Let's Discuss Guns

The Background & Question

  • The Second Amendment states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  
  • Twenty years ago, President Clinton signed the Brady Bill, which requires federally licensed gun dealers to run background checks on their customers before completing sales. From 1994 until 2004, a federal ban on so-called "assault weapons" was in place but expired in accordance with its sunset provision.
  • In April, the Senate debated, but did not pass, a bill that would expand background checks to some private transactions and internet sales and reinstate the assault weapons ban. 

We asked our contributors: What is your opinion on current gun laws, the second amendment and specifically background checks and the reinstatement of automatic weapon bans?

 

On The Left

Matthew Bunch
Liberal | Teacher & Copy Editor

I wish guns were banned. Collect them all, throw them in a big pot and melt them down. If I were King, that's what I'd do.

Of course, I’m not king, the United States isn’t a monarchy and that won't ever happen in America. I've consigned myself to that fact. If the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School won't commit a country to that kind of change, nothing will.

But just because that won’t happen doesn’t mean real change can’t. You need the courage to change what you can, accept what you can’t and the wisdom to tell the difference.

Simply put, America needs real limits on weapon choice, a real background check system and an elimination to any and all “gun show”-type exemptions to that system.

Our wonderful U.S. Constitution presents what is, to some, a barrier to any and all possible changes to gun laws. Half a sentence in Amendment II acts as inviolable doctrine to this group: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The first half always seems to be forgotten: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

I won’t parse the language about militias (although it’s a perfectly valuable argument). The focus should be on the use of “well regulated.”

The 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights focus solely on the preservation of inalienable rights. Rarely has humanity produced a document more focused on the rights of the individual, even for society’s most unsavory elements (See amendments IV, V, VI and VIII). The word “regulated,” or a variant thereof, appears exactly once in the Bill of Rights. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

I’m willing to accept that guns form an important part of America’s tradition and society. I will not, however, accept that the only way for America to allow its citizens to protect themselves and to honor that tradition is to acquiesce to a small minority of gun-obsessive citizens and the gun manufacturer’s lobby in the face of the opinion of a clear majority. Regulations must be enacted and enforced.

We already limit what kind of weapons our citizens can possess (good luck trying to cobble together an atomic bomb by yourself). We already have a background check system that has kept weapons out of the hands of more than a million dangerous potential buyers. It has helped reduce gun violence over the last 20 years. Why not try to fix what holes we’ve left in place? It just makes sense.

I don’t think this proposal is asking for the world. There are sensible solutions to America’s gun problem, specifically our modern epidemic of mass shootings. Other “First World” societies don’t have this particular problem. Is it because we’re not as good as them? Is it because we’re inherently more violent? I refuse to accept that.

On The Right

Brian Morgenstern
Republican | Lawyer

Expanding background checks and renewing the federal assault weapons ban would do nothing to curb gun violence.  However, enforcing existing laws could go a long way.

Expanding background checks sounds great in theory but would have little or no impact.  First, almost everyone can pass a background check because few people have documented criminal histories or mental health issues that rise to the level of a legal determination.  The shooters at the Washington Navy Yard and Virginia Tech passed background checks before purchasing weapons.  The shooter in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater may not have been subject to a background check, but he too had no documented history at the time he purchased his weapons that would have stopped him.  The shooter in Newtown, Connecticut probably could have passed a background check.  Adam Lanza, unfortunately, brings me to my second point because he, like most criminals, acquired his gun illegally, bypassing the background check process.  He stole his weapon from his mother.  Others purchase guns on the black market where background checks are not an issue.  Expanding background checks will do nothing to address illegal guns.

