Shutdown makes US look like 'failed state', says media

Oct 2, 2013

Press disagrees on blame, but if shutdown stalls debt decision it will trigger a 'far bigger crisis'

AS the US shutdown enters its second day, Barack Obama has called on his opponents on Capitol Hill to stop fighting his three-year-old Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare) and "re-open the government". Republican leaders offered a piecemeal solution to the stalemate last night saying they would approve the funding of some parts of the government, including national parks and veterans' benefits. But Obama - sensing, perhaps, that many Americans blame Republicans for the impasse (see Jon Stewart's Daily Show critique above) - rejected the proposal. Here's what the US press is saying about the situation: 

Thomas L Friedman in the New York Times: The shutdown threatens "nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule," writes Friedman. He urges Obama not to give in to his opponents on Capitol Hill – not because of the threat to Obamacare – but "because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake". The "really scary part", writes Friedman is that the "lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded".

Karen Tumulty and Lori Montgomery in the Washington Post: If the stalemate lasts two weeks – a prospect that looks possible – it will take US lawmakers "right into a bigger crisis", Tumulty and Montgomery write. They're referring to the 17 October deadline for approving the US's debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said he will begin running short of cash to pay the nation's bills unless Congress votes to raise the ceiling on that date. But if the impasse over Obamacare spills over into a stalemate on raising the ceiling, it "would raise the virtually unthinkable prospect of a default on US debt".

Peter Morici on Fox News: President Obama is just as responsible for the "shutdown of the government" as House Republicans, writes Morici. The president's unwillingness to compromise on his universal healthcare law has triggered the crisis and Obama has a responsibility as the leader of a democracy to "forge consensus where possible", he argues. "The president's refusal to accept any changes in the Affordable Care Act... is tyranny," writes Morici.

Mick Krever on CNN: As the world watches America's predicament with "seeming disbelief", Krever asks an uncomfortable question: "So, is America a failed state?". His conclusion – "not quite" – isn't exactly comforting. Neither is his suggestion that the current shutdown pales into insignificance compared to the prospect of the US defaulting on its debt if a new ceiling is not approved on 17 October. "It [a debt default] is a scary potential, but some House republicans seem all too willing to flirt with disaster – all in the name of defunding Obamacare and reducing spending," writes Krever.

John Boehner in USA Today: Obama isn't "telling the whole story when it comes to the government shutdown", writes the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives. "The fact is that Washington Democrats have slammed the door on reopening the government by refusing to engage in bipartisan talks. And, as stories across the country highlight the devastating impact of Obamacare on families and small businesses, they continue to reject our calls for fairness for all Americans."

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