When Toddlers Hijack Congress

government shutdownMy Facebook feed was filled this morning with news of how the government shutdown is affecting my family members and friends.

  • A military family that was looking forward to an eager reunion this weekend will not be able to see their dad.
  • Another family is wondering how the shutdown will damage them financially since both spouses work for the government.
  • A U.S. attorney is posting pumpkin bread recipes on social media because the government has decided that her work in representing our nation in civil suits is "non-essential."

And that's just from one person's network of contacts on a single morning. CNN reports that the approval rate for Congress is 10% -- an all-time low.

Where did they find the 10% who still think Congress is doing well, I wonder?

The American people are sick of this bickering and in-fighting. I could have gone my whole life without hearing Senator Cruz shame his office -- and make mincemeat of the message of Dr. Seuss's classic -- by using the congressional floor to read "Green Eggs and Ham" to the American people.

Unbelievable. Has it come to this, politicians grandstanding for the camera instead of working with one another to solve our nation's problems?

The personal and financial inconveniences of the government shutdown for individual Americans are bad enough; the potential economic fallout of this shutdown could be far-reaching. President Obama was supposed to fly to Asia today to meet with other nations about favorable trade agreements for the US; that trip is cancelled because the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party can't abide the implementation of a health care law that was legitimately passed by Congress, approved by the President, and then upheld by the Supreme Court.

And many of those Tea Party conservatives call themselves Christians.

A blogger at Patheos aptly pointed out today that this shutdown could be the Christian church's big opportunity. The Tea Party has been saying all along that private charities should deal with problems like poverty and health care; why not test that theory right now, in our nation's hour of need? Benjamin Corey writes:

I’ve always found it ironic that my conservative brothers and sisters whine and complain about tax expenditures for government social programs, yet the very solution they cite– radical giving via the Church– doesn’t happen. While I’d love to see the average American church forsake the unholy trinity of buildings, bodies, and bucks in favor of tending to the poor and oppressed in their midst, it just doesn’t happen on a consistent or wide-spread basis. Yes, a lot of churches do great things for their communities– but not enough to negate what government does.

If we aren’t going to do it, I’m not sure what right we have to complain when government steps in and makes its best attempt– however imperfect– to fill the void we have left in our own wake of inability at best, and neglect of the teachings of Jesus at worst.

So, to all of those political conservatives who have said that the government shouldn't help the poor because that's the job of religious and volunteer organizations: here's your chance. Show us what you're made of.


  1. I am a Libertarian with a Ph.D. in Economics currently registered as a Democrat. Five years ago, I was a Republican. I switch parties to vote in the primary I find more interesting. I loved the Republican bashing, especially the part about Sen. Cruz, and especially from Jana who generally has only good things to say about people. Republicans deserve it. Even American Enterprise Institutes find them less willing to compromise than Republicans. If fault is to be found, her distribution of blame is one sided. Both sides could and should blink. As a second point of fairness, it should be noted that conservative religious people are more charitable than the rest of America (Arthur Brooks).

  2. The tar on this brush covers (or should) everyone: the White House included, not just Congress. When the President will sit down with the leader of Iran, but not members of Congress, what kind of a communicator or leader is that? Toddlers are everywhere, not just in Congress. When they get to the White House, that’s really sad.

    However, I agree with you about NGOs (churches and volunteer organizations) stepping up. They have a much better track record of efficiency, low overhead and “bang” for the buck that government bureaucracies.

  3. There are other ways of looking at the shutdown.

    Yes, it is affecting people’s lives in adverse ways. But so do the policies which Republicans are trying to thwart. Obamacare in particular is killing jobs. Companies are hiring less, letting people go, and reducing their hours. People are losing the insurance plans and doctors that they already had, and are being forced into plans which cost more – in some cases substantially – because the nation was sold a lie about lower costs, better coverage, and keeping one’s own doctor.

    With regard to congressional approval rates, Americans have a long history of relatively liking their own representatives and blaming the nation’s woes on everybody else’s representatives. I wouldn’t expect change anytime soon.

    With regard to Senator Cruz, he is doing EXACTLY what his constituents want him to do, and frankly what many people wish their own Senators and Congresspeople would do, “Green Eggs & Ham” and all.

    When it comes to politicians grandstanding for the camera instead of working with one another to solve our nation’s problems, our president is the poster child.

    People express concern about the long-term fallout of a shutdown. They also feared the fallout from the sequester. For all intents and purposes, the nation yawned.

    With regard to the president’s cancelled trip to Asia, I fully expect to receive thank you cards from throughout the Far East.

    Jana, you blame the Tea Party Republicans for opposing a law which the American people THEMSELVES have opposed from the very beginning. CNN recently released a poll showing that approval for the law NEVER exceeded 43% from the very beginning, and that disapproval of the law has NEVER fallen below 50%. The people do not want it. Apparently the only people representing the will of the people are the very Tea Party Republicans you deplore.