Next, the federal assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 until 2004 was purely cosmetic.  It listed characteristics and said that if a gun had two or more of those traits, then it was an assault weapon.  Some of the criteria included “folding or telescoping stock” and a “pistol grip” on a rifle.  It had little or no effect on crime because gun-related crime rarely involves assault weapons, according to the National Institute of Justice study submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice.  In fact, the FBI reported that more murders were committed in 2011 with hammers and other blunt objects than with any rifles, let alone “assault rifles.”  According to the National Research Council, the ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes.”  And author and researcher John Lott actually claims that assault weapons bans tend to increase murder rates slightly.

Now, I don’t want to criticize proposals put forward by people trying to make a positive difference without offering anything constructive myself.  So here are two recommendations.  First, states should put mental health red flags into the national background check database, known as NICS.  Some have begun doing that in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, but more should join in.  Second, let’s enforce existing laws!  In 2009 alone, the FBI reported 71,000 people lying on background checks for gun purchases.  The Department of Justice prosecuted 77 of them, or much less than 1%.  By the way, gang members who serve as straw men with “clean” histories to purchase guns for their friends are background-check liars.  Law enforcement would go a long way towards rooting out the illegal handguns responsible for nearly half of all homicides.  

I live in New York City.  I appreciate efforts to curb violence in neighborhoods that are suffering.  But we have tools at our disposal that are going unused.  More federal legislation will generally increase burdens on law abiding Americans and have little or no effect on criminals.

 

Let's talk crime & candidates in NYC

A Little Background

On Tuesday, November 5th the people of NYC will take to the polls and elect the next mayor of their fine metropolis. As the election is right around the corner we asked two of our contributors to agree on one issue - crime - and state and defend the candidate they will be voting for based on this one issue. Will it be the Republican Joe Lhota or the candidate from the Democratic corner, Bill de Blasio. The question as we posed it was:

What is a major issue for you in this election (they agreed on Crime), who do you support on their platform and why? 

On the Left

Brayden Simms | Liberal
Copy Editor

 
Of the two candidates for NYC mayor, one represents prejudice and injustice while the other fights for the rights enshrined in our nation's Constitution. Republican Joe Lhota promises to amp up an unaccountable police state by expanding the NYPD's constitutionally-challenged use of stop-and-frisk; Democrat Bill de Blasio has promised to reform the ineffective and biased practice.

My well-meaning rival in this intellectual exercise will likely point to Lhota's championing of this policy and de Blasio's criticism as clear evidence of the former's superiority and the latter's certain destructiveness. This one false assumption is the rotten fulcrum upon which all my opponent's claims will rest.

Why rotten? Because there is no legitimate reason to believe it; no compelling evidence of stop-and-frisk's efficacy as a deterrent; and no reason, therefore, to believe de Blasio's caution would make him a less-effective crime fighter. At the same time, evidence suggests the NYPD's use of the policy violates the US Constitution — meaning that its backers, who imagine themselves the defenders of Law and Order, in fact advocate for lawlessness.

The reason for stop-and-frisk proponents' belief is understandable despite its logical fallacy. New York has now seen 20 years of quasi-Republican mayoral rule under Rudy Giuliani and then Michael Bloomberg. In that time, as both mayors embraced tough-on-crime policies, the city underwent a safety revolution: 10 years into the new millennium, rates of citywide violent crime had fallen 75 percent from their early-'90s peak.

This fact alone is enough to convince many — including self-interested interest groups like police officers, prison guards and GOP mayoral candidates — of stop-and-frisk's efficacy. Yet correlation does not imply causation; the coincidental timing of stop-and-frisk's implementation and crime's decline is not evidence of a causal relationship. In fact, crime had already dropped 12 percent before Giuliani's election.

Moreover, data show the decline in crime has not been merely local, but global. Since policing tactics have not been uniform world-over, this implies another cause. Many alternatives have been proposed, the most compelling positing that only a molecule could provoke such dramatic changes in the criminal epidemic — the No. 1 candidate being the poisonous chemical element lead. In study after study, scientists find a striking pattern between the rise and fall of environmental lead and that of violent crime; a decline in the first always matches a decline in the second.

