The government, we’ve been reminded over the past three weeks, is partially under the control of people who have no business running a food truck, much less a massive corporation.
The government-as-business model has many flaws. In terms of size of the nation and responsibilities the missions vary. However, if we can briefly accept the premise, the recent 16-day shutdown of the federal government is seen in a more depressing light, if that’s even possible.
Let’s start by examining the politicians who ushered in the shutdown by demanding the president weaken his signature health-care law, terms he was clearly never going to accept.
There’s a reason smart corporate executives sink so much money into research and development, into test-marketing and field trials. Two words: New Coke. What may have seemed like a good idea in the corporate boardroom fell flat with the public when the re-imagined soft drink was introduced in 1985.
For the Tea Party congressional delegation, this shutdown was their New Coke. It was wildly unpopular with the public. It damaged the Republican brand. It increased the popularity of their main rival — Obamacare. When tallied up, this was a huge net loss.
In the words of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable.”
It would be reckless for a business to so carelessly launch a new endeavor when so many executives were warning against it. Besides, McCain, experienced Republican senators opposing the shutdown strategy included Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Corker called it a “silly effort” while Blunt said plainly, “This plan won’t work.”
Let’s note these lawmakers are from deep red states with solid conservative credentials who issued these warnings before the shutdown. Yet their advice went unheeded.
The damage wasn’t merely confined to its designers, however. The shutdown put 800,000 federal employees out of work. The economic pain was immense. By one estimate from Macroeconomic Advisers, the shutdown meant a loss of $12 billion to the U.S. economy. By another, from Standard & Poor’s, $24 billion was lost.
In a corporate world, the architects of this disaster would likely pay with their jobs. Or at the very least, they would be transferred to a lonely corner of the operation to contemplate their intemperance.
Not this time.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said Thursday of his fight against Obamacare, “I guarantee it will be back. I’m not going away, and this issue is certainly not going away.”
The cruelest twist in this episode is that the shutdown imposed by Obamacare’s opponents distracted the public from focusing on a disastrous rollout of the next phase of the Affordable Care Act.
Talk about bad timing. If not for the shutdown, Topic A for the past two weeks would have been the botched launch of the health-care marketplaces.
“I hope they’re working day and night to get this done,” former Obama administration spokesman Robert Gibbs said last week. “And when they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure that this thing was supposed to work.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the Cabinet member in charge of Obamacare’s implementation, in some perverse way can credit the Tea Party for allowing her to keep her job, at least for now.
A recent AP-GfK poll found only 7 percent of Americans describe the debut of the health exchanges as having gone extremely well or very well.
With results like that in the corporate world, Sebelius and Congress’ shutdown caucus would surely be heading to the mailroom in the Paducah division with a couple of cases of New Coke.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: EditorBobDavis.