    With regard to the law’s having been “legitimately passed by Congress, approved by the President, and then upheld by the Supreme Court,” that’s a bit misleading. Normally legislation is drafted independently in the House and Senate, and upon passage in the respective chambers it goes to a conference committee to make improvements, kill errors, and develop a final version which is then passed by each body. This did NOT happen this time because of the death of Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown was subsequently elected in the bluest of states for the very purpose of throwing a wrench into the process. Unable to steamroll a more well thought out bill, the Democrats employed some fairly shady maneuvering for the House to accept the earlier Senate version in its entirety, warts and all, because there was no hope of forcing the plan upon an unwilling electorate any other way. Throughout the process the president and his party insisted that the law was NOT a tax. At the Supreme Court, however, the only way it survived at all was by deeming it a tax. This was hardly the process that the American people ever wanted or deserved. And thus the law has never found legitimacy in the eyes of the American people, just as Roe v Wade continues to be divisive.

    And just because something is passed, doesn’t mean it has to be enshrined forever. The 18th amendment (Prohibition) was repealed by the 21st. Obamacare isn’t exactly set in stone either. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have a responsibility to their respective constituents to continue fighting the issue if that is what the people want.

    Calling the Christianity of Tea Party conservatives into play is truly beyond the pale. Neither Obamacare nor the government shutdown violates Christian principles.

    Furthermore, to the extent that we are talking about who are the more generous charitable givers in American society, it is religious conservatives hands down. Arthur Brooks studied the issue extensively, a summary of which can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258358706104403.html

    Recently “Business Insider” published a list of America’s most charitable cities. Provo, Ogden, and Salt Lake City rank 1 through 3. Coincidence? Probably not. When it comes to walking the walk, religious conservatives (and doubtless Tea Party conservatives share much the same demographic) hold up fairly well. Here’s the whole list: http://www.businessinsider.com/these-are-the-most-generous-cities-in-the-us-2013-9?op=1

    So yes, I suppose many of those Tea Party conservatives call themselves Christians. And they have earned the right to do so by showing us what they are indeed made of.

  4. I am a foster parent. I pay 10% tithing to my church. I volunteer for our church. My wife volunteers for our church. I am a “leadership giver” to United Way. I will be volunteering as a merit badge counselor next week. So is it okay to be a conservative without some snarky remarks in reply?

    I’m on the fence in terms of the Republican strategy, but to be the balance to this “Republicans are idiots” blog entry, I would remind you that:

    1) Yes the law was passed, but with specific mandates, with a specific time-table, and with a regulation stating congress/white house staff must get their health care from the exchanges.
    2) President Obama has delayed and cherry-picked the mandates to benefit certain industries and allies.
    3) President Obama has delayed and cherry-picked the time-table to benefit certain industries and allies.
    4) President Obama made the regulation regarding congress/white house staff disappear with a stroke of his hand.

    At this point, it’s a bit disingenuous to go with the ” [it] was legitimately passed by Congress, approved by the President, and then upheld by the Supreme Court” argument. It’s not the same law that was passed. Who is mandated to do what and what the timtable is makes all the difference regarding fairness and potential success of a law this big. This “line item veto” approach at least pushes the boundaries of checks on power, if not destroying the boundaries completely.

    Like I said, I’m on the fence about using the spending bill as the vehicle. But since it may be the only way Congressional Republicans can make the American people stand up and take note, I can hardly blame them for saying “We have to do something”.

  5. While you can certainly criticize the Republicans in the House for starting this fracas, they are trying to mitigate the impact of the dispute by voting for a number of appropriation bills for specific agencies. Since Obama and Reid have refused to consider those agency-specific appropriation bills, passed by the House, it is pretty clear that President Obama and Senator Reid are not interested in funding crucial government services and taking them out of the line of fire, and more initerested in protecting the power they gave themselves in the Obamacare statute. They don’t want to let ANYONE off the bus as they play chicken with the House of Representatives. They would rather have the whole government go down the tubes than lose any aspect of the ACA. They are all too much like the crazy woman who rammed police cars with her baby in the back seat.

  6. What is the point of the closure of public parks and monuments that normally have NO limits on entry, 24/7? That did not happen under the 1995 closure under Clinton, so it is clearly not mandated by any law. Putting up barricades is an ADDED cost, so how can it be justified? Obama does not own the Lincoln Memorial or the World War II Memorial, the American people do. He has no authority to exclude us from them. It is the action of an irrational despot, who has no regard for the limits of his authority, and has forgotten that the only justification for his office is that he serve the people, not vice versa.