Yet the stop-and-frisk theory is problematic even if you don't buy the lead hypothesis. According to NYPD statistics taken between 2004 and 2012, only around 1 percent of stops yielded weapons while some 2 percent yielded non-weapon contraband. Are we to hail these numbers as policy victory? Ought we believe these statistically insignificant seizures have acted as a criminal deterrent — even as, in a similar battle, extreme sentencing has failed to win the War on Drugs?

Then there's the constitutionality question. In August, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled the practice unconstitutional, ordering the city to reform use of the tactic to keep it within a legal framework. Bloomberg blasted the decision, appealing it and refusing to abide. Then, as of a few days ago, a federal appeals court blocked Scheindlin's order pending city appeal. A de Blasio mayoral win would likely mean an institution of the judge's orders, while Lhota would keep fighting, leaving the final word up to a city appeals court. But whatever the eventual outcome, stop-and-frisk is at least controversial — at worst, unconstitutional.

Somehow this doesn't seem to worry the practice's proponents, who insist only that stop-and-frisk has been effective. Scheindlin called this argument irrelevant, citing conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” Ignoring the question of its efficacy, one can imagine a number of effective-yet-unconstitutional crime-reduction policies — torture, for instance, or the criminalization of gun ownership. The law of our land, however, prohibits these options.

Bill de Blasio will win Tuesday's election, but New Yorkers need not be frightened; reports of the Big Apple's death are greatly exaggerated. Stop-and-frisk supporters presage doom with no substantial evidence as they refuse to even consider the constitutionality of their methods. For them, the ends justify the means — those ends being the election of a Republican mayor and a brutal crackdown in poor neighborhoods regardless of the damage done. They will be disappointed, but we will all be OK.

 

On the Right

Ruthie Napier | Republican/Libertarian
Editor & Marketing Professional

 
I wasn’t raised in New York City and I didn’t live here in the 70s, 80s, or early 90s. But from stories of family members who did live here during that time to some pretty fascinating history/cultural documentaries, I do have an appreciation for how bad it used to be crime-wise and how much it has improved, thanks in large part to the policies of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. My relative safety in this great city – my ability to move around the subways and various neighborhoods and boroughs unthreatened and the great development of once no-go areas in Harlem, Brooklyn, etc. – is something I don’t take for granted. The accomplishments and efforts of the NYPD under the leadership of Commissioner Ray Kelly are to be commended. Not only is NYC a major city that faces crime-control issues similar to those of any large metropolis, but it is also unique in the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks. As we have all seen from the numerous thwarted, would-be attacks  (the Times Square bombing attempt, the plan to hit the Federal Reserve, this year’s Boston bombers last-ditch effort to come down to NYC with homemade bombs), NYC remains an almost fetish-like fixation for aspiring terrorists. No small feat for someone at the helm, which is why NYC needs a mayor committed to proactive policing policies rather than responsive ones. It’s a stance that Republican candidate Joe Lhota has spelled out very clearly for voters, and one we’d be reckless not to follow.

We’re one bad mayor away from losing the advantage and slipping back into policies that handcuff our police and endanger the safety of all New Yorkers, Lhota has insisted. And it isn’t a claim of baseless fear-mongering or campaign rhetoric. At the heart of the crime and police debate remains the practice of stop, question, and frisk. **Important side note: It is, in fact, stop, question, and frisk. The removal of the question, I believe, is often an intentional attempt to mislead the public on the practice** In the months since federal district Judge Shira Scheindlin put the kibosh on the practice, there has already been a spike in violent crimes, small crimes, and how the NYPD handles the serious, growing problem of homelessness and panhandling A recent 28-day report recorded eight shootings, five rapes, and 57 robberies in one Brooklyn precinct. Shooting victims for the period are up 166 percent compared to the same period a year ago. And the New York Post recently reported on the rising small crimes and aggressive panhandling issue in a jarring article, Beg Apple.

