt level. The Republicans simply lie when they  complain about “big government.” (One of the biggest of big government items was the Interstate Highway System, instigated in the Eisenhower Administration.)

No one can gloat over the outcome of the events  of the past three weeks. They should never have happened. There was no logical reason for them to happen. Bills must be paid. Youngsters who do not have adequate diets must eat. Federal inspectors must see that our food is safe. And, in a country like ours, libraries must be funded. I am not happy that this little group of men (and I mean men — Susan Collins, of Maine, got things going) from  the  gerrymandered districts of  the ignorant were able to pull this off, nor that John Boehner lacked the courage to call a vote, which would have been successful, two weeks ago.

I suppose that what happened did so because we have an undereducated society, in Texas, in the United States. No informed populace would have voted into office Ted Cruz, Randy Weber, and their ilk. They complain about big government, but I have never heard them say a word against NASA or the Johnson Space Flight Center.  In a big country, government has to exist. Elected officials are not there to say how awful government is. Ted Cruz should hang his head in embarrassment and shame. He does no one any good. He does not speak for the average Texan. He speaks for Ted Cruz, and only Ted Cruz.

Rick Whitaker is assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave. Contact him at 409-985-8838 x2241.


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