Our View: Shut down doesn’t best serve either side

More than anything else, it seems, members of Congress want the power to blame the other guy.

Democrats and Republicans aren’t working so well together. The government may shut down, spurring deep financial wounds to hundreds of thousands of people through furloughs. It also threatens to wreck the economy, still recovering from the recession.

“Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly,” the president said Monday. “This one would, too.”

At issue is the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare, as Republicans say with contempt and as the president accepts with pride. The law, as we’re aware, passed a Democrat-controlled Congress in 2010. During a presidential election last year, Obamacare’s enactment versus its repeal was the predominant issue in play. Like it or not, more than 51 percent of the nation put President Barack Obama back in office, affirming the policies he enacted.

Yet three years after it was signed into law, and one day before health care exchanges were set to open, Republicans in the House continued to insist the law’s enactment was at the very least postponed for one year. It’s what their constituents want, they said. And Democrats refused to even discuss it. It’s what the people decided in 2012, they rebutted.

Last year, the debt ceiling was the primary bargaining chip in government-shutdown talks. This is despite the fact that raising the ceiling does not authorize more spending, as debaters would have you believe; instead, it authorizes the government to make payments Congress has already approved.

A divided nation is not novel to this year, decade or even century. But the polarization of our lawmakers is facilitated by the way Congressional districts have been divided, a trend that continues to worsen after every Census. Both parties, at the state level, are guilty of gerrymandering. It preserves the power of political allies, but it also concentrates the bases of said representatives, often pushing them further to one side of the aisle or the other. Moderation must be stamped out.

At press-time, it was unclear whether the government would shut down. Hours remained on the clock, enough time for the House to send a compromise offer to the Senate. We don’t know if it happened, but we’d be surprised if the latest calamity was averted.

That’s because Republican and Democratic congressmen, each in their gerrymandered districts, aren’t required to broker a deal. They just need to pin the blame on each other.