Just two days ago the federal court of appeals struck down Scheindlin’s stay of stop, question, and frisk, citing her bias against the NYPD. The constitutionality of the practice (one that is used by police departments throughout the country) is going to be an on-going debate. But when candidate Bill de Blasio says he wants to end the practice immediately, curtail the proactive policing efforts of the NYPD, and cut numbers of officers on the street, only to offer vague ideas of needing “better police-community relations,” I am concerned about his ability to really grasp the ever-present challenges of maintaining safety in the streets and his naïve notions about how criminals operate. Exhibit A: De Blasio said he would go to biker meet-ups and “talk” with gang members after the vicious attack on a young family about a month ago. Reckless.

Joe Lhota has a plan for our police and our city. And he has a proven track-record of leadership having served under Giuliani. He also is not ignoring the concerns of the community regarding racial profiling: there’s no room for it in his administration. And he points to this and his specific plans in his policy book. We can’t ease up on our policing efforts, lest we turn into Detroit or Chicago. And we can’t afford to back De Blasio, with his City Council legislation and promises of “big change” (we’re a “hope” away from 2008 cringe-worthy flashbacks) looks to undercut all of the gains this city and the NYPD have made over the last couple of decades.

Lhota looks to keep up what we have already accomplished and improve on it further. The New York Post editorial board said it best:

“De Blasio speaks fluent dog whistle. He talks tough on crime, for example, but not without making it clear that the aggressive policing policies that did so much to pacify the city, bolstering both its economy and its quality of life, will go by the boards when his pick for police commissioner takes over.” A student of David Dinkins policies versus a student of Rudy Giuliani gains – as the Post said, it makes no sense not to vote for Joe.

Furthering the shut down discussion

THE FACTS:  

  • Every year Congress is in charge of appropriating funds by October 1st. This year, however, certain Republicans in the House of Representatives insisted that the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," be repealed in the same bill that authorizes the new budget. The Senate, which has a majority of Democrats, refuses to approve any bill that repeals the A.C.A. As a result, Congress missed its deadline.
  • Without a budget, the government can only spend money on critical functions, so as of October 1st certain areas of the government have been shut down.
  • The other big issue on the table is the debt ceiling.  October 17 is a widely regarded deadline for a resolution, as that is when the U.S. could exhaust its borrowing capacity. A possible scenario is that the debt ceiling would be raised without resolving the CR or budget. 
  • On October 14th Majority Leader Harry Reid for the Democrats and Republican leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP had an all-day sit down to discuss a resolution. Both men left optimistic, but as yet a resolution has still not been reached. 

 

On the Left

Brayden Simms 
Liberal | Copy Editor

An ideal resolution to the government shutdown orchestrated by House Republicans as a means of forcing otherwise unattainable concessions from President Obama would involve reopening the government, a long-term debt-limit lift and negative repercussions for those responsible for these recurring financial crises in the form of a Democratic takeover of the Legislature. 

Critics of this line of thinking will likely claim 1) that Obama caused this shutdown and 2) that he has done so through a failure to compromise. 

On 1): As explained by the conservative William Kristolthe shutdown strategy was devised in January by Republican House power brokers under a policy rubric called the Williamsburg Accord. The idea was devilishly simple: Simply refuse any budget deal that doesn't reach balance in 10 years. The Williamsburgers' strategy to force such austerity measures was to lean on the sequester cuts born of the last Republican-caused funding impasse — originally a "Mutually Assured Destruction" trigger designed to force a "Grand Bargain" compromise. This strategy eventually morphed into the defund-Obamacare drive, which shuttered government when Republicans refused to budge despite their implausible demand. (No law called ObamaCare will be dismantled by a president named Obama.)

