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As I See It: The shutdown - who to blame?

I had planned to write a column about something far more controversial and meaningful, but this one just wouldn’t go away. I have already read about a dozen pieces on this very subject and the guilty parties range far and wide. I am gratified that to this point, no one has pointed the finger at George W. Bush, but there’s plenty of time left before this is resolved, so maybe they will eventually get around to him.

Actually, I hope it’s not resolved for a while. I hope it’s not resolved until we start talking in an open and meaningful manner about the 900-pound gorilla sitting in the corner — the burgeoning national debt. And it appears the only people who appear to be interested in talking about King Kong are in the House of Representatives.

When our founding fathers designed the legislature, they made it in two chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate certainly resembles the House of Lords in Great Britain with its collegial, patrician atmosphere and ancestry. The House of Representatives looks like the House of Commons and is supposed to be made up of people who are closer to the citizenry as a whole. I have other things I could say about that, but I’ll stick to the main points.

The three branches of our government are supposed to work together and be complementary to one another, while ensuring that no one branch has excessive power over the others. And, in the case of the Legislative Branch, the House and the Senate are supposed to work together to produce legislation and laws for the common good of the entire country.

The system of checks and balances has worked for hundreds of years, but we seem to be in a protracted period of checks without any balance.

So who is to blame? Was the Great Unifier that was elected in 2008 really a farce? I guess if you never negotiate on anything, life can be easy as long as your opponents continue to roll over.

The Washington Post published an editorial claiming the House of Representatives has been an embarrassment. I’m not sure of that. I’m trying to decide if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing for our benefit or for others.

Under the Constitution, all spending bills must originate in the House. However, the Executive Branch is supposed to submit a budget to Congress every year. The reason they haven’t is simple — they don’t want a budget fight because they can’t win it.

So, Congress has allowed the government to function with appropriations bills for too long and we citizens do not have any true insight into the total amount of money being doled out to just about anyone who opens their hands.

Actually, I was wondering if the state of California might be considered an embarrassment having elected Sens. Boxer and Feinstein and Reps. Watters and Pelosi. And some of whatever caused that to happen leaked over into Nevada and brought us that paragon of statesmanship — Harry Reid.

In 1796, President Washington’s farewell address contained the following warnings and admonitions:

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State ... Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

“... But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. ... A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. ... But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

George Washington also praised the benefits of a stable public credit that should be used sparingly, recommended avoiding debt by “cultivating peace” and “by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned.”

Although he conceded that “the execution of these maxims” — or, in layman’s terms, balancing the budget — was the responsibility of the government, and “... that it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant ...”

I’m not certain what comes after inconvenient and unpleasant, but I am certain that what must happen to pay the current debt will be extremely painful, if not unbearable, not necessarily upon us, but for many generations to come.

In the final analysis, we are all to blame as we elect those who promise the most benefits or are of the correct party, union, religion, race, gender or any other filter you may apply, rather than for the good of the nation as a whole.

Well, that’s the way I see it.