They've gone and done it. Congress -- particularly the Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives -- have let their quarreling and petty interests shut down part of the federal government, denying services to the Americans who pay their salaries and furloughing 800,000 workers.
This disastrous development has been a train wreck that the country has seen coming all summer while the members of Congress took their five-week recess. Instead of looking for compromise solutions to the budget issues, they dug in more deeply to the regressive positions that divide Republicans within their own party, Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House.
The matter is now so arcane and so Washington-centric that most Americans can't figure out what issue could be so monumental as to force a partial shutdown of the government. At the core of it all are the Tea Party Republicans, who are so resentful that Barack Obama was elected by sizable margins in 2008 and 2012 that they are determined to sabotage his presidency by torpedoing his signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. On top of that, some Americans, incredibly, have not gotten over the fact that they have an African-American president.
Mr. Obama's health insurance initiative was intended to address two of the nation's biggest problems. The first was the 48 million Americans who have no health insurance, most because they can't afford it. The second was the steadily rising cost of medical care, which cripples the economic prospects of U.S. companies and individuals. Whether the new law will be an effective solution remains to be seen, but efforts by Tea Party Republicans to defund the legislation before it takes effect is harmful and vindictive.
In the meantime, Washington's characteristic gridlock has set in.
On Tuesday Americans began paying the price, not only in services that are being denied them by the shutdown, but also by the perception of other countries that the U.S. government is acting crazy and is less worthy of the world's confidence. On Monday the dollar started dropping on world markets. The Chinese, Japanese, Europeans and Arabs could begin dumping U.S. Treasury bonds in anticipation of the other cliff the Republicans are threatening to drive the country over, refusal to raise the national debt limit before Oct. 17 when the government will run out of money.
This is ridiculous, but the GOP House is doing it, and on our dime.