On 2): Obama has been clear — against the wishes of his Democratic base — about his desire to compromise in the form of budget negotiations, offering entitlement cuts in exchange for revenue increases. Republicans, on the other hand, hold firm on a no-new-taxes line. Meanwhile, Republicans and their defenders claim their side is the compromising one, saying they originally wanted the complete defunding of ObamaCare but have now "compromised" by asking only for a temporary delay and then the repeal of the medical device tax that helps fund the program. (Given their stated goal of complete dismantling, it's nonsensical to believe they'd be willing to stop there.) Of course, Republicans have made no compromise — a settlement of differences that involves mutual concessions. Republicans have reduced the severity of their unrealistic demands, but they offer nothing in exchange; all Democrats get for going along with this scheme is the ability to re-open government, a goal both sides desire. 

In fact, the very structure of his health-care law was a massive Democrat compromise. Liberals preferred a single-payer system or public option. Obama, however, expecting Republican resistance, opted to open up negotiations with a market-based plan dreamed up by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first implemented by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

What's more, Republicans' stated goals don't make any sense. The GOP grandstands about not raising the debt limit because of their single-minded focus on supposedly reducing federal spending; yet they hold up a deal over their insistence on cutting the medical device tax. In other words, while Republicans keep us on the edge of economic peril in the name of deficit reduction, they demand tax cuts — the result of which would raise the deficit! (Cutting taxes necessarily causes an equal increase in government spending, as taxes are the means of funding the government.) There's also the fact that the right has waged an all-out war on ObamaCare, a program designed to reduce the deficit, therefore making this strategy doubly nonsensical.

To sum: Following 5 years of strict no-compromise Republican leadership, far-right lawmakers planned a "Don't Blink" strategy to shut down the government unless Democrats offered huge policy concessions for nothing in return —  and have turned around to blame President Obama for his lack of compromise. Speaker Boehner has no control of his caucus; Republicans are leading by crisis. Punishing this strategy with electoral defeat is the only just solution to the ongoing calamity in Washington.

On the Right

Brian Morgenstern
Republican | Lawyer

Well, my ideal resolution bears little resemblance to what is realistic.  Also, the shutdown is coinciding with the debt ceiling mess.  So, I’ll go with my preferred somewhat-realistic resolution that accounts for both issues.  It involves (1) reopening the government in exchange for a delay of the Obamacare mandate penalties along with (2) modest entitlement reform in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

But first, a word about politics.  Until the last day or so, Democrats claimed that Republicans would not compromise, even though the House passed a dozen bills to fund the government and stopped trying to defund Obamacare.  And, the Democrats repeatedly said that they would only negotiate after Republicans give up all their leverage by opening the government and raising the debt ceiling.  I’m a lawyer.  If I enter a negotiation on behalf of a client by giving our opponent everything he asks for in exchange for the promise of a conversation with someone my client doesn’t even like, I would be and should be fired.  So please, Democrats, stop that.  You sound ridiculous.  Also, barricading open air monuments?  Military death benefits?  Come on.

Now for that resolution.  The Obama administration unilaterally exempted many businesses and federal employees from Obamacare penalties for one year.  It’s only fair to extend the same courtesy to the rest of America, especially since the online exchanges don’t work.  If the penalties are not delayed, there could be a nightmarishly unfair scenario where people try to get insurance but can’t and then get taxed/penalized.  So let’s delay those and reopen the government.

Second, we are desperate for entitlement reform, which Paul Ryan discussed in the Wall Street Journal.  Let’s just pick one option here and raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare.  These programs were designed decades ago when life expectancies were shorter.  Let’s adjust and preserve them for the future.    

The federal budget will be nearly $4 trillion dollars next year.  Ten years ago, it was approximately $2 trillion. Ten years ago, the national debt was approximately $6.5 trillion.  It is now approaching $17 trillion.  So spending has doubled, and the debt has nearly tripled in only a decade.  Entitlements have a lot to do with that.  Raising the debt ceiling without addressing any of the causes of our debt would be irresponsible, as Senator Obama noted when he voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006.  So let’s raise that ceiling but reform entitlements.

