Hello Idaho by Robert Ehlert: Nation’s leaders get no candy this Halloween

October 15, 2013 

Robert Ehlert

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Trick or Treat? If you had the pleasure of attending one of the performances of “Much Ado About Nothing” during the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, you know how this shutdown-debt-ceiling-countdown-governance-meltdown is going to end.

The sum of nothing plus — or minus — nothing equals much ado about nothing.

Our president, vice president, 100 senators and 435 members of the House have grabbed your watch/smartphone/timepiece to tell you what time it is. Don’t be surprised to eventually get a tax bill for what I call Crisis Creation/Resolution Fees — the cost of putting out a fire they started.

Some of the grown-ups in the Senate might charge extra because they diverted attention from the overtired Sen. Ted Cruz and the animal House caucus across the way by basically ignoring them.

When these costumed elected officials come knocking in the coming days or the coming year with hands outstretched and treat bags wide open for election fundraising, we don’t want you to forget what happened during Mocktober 2013.

Print this out and remind yourself that your government officials played high-stakes chicken without regard to We The People on the road. We don’t know the real damage of sidelining portions of our national defense, national security, cybersecurity infrastructure — even if the personnel were civilian “contractors.” Ours is a large military, but civilian “contractors” do much of the heavy lifting support these days. Obviously, nobody knew the shutdown was going to deny death-benefit assistance to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so it goes to reason our lawmakers overlooked other priorities.

Throughout this standoff, the Republican-dominated House cried for negotiations — though they had nothing to negotiate with. If they did, could someone please tell me what it was? If Democrats had capitulated on portions of the Affordable Care Act, just what would Republicans have horse-traded in return?

I think it is fair to ask the emboldened Rep. Raul Labrador and the should-have-known-better Rep. Mike Simpson what it was all for in the end.

If the idea was to highlight the path of fiscal ruin we are on — and shuttering the government was the way to get our attention — thanks again for grabbing our watches and telling us what time it is.

Though Labrador, Simpson and our two Republican senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, all seek to stop the train wreck of unsustainable government spending — and I applaud that — next time don’t tap a Texas senator under the influence of sleep deprivation to deliver it.

Most Republicans took the expired bait of stubborn Democrats by holding to the belief that a government program, the ACA, might not be trotted out with optimum efficiency and fairness — like that has never happened before. The donkeys sat back until the elephants eventually became ill from polling-shock syndrome.

Lest anyone think Republicans were the only ones involved in partisan gamesmanship, consider the move by Democrat leader Sen. Harry Reid over the weekend. Sensing Republican vulnerability, he was considering doubling down and demanding sequestration rollbacks while he had the advantage.

Nobody will win much of anything before it is all over, and I don’t mind reminding the principles that We the People told you so.

Trick or Treat? America, this is your opportunity to turn off the lights, slam the door on irresponsible elected federal officials and leave them holding the bag.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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