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Bromund: The real insanity inside the Beltway

The U.S. media present the shutdown as

The U.S. media present the shutdown as evidence of our dysfunctionality. But the shutdown is evidence that the executive branch cannot get what it wants simply because it demands it. Photo Credit: Tribune Content Agency / Paul Tong

$1.8 trillion. That's about the size of Canada's economy. Yet the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare, with its massive new entitlements, will cost nearly $1.8 trillion over the next decade.

Only in Washington can that be considered sane.

Some in the media would have Americans believe that Obamacare isn't a problem. They say we should be panicking about the partial government shutdown instead. According to an Associated Press poll, 68 percent of Americans believe the shutdown is a major problem. But more than four in five say it has not personally affected them.

True, a prolonged shutdown isn't good, which is why the House has passed bills to fund the government, in whole or in part, without funding the unaffordable Obamacare.

Perhaps the public's ambivalence reflects the fact that only some of the discretionary part of the government has shut down. Or perhaps it is because there have been many previous shutdowns -- when the Democrats controlled the House under Reagan, for example -- which the republic survived. Past shutdowns were resolved by compromise -- a good template for President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Or, maybe, it shows that the American people are waking up. Washington is facing a debt crisis that will require increasing amounts of money from our children and grandchildren to fund benefits for Baby Boomers. Obamacare only makes that problem worse.

We get a different view by looking at the shutdown from an international perspective. A State Department spokesman warned recently that the shutdown sets back "our ability to . . . advance U.S. leadership" and represents a retreat from American exceptionalism.

Listening to the State Department talk about exceptionalism is like listening to me read from a Norwegian dictionary: The words are real, but the speaker doesn't know what they mean. Apparently, State Department officials think America is exceptional because we pay them.

American exceptionalism rests on the belief that the United States was founded on a unique recognition of our inherent rights. More than any other nation, we are a government of the people.

The American government was not created to do lots of things, except in a few areas like national defense. It was intended to be a limited government. It certainly wasn't created to run a national health care system, especially one of unprecedented cost and complexity.

The U.S. media present the shutdown as evidence of our dysfunctionality. The foreign press also sees the world as our media elites do. But the shutdown is evidence that in the United States, the executive branch cannot get what it wants simply because it demands it.

That should be an inspiring lesson to the world, most of which is run by governments dominated by the executive. Some of them actively try not to set up competing centers of power. For instance, Zambia doesn't tax effectively, as one journalist put it recently, because "the problem with more taxes is that they create more taxpayers." Taxpayers are a competing center: They demand a voice.

Around the world, most people don't have a voice. Even in Europe, parliamentary systems mean that the government always has a majority. And winning always means more borrowing, just as with Obamacare. Only in America, with our separation of powers, does the executive not get just what it wants.

And whatever the media say, that separation of powers is a powerful example. It shows we are a nation where the government cannot just say yes, and where the people's elected representatives have the power to say no. It shows that we are a democratic republic.

I, for one, am proud of that.

Ted R. Bromund is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Thatcher Center for Freedom.

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