Finally, a word about my ideal, unrealistic resolution.  It involves repealing and replacing Obamacare because premiums are skyrocketing, and the law incentivizes businesses to stop covering their employees, which belies the President’s talking point that everyone could keep their plan if they liked it.  But most of all, our health care industry does not have a functioning market, and this law exacerbates that problem.  As Gordon Crovitz wrote, “Have you ever seen a price list in your doctor’s office or in a hospital?”  Probably not, except for laser eye surgery or some other elective procedure that is not covered by insurance.  There is no downward pressure on healthcare costs because consumers (patients) have little or no information about or influence over the price of health care services.  And, they have no skin in the game except premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.  Obamacare has increased the role of the monstrous, inefficient government middle man when we need to give patients and providers tools and incentives to influence the market. Oh, and in other news, we have to stop letting Binder & Binder get disability benefits for millions of able-bodied people.

But that’s for another day.  Washington has gone from dysfunctional to non-functional.  So for now, let’s get back to dysfunctional so that at least my friends who work for the government can get paid.

Follow Brian on twitter: @BRMorgenstern
Facebook.com/Brian.Morgenstern

Shit show, Shut down, Or Stand Off?

The Facts:  

  • In order for the U.S. Government to operate, it needs a budget. Every year, Congress is in charge of authorizing a budget by October 1st. This year, however, certain Republicans in the House of Representatives insisted that the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," be repealed in the same bill that authorizes the new budget. The Senate, which has a majority of Democrats, refuses to approve any bill that repeals the A.C.A. As a result, Congress missed its deadline.
  • Without a budget, the government can only spend money on critical functions, so as of October 1st most of the government has been shut down.
  • The other big issue on the table is the debt ceiling.  October 17 is a widely regarded deadline for a resolution, as that is when the U.S. could exhaust its borrowing capacity. A possible scenario is that the debt ceiling would be raised without resolving the CR or budget. 
  • On October 9th, motions were made on the Senate floor by Republicans to re-open parts of the federal government.  Senate Democrats, however, are using an all-or-nothing approach and refuse to negotiate, as they believe it would set a bad precedent.

 Question: What is your ideal resolution to the government shutdown?  

On the Left

Matthew Bunch | Liberal  
Teacher & Copy Editor

 

I worked through it, I swear I did. On the old Kübler-Ross model, I was at acceptance. The government shutdown was coming, and that was that. But at around 10 p.m. on the night of Sept. 30, about two hours before the shutdown, something came along that set me back. I was watching the train approach the wall on Twitter and saw this:

A budget conference? Returning to regular order? The thing Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republicans had opposed since April? A true means of negotiation and communication used as a last-minute ploy to try and make another side look bad? Well, I slipped right back to anger. The government would be shuttered with no end in sight.

So what's the way out? The true problem is the assumption that all parties involved truly want out in the first place.

Finding moral equivalency for the sake of moral equivalency is a silly pursuit. Sometimes, things can and should be called clearly. There is a small but strong group among Republicans in the House of Representatives who have no particular desire to reopen the government unless every single one of their demands are met, namely the end of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and additional spending cuts below levels set in the compromise-based Budget Sequestration of 2013. Republican congressman Devin Nunes (who is himself quite conservative) referred to them as “lemmings with suicide vests.” No matter the short-term political damage and no matter the abject failure of the strategy thus far, they shall not be moved. And those Republicans who disagree have yet to stand en masse to oppose them, letting the minority rule the roost. As Jack Kerouac once said, “If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime.” The moderates, for the time being, have capitulated to indifference.

With this knowledge, and the fragile nature of Speaker Boehner's leadership, Democrats have largely stood idly by as the other side of the aisle burns. The hyperpartisanship has incentivized them to wait and watch. Politically, it's probably the right thing to do. Civically, each day that goes on is one day too long.

