Jack Ohman editorial cartoons and blog

When the governed are consenting, but their leaders aren’t...

Published: Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 - 5:33 pm

As we watch the House Republicans careen into another federal government shutdown, I couldn’t help but wonder how we/they got ourselves into this situation.

As far as I can tell, we can blame 17 people for this madness. That’s how many people it would take to flip the House of Representatives. Just so we have this straight, the entire government of the United States is being held hostage over a bill that was A) passed by Congress, and B) upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seems excessive.

I grew up in a federal employee’s house. My father worked for the U.S. Forest Service, not one of the glamour agencies in the government, but important nonetheless. I know it’s fashionable in a lot of circles, including editorial cartooning, to lightly to heavily criticize and critique the federal government. It deserves it. There are a lot of things that it does that, frankly, are ridiculous and intrusive.

But mostly, it isn’t.

And I am constantly amazed by how many people don’t really know anything about government allow themselves to critique it. How many times, for example, have I heard someone on talk radio complain about foreign aid? A 2011 poll said that the average American believed that 25 percent of our budget went to foreign aid.

Quick, what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid?

Ten percent? Twenty? Five? Three?

One percent. A bit under, actually.

I remember this woman called me once a few years ago, a self-described tea party member, and started screaming at me about how President Barack Obama didn’t understand the U.S. Constitution.

I said, “Ma’am, what’s the Fourteenth Amendment?”


“What’s the Fourteenth Amendment? Certainly a constitutional expert such as yourself should be able to tell me all about it.”

“That’s an unfair question.”

I didn’t ask her about the Third Amendment (peacetime quartering of troops). Just the one about equal protection.

Growing up in this wasteful federal government home, where my father flew all over the United States in DC-9s, slept in Holiday Inns, and was pretty much not home from 1970-87 so that the American people didn’t have to worry about their national forests rotting away from some disease or insect infestation seems a little boring. But there are millions of employees in the federal government who do things like this, every day.

No one cares.

Now that Obama has adopted the 2012 GOP presidential nominee’s health plan from Massachusetts (socialism), and the GOP-nominated chief justice was the swing vote saving it, here we are again, having this same argument about government’s value.

I saw an article on SacBee today about how this shutdown may badly hurt the Sacramento recovery. I assume that the other 1,600 or so daily newspapers are running the same article. And, presumably, this could hurt the stock market, which was, last time I checked, doing ok. I would also presume that a rising stock market (under the socialist Kenyan president) would also benefit conservative GOP tea party citizens.

I could be wrong.

Anyway, I hope they don’t shut down the entire government.

But maybe, voters could just shut down 17 of the government’s worst employees in the 2014 midterms. Or more than 17.

Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman

Jack Ohman Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.

Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com.

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