While the federal government was on the brink of a shut down last week, it was also focusing valuable resources on “defending” Libya.
Never mind the absurdity of the precedent set by bombing Libya, nor the fact that Libya’s population is roughly two-thirds that of the Los Angeles region — an indication of Libya’s relative geopolitical irrelevance.
Some of President Barack Obama’s recent decisions, both at home and abroad, have jeopardized his domestic agenda.
The enforcement of a Libyan no-fly zone has cost taxpayers more than $600 million so far, according to official estimates by the Pentagon, and it has shifted lawmakers’ attention away from more pressing domestic issues — like the budget.
What makes the Libyan misadventure all the more perplexing is Obama knew a government shutdown was an imminent threat when he chose to get involved.
Obama got lucky his misguided decision didn’t face backlash, given the repercussions of a government shutdown.
Consumer confidence would have slumped, the mortgage market would have frozen, investors would have gotten skittish about government debt and the nation’s prestigious AAA credit rating would have taken hits as well. The lingering effects of such market trauma would have been felt for weeks, if not months.
Obama’s handling of the imminent shutdown also seemed out of line with his domestic goals. Every cent of cuts that enabled the one-week continuing resolution that kept crucial government services afloat came from either the Department of Transportation or the Department of Housing and Urban Development at a time when our national infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes. What happened to the whole “Rebuilding America” thing?
Certainly intervention in Libya didn’t cause the budgetary gridlock that had the potential to shut down the government, but focusing on crises overseas, at the expense of addressing problems at home, did nothing to mitigate the problem. That is not the change we need. And it sure isn’t the change I voted for in 2008.
Teddy Minch is master of public policy student concentrating in civil infrastructure finance.