Right now, both sides (here comes a bit of that moral equivalency) are talking past each other. Politicians are talking to voters in their districts, or party leadership or political action committees. There are plenty of press conferences and Sunday morning talk-show appearances, but there is almost no dialogue between people that actually can end the shutdown. Until that dialogue returns, this won't end. And that dialogue won't happen until the pressure and blame becomes too much to bear for one side or the other.

So we're at a standstill. A political game of chess stuck in stalemate until one side walks away from the board. And in the meantime, grade-school students on field trips to our nation's capital will be denied the awe-inspiring opportunity of viewing our nation's founding documents. Hundreds of thousands of well-intentioned federal workers will be furloughed. And people like Californian Michelle Langbehn will be denied a chance at life-saving clinical trials run by the National Institutes of Health. Whatever the endgame, it must come quickly. Dialogue must be resumed with haste. A shutdown may be wise political brinkmanship, but it is an entirely unacceptable choice of governance.

On the Right

Ruthie Napier | Republican/Libertarian  
Editor & Marketing Professional

 

Last week Buzzfeed ran a comedic list on how the government shutdown was basically exactly like “Mean Girls.” And it couldn’t have been more on point as our country’s leaders have handled this situation with about as much decorum and productivity as teenage girls trying to hash out grievances by calling each other fugly sluts. And like Tina Fey’s character, the American people are rolling their eyes and pulling their hair in frustration at it all. We’re fed up with the lot of them, which is why the continued vitriol spewed against House Republicans is matched only by the president’s all-time low approval rating of 37 percent.

And in this shutdown theater of the absurd, we – the American people – have a part to play: the hysterical masses. Prodded by an inflammatory media, our panic serves the interests of BOTH establishment political sides. They need us at each other’s throats to distract from the real issue that this is about politicking and grandstanding on all fronts – and keeping their Washington power positions – not about what’s really best for the people they claim to serve.

So if we want the government to get a grip and get to work, we better start behaving with each other the way we say we want them to (i.e. let’s lose the divisive, often hateful, rhetoric). When we can get our heads straight and stay calm, we can more effectively demand that of our leaders. Next up, President Obama needs to stop throwing around terms like “catastrophic and automatic default,” and “economic nuclear bomb” in press conferences about the looming debt ceiling. The truth is the ongoing revenue the U.S. generates is about 12 times what it will take to cover our debts. So the president and the Treasury would have to willfully choose to default. Sending the public into a panic and scaring the markets in which millions of Americans have their retirement funds is not leadership.

The GOP needs to STFU about ObamaCare – in regard to deal negotiations right now. Trust me, I’m no fan. In fact, I think ObamaCare is the worst, largest entitlement in an age where we need entitlement reform more than ever. But it’s time to lose the battle to win the war, Republicans. While I agree with Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee that it is incredibly hard – if not impossible – to repeal/reform an entitlement of this magnitude once it is in motion (just look at the overreaching problems with our welfare program and our decades-long inability to manage it or reform it in any real, productive way), I think they need to bite the bullet on this one and let the American people feel the pain of this program first-hand. They’re losing the war of perception and the longer they continue, the more people are going to buy this whole “hostage taking” caricature the left has been painting. And for what gain? As long as there is a man named Obama in the White House, ObamaCare is going to remain an absolute non-negotiable.

However, they are right to demand a legitimate seat at the negation table and insist that any raising of the debt ceiling comes with immediate constraints and cuts to spending. The idea that Obama is saying right now he won’t budge on anything and expects the Republicans to accept his demand that ObamaCare remain an absolute and that he get an unlimited pass to raise the debt ceiling and spend as much as he wants is insane. Who’s the hostage taker now?

So my ideal resolution to this shit show…I mean shutdown…is what it has always been: that these jackasses would stop with the theatrics, calmly negotiate with each other realizing that concessions will need to be made on both sides, and get the hell on with it.