The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 17, 2013

It’s our government, folks, like it or not

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Finally.

On late Wednesday, at the 11th hour, with the country standing on the brink of fiscal disaster, Congress acted.

It was about time.

In a sudden fit of good sense, both parties and both houses of Congress came together to craft and pass legislation that would once again fund the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling, thus ensuring the Treasury’s ability to continue borrowing money.

At the end of the day, Congress wound up meeting all the terms set down by the president when the government was shut down Oct. 1.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” House Speaker John Boehner said.

In truth, nobody won. The American people certainly didn’t win. The shutdown put thousands of Americans temporarily out of work, shuttered national parks, museums and monuments, and damaged America’s reputation the world over. And that’s not to mention the threat of a potential government default if the debt ceiling had not been raised. The country’s credit rating was threatened, and economic growth was slowed.

The upshot was, the Republican-controlled House held the nation hostage, all over efforts to gut or kill altogether the Affordable Care Act.

After all the smoke cleared, the Affordable Care Act emerged unscathed from the fray.

In other words, the entire 16-day circus was all for nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. The shutdown is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy as much as $24 billion.

Earlier this week, two members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, Reps. Tom Cole and James Lankford, said they predicted the fight to alter or damage “Obamacare” was a futile one, but they went along with it.

Way to show some moral courage and basic common sense, fellows, or should I say, lemmings?

But at least Congress finally got off its collective duff and acted, meaning we won’t have the nation’s economy, credit rating and general well-being pushed to the precipice by pig-headed partisan infighting — not for a few months, at least.

The legislation passed and signed into law late Wednesday extended the nation’s debt ceiling through only Feb. 7, while the bill funds the government until only Jan. 15.

In the meantime, the two sides will negotiate to try and find a more permanent solution to America’s budget woes.

But does anyone think this agreement signals an end to Washington’s seeming addiction to governance by lurching from one crisis to another?

In a few months the nation will once again be in the same leaky boat.

The American public is getting fed up. The Internet is filled with posts blistering our good senators and representatives, not to mention the president.

My favorite is the one I saw on Facebook, the one that capitalizes on the current controversy surrounding the NFL’s Washington Redskins and the fact so many people find the team’s nickname offensive.

“Breaking news,” it reads. “Washington Redskins drop the word ‘Washington’ from their name because it’s embarrassing.”

 That’s cute, but beyond carping on social media and contacting our senators and representatives through angry emails, cranky letters or fractious phone calls, what can the average American do about the juvenile, hyperpartisan atmosphere that seems pervasive in our nation’s capital?

Forgive them their weak wills and multiple malfeasance, but do not forget. In November 2014, when election day rolls around, exercise your right. Unhappy with your senator or congressman, upset about their inability to make the government work? Vote for someone else.

In 2010, the last off-year election, only 41 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. In Oklahoma, the number was 38 percent. In 2012, a presidential year, the rate was somewhat higher, 58 percent nationally and 49 percent in Oklahoma.

That’s still not enough. Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you choose to sit on the sidelines and watch, don’t boo the players.

If you don’t cast a ballot, don’t cast aspersions. If you didn’t vote in the last election, you had your chance to vote these rascals out, and you didn’t take it.

Why does our government not work the way it is supposed to? One reason is because our voter turnout rates aren’t closer to 80 or 90 percent.

It is our fault that we keep putting up with the hyperpartisan dysfunction that has become the rule, rather than the exception, in D.C. these days.

It is time to get back to government of the people, by the people, for the people, not government of the political parties, by the lobbyists and for the special interests.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at