To my friends abroad who have queried about the U.S. government shutdown and debt limit crisis. You have rightly heard that the odd thing about this crisis is that it is not based on U.S. economic conditions, which are fine and quite capable of keeping the government running and paying its bills, but is a crisis that is entirely unnecessary and manufactured by political choice.
The Republican position is that unless the Democrats make some policy concessions, they won’t release the money to keep the government running, nor do they want to raise the debt limit so the government can pay its bills. They believe that the Democrats should be willing to negotiate on this.
The Democratic position is that this is extortion, not negotiation. Negotiation is “you give me something I want and I’ll give you something you want”; extortion is “give me what I want or I’ll do something destructive that no one wants – I’ll wreck the economy.”
To view through the oft-used household analogy, Democrats are saying that it’s legitimate for spouses to negotiate at the time of any major purchase. But once purchases are made, it’s not legitimate for one spouse to say, “Meet my present demands or I’ll close down our business (i.e., shutter the government) and refuse to pay all our credit card bills that are due next week (the debt limit issue).” The second case, to the Democrats, is more like extortion than negotiation. And they feel compelled to hold this line, on the grounds that a recurring strategy of “meet my demands or I’ll blow up the economy” cannot be tolerated as a sustainable model of governance.
Or to paraphrase one Democratic Congresswoman: “Health care policy should be negotiable. Social security and tax reform should be negotiable. Whether we can be trusted to keep the government open and pay our bills should not be negotiable.”