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Who’s to blame for the government shutdown? The news analysts on radio and TV say, “There’s lots of finger pointing and plenty of blame to go around.”
Radio and TV people like to use phrases like “lots of finger pointing” and “plenty of blame to go around.” The phrases don’t help us understand what’s going on, but we hear them just about every day. And it isn’t sharp and insightful when news analysts call the current bitter dispute between Republicans and Democrats “bickering.” Now they’re beginning to say that “both sides are digging in their heels” and “both sides refuse to compromise.” That doesn’t shed much light either.
Using those and similar phrases is intended to show that the media is even-handed and not taking sides, not saying that one side or the other is to blame for the shutdown. Honest media people strive for objectivity, and they really want to be even handed and balanced as they report what’s going on. But being balanced doesn’t mean reporting that both sides are equal in responsibility for shutting down the government. Being honest in analyzing the situation means saying who is responsible if, in fact, one side is responsible.
This current conflict between Republicans and Democrats has arisen because the Republican members in the House of Representatives want to defund the Affordable Care act – the law commonly called Obamacare. Republicans may be right or wrong about Obama care, but that’s beside the point – they don’t like it and want to kill it by starving it. House Republicans have sent more than 40 bills to the Senate, each one designed to kill Obama care. Each one has been flatly rejected by the Senate’s Democratic majority.
Ordinarily, when you’re outvoted — well, you’re outvoted, so you move on. Or, when it comes to sending bills between the House and the Senate, if your bill is rejected, you try to modify it enough to get it accepted, or you move on to other matters. That’s not happening now.
What’s new here is that House Republicans have said that if they don’t get their way, if the Democrats in the Senate won’t agree with them, and if the Democrat in the White House won’t sign their bill into law, they won’t fund anything and the government will stay shut down. President Obama has called that legislative maneuver extortion and blackmail. Maybe the media can’t find words to substitute for “extortion” and “blackmail,” and maybe that’s why they can’t quite fix the blame.