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Partial federal shutdown a farce reflecting deeper issues

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Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013 12:00 am

The partial shutdown of the federal government and the looming debt ceiling vote are high drama in Washington, but for now there’s little effect in Lodi.

That will probably change with time, and that will lead to compromise. But if the compromise just resolves today’s drama and doesn’t solve our government’s real dysfunction, this confrontation will be nothing more than political farce.

The emotional build-up in Lodi will happen slowly over the next few days because it’s just a partial shutdown and, like most communities, we don’t have a large number of federal employees. Social Security and Medicare are huge programs and thousands of Lodians receive these benefits, but they aren’t yet affected by the shutdown.

However, President Obama said Friday that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, Social Security checks will be delayed. The federal government’s borrowing authority will reach its cap around Thursday, Oct. 17. If the November checks don’t go out on time, that’s when this political play becomes more than a made-for-TV movie.

The script so far looks like trench warfare in World War I:

On one side of the barbed wire are liberal politicians who worked hard to pass the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare. This new government health care program is just getting underway and it appears pretty popular.

On the other side are conservatives who feel that this and other social programs will undermine personal responsibility and lead to ruinously higher taxes.

In Friday’s paper, an Associated Press story quoted members of Congress who blame this stalemate on safe districts — ones that have been gerrymandered over the years to create safe seats for members of each party. And that, say these political insiders, is causing candidates to become beholden to their most avid, least compromising voters.

The government may be in crisis, but most voters blame members of the other party and think their representatives are doing a great job.

Our representative in the House is Democrat Jerry McNerney. Lodi voters are predominantly Republican, but Rep. McNerney’s district includes Stockton, Lathrop and Antioch. He’s pretty safe.

So are Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. California is as blue as the Pacific.

So all of our congressional representatives support Obamacare.

Many of our readers support the Tea Party’s use of partial shutdown and debt ceiling brinkmanship to stop Obamacare.

So what can they do?

You can bet most California voters are telling our representatives to hang in on Obamacare.

Republican voters should urge Rep. McNerney and the senators to accept a reasonable compromise in return for a functioning government.

We’ll see if McNerney and Feinstein are middle-of-the-roaders enough to support a change in the law that would nip and tuck Obamacare. We don’t think Boxer will compromise unless the president does.

But so what?

Believe it or not, there’s a more serious problem than Obamacare. It’s the whole deficit mess we’ve been in for years.

Social Security and Medicare benefits for the elderly are hugely popular — and underfunded. Plus our military is by far the largest and most expensive in the world. These are the overwhelmingly most expensive parts of our federal government.

No politician, on the right or left, is willing to touch these.

And no one will support a tax increase. So we’re spending our way into a crisis just like Greece, Italy and Spain.

As we’ve said before, the voters have to be willing to accept some program cuts and some tax increases if democracy is going to have half a chance.

Our leaders seem unwilling to lead.

It’s up to each of us accept the facts and push for compromise.

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