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The Nation’s Trilemma

by Ken Arnold on Sat 28 September 2013

The Republicans have succeeded in getting us onto the horns of a trilemma. This is quite an achievement: Usually one ends up on the horns a mere dilemma, caught on the two horns of a bull. But the contortions of the Republicans around Obamacare have actually gotten us onto three horns of what must be a rather unique kind of bull.

To recap: Obamacare insurance markets open on 1 Oct. Within six months, those who are uninsured are required to purchase insurance or face a fine. If you are uninsured and need the help, you can get subsidies that will cover some or all of the costs. Alternatively, our freedom will vanish down the maw of Kenyan socialist fascism.

The Republicans lost this battle: Once it was just a bill, but then the Congress passed the legislation, the president signed it, and (what the hell) the courts upheld it. So yeah, it’s the law.

But they have lived for so long off the outrage and fear of the right, especially as expressed in the Tea Party, that they can’t simply accept it. The Obamapocalypse will destroy our once-proud nation, economically and morally. That is their stance, and they’ve been pushing hard for so long that they can’t stop. That would admit that all that sturm und drang was at best wrong and at worst cynical manipulation.

So we come to today, where it seems as if we have three possible outcomes:

  1. As they have before, the Democrats cave enough to save sufficient Republican face  that we can get past this until the next time.
  2. The Republicans admit that they can’t stop it and hope to live to fight another day.
  3. The Republicans refuse to pay the bills and crash the economy because it’s better to crash the economy than to risk Obamacare harming the economy. And, well, Freedom.

All of these choices suck hard for somebody. I hate #1, giving in to bullies and hostage takers is terrible. #2 is fine with me, but exposes Republicans to the Tea Party rage they have been trying to direct at Dems. #3 sucks for us all, where “us” isn’t just Americans, but really the entire world, whose economy is already shaky.

So there you are, the national trilemma. We will agonize over it greatly until Oct. 17 when we run out of room to pay our bills. But in the end, the only real way out of it — to end the cycle and make any forward progress — is for the Republicans to finally deal in the real world: They’ve lost the political battle and destroying the country to save it will certainly harm everyone, and will probably kill them too.

Sometimes watching a political battle needs popcorn. This one will need Pepto-Bismol.

[1] Just to put the “debt ceiling” simply: The budget is when we decide to spend money. The debt ceiling is about getting the cash to pay the resulting bills. That’s it. If you want to spend less money, you spend less money. Having spent the money, you don’t just decide not to pay the bills. That’s deadbeat-ism, freeloading. Why we have this system is beyond me, and we are well past time that we need to change it.

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