  7. If the government took less of my money in taxes, I would have the resources to increase my level of giving to 20% of my income, instead of 10%. It is easy to claim that only government has the resources to aid those in need, but that is because government takes those resources from US. If we could control more of our money, we could donate more to people needing help. We would also be able to pay more for the education of our own children, and be able to purchase things that put other people to work. Attacking people for not giving more to aid the poor, under the present tax burden, is like a bully standing on our backs and criticizing us for our weakness.

  8. The Republicans are playing the one and only card they have (obstructionism) and Democrats don’t seem interested in extending any grace (Christian grace?) towards compromise. It’s obvious the Democrats and Obama are going to win this showdown, and even the Republicans know that. The left has the upper hand and they seem intent on punishing as many of their “enemies” as possible before shoving a deal down their throats. From my point of view, the standoff is a consequence of five years of Chicago-style politics from Obama and his ilk and they bear some responsibility for the un-Christian, uncompromising, and extremely arrogant governance which has contributed to this stalemate.

    The toddlers are throwing a tantrum, without a doubt, but I’ve been a parent long enough to know that toddlers only throw intractable tantrums when their needs (nap time, snack time) have blithely ignored for a long time.

  9. Also, do you really believe that Obama can’t travel to make trade deals? Do you think perhaps he’s choosing not to go for political reasons, thereby putting his political needs above the needs of the country?

  10. When all is said and done the Dems will lose this game they are playing.

  11. Thankfully, and to the benefit of the people of all nations on earth, God’s kingdom or heavenly government will soon put an end to all of man’s governments (Daniel 2:44) and we won’t have to put up with any of these problems any more (Isaiah 11:1-9), but be ruled by that government with righteousness, peace, love and justice.

  12. There are good/bad aspects to Obama care. Had it not been for Obama care my son would not have been able to get the medical care he needed. He would be bedridden and eventially die. Why can our elected representatives give themselves the best free health care for life at taxpayer expense and America does not say a word. But when affordable insurance is offered to the working poor America gets up in arms. Why is America not opposing corporate welfare to companies making billions yet will not hire, not offer benefits and won’t give full hours nor a liveable wage!? The rich are getting richer at the expense of middle class. My husband is a Federal Government worker. Because housing is artificially inflated, and I lost my job when the economy crashed over 8 years ago and can not get employment, we are in floreclosure because of no paycheck coming in. And there are thousands more like us. And ill people can’t get treatment.
    Where is my bail out? My taxes go to help the rich and we fall through the cracks. This country, both government (state and feds) and the citizens have their priorities screwed up.
    There is a heck of a lot more to say.

  13. And another thing – I am not thrilled with Obama on a lot of things (but our son was saved) but ever since he was elected President no other President has been maligned, hated by the opposing party, had their wife and children have bad things said about them, and all the lies about Obama himself. The Republican party has not wanted to work with Obama on anything. The fanatical Republican party hates Obama. So I can not blame Obama for not wanting to go out of his way with the people who despise him. It would not have done any good.

  14. ever since he was elected President no other President has been maligned, hated by the opposing party, had their wife and children have bad things said about them

    It’s a shame you missed the Reagan and Bush (George W) years. If Obama has been called an amateur, it was Bill Clinton that first said it.

  15. The rich you complain about are Democrats, too. Wall Street is in New York, and not many of the rich in NY are Republicans. Clinton repealed Glass-Steagal, and the sub-prime mortgage pushes started under his administration. The sad thing about Obamacare is that it doesn’t provide free-market incentives to reduce cost.

  16. There is no question that there will be beneficiaries to government actions which are otherwise destructive to the population in general. America does care about the poor and is generous to the poor. Addressing the nation’s health care issues could have been done in other ways than the current plan which has destroyed employment and driven up the cost of health care for those who already had it.

    You shared about having lost your job 8 years ago and that you cannot get employment. I am very sorry for your situation. I’ve been laid off three times over the course of my career, and even a few weeks or months is excruciating. The fact of the matter is that the best way to help people is making it possible for them to work. And unfortunately many government policies, regulations, and taxes are counterproductive to companies creating new jobs. Obamacare is one such animal. The best bailout is a job, not bigger government which sucks the lifeblood out of the economy.

    Howard W. Hunter gave some great insight into the reason why governments often grow beyond what would be best for the people, which explains in part why we are in the position that we are, but does not sanction maintaining it:

    “What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms.

    “If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he will find that through ‘a democratic process’ he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the ‘haves’ and give to the ‘have nots.’ Both have lost their freedom. Those who ‘have,’ lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who ‘have not,’ lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got ‘something for nothing,’ and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift.

    “Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost.”

    (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 169.)

    Indeed, people need to be more generous of their own accord (D&C 58:27), but we should avoid undermining our freedoms by growing the size and scope of government.

  17. Every president is maligned and hated by the opposing party! Every president’s family gets dragged through the mud. You’ve got to be kidding me!

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