There are many things to celebrate about the United States, not least its democracy. But there is a thing or two about politics that modern America might relearn from even poor countries like Jamaica, including the importance of compromise, and that democracy, while not tolerating tyranny by the majority, does not presume capitulation to the minority.
These issues are relevant in the context of the partial shutdown by the US government because its legislature, the Congress, with each House controlled by a different party, has been unable to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that began yesterday.
The crux of the issue is that the Republicans, who are the majority in the House of Representatives, are against President Barack Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, passed three years ago, but most of whose provisions are beginning to come into force.
In their latest effort to derail the bill, which is now widely referred to as Obamacare, Republican legislators in the House removed from the budget, funding for elements of the bill and proposed a delay, by a year, of the mandatory provision for uninsured Americans to purchase health-care coverage through exchanges run by states.
A POLITICAL STALEMATE
The Senate, where the majority, like President Obama, are Democrats, has rejected these moves by the Republicans. The upshot: a political stalemate.
Of course, it is not the first time that Republicans have sought to dismantle Obamacare, a name that was initially meant to be derisive of the scheme aimed at covering more than 40 million Americans who are without health insurance.
There have been 41 separate votes in the House to repeal, delay or defund the law, and, by some estimates, nearly 7,400 efforts by individual Republican legislators to, in some form or the other, undermine Obamacare. There has also been a constitutional attack on the bill, which was rejected by the US Supreme Court.
One estimate suggests that the House of Representatives has, since 2011, dedicated 15 per cent of its time to the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans have framed their implacable opposition to this law ostensibly because of the harm it will cause to the US economy, when it is struggling to fully emerge from a recession and the public debt is on a worryingly upward trajectory.
There is cause for Americans to be worried about their economy. The federal government's debt, excluding future pension obligations to employees, is more than 70 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) - not as bad as many industrial nations, but not great either.
MATURE CROSS-PARTY DIALOGUE NEEDED
Further, the public-sector deficit is slightly under six per cent of GDP, placing it in the company of a country like Jamaica. That fiscal deficit is more than 40 per cent lower than it was four years ago at the height of the financial meltdown, and the Bush/Obama interventions to shore up faltering banks, insurance and motor companies. Though not robust, the US economy is recording growth.
It is clear to us that the long-term fix of the US fiscal problem, which is fundamental to the strength of its economy, demands mature cross-party dialogue. But that can't happen with, as the Republicans are now attempting, the ideological rejection of a programme, and presumed illegitimacy of a president - both of whom were reconfirmed by the majority of voters in the 2012 election.
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