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Originally published October 10, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Page modified October 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM

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Shutdown and looming default cast a cloud over U.S. economy

Find GOP replacements for timid party members who watched the federal government shutdown, and the nation move toward default on its debt.

Times editorial columnist

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America is groping its way through a rancid fog toward an economic cliff. The first-ever default on federal debt obligations.

The crisis is the result of a political contrivance by a handful of self-absorbed Republicans and the utter failure of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives to challenge them.

This is the Republicans’ problem to fix. There is no merit, no legitimacy to issues threatening to crash the U.S. economy. This is a hissy fit about the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010.

America had a national referendum on the health plan in 2012. A presidential election. The Republican candidate lost badly.

In the absence of any alternatives from Republicans, U.S. citizens have been signing up for Obamacare since registration opened Oct. 1. More than 10,000 people in Washington state alone, despite early online enrollment glitches.

Turns out the congressional budget obstruction was plotted months ago by the benefactors of the GOP’s extreme right wing.

The Republican Party bears full responsibility for its passive response to a parliamentary coup by its lunatic fringe.

The White House cannot give in to extortion — the abuse and misuse of congressional authority — because such capitulation creates a new template: lose in Congress, lose with the American voters? Shut down the government.

This reckless, ludicrous approach puts U.S. and global finances at risk.

The shutdown will cost billions in wasted money. Lawmakers — contemptuous of federal spending and federal workers — now mutter they might pay back wages. Why pay money for work not done? Because federal workers vote.

Meanwhile, Americans see the concentric circles of employment fueled by federal dollars. National parks close, and nearby towns grind to a halt. From small businesses in Alaska to grain shipments sitting on U.S. docks to furloughed health inspectors, the absence of federal workers is felt.

Veterans, the elderly and all manner of local employment — from agriculture to manufacturing to medical research — suffer uncertainty.

The dismay goes well beyond our shores. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday said a U.S. default, possibly in play by next week, undermines a fragile global economy and tenuous recovery.

What about a short-term fix to avoid default discussed by Republicans? Even the threat of default is a hazard to the U.S. economy, with expensive consequences for future borrowing costs, U.S. Treasury officials said Wednesday in a conference call.

Failure to meet the nation’s debt responsibilities “would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” according to a Treasury report titled, “The Potential Macroeconomic Effect of Debt Ceiling Brinkmanship.”

The U.S. borrows money cheaply because the planet sees this country as a safe place to put money. A loss of confidence expressed in a demand for higher interest rates will cost U.S. taxpayers.

President Obama missed a big trade conference in Indonesia to tend to the congressional mess. The president’s absence was noted and exploited by those who want to cast doubt on his so-called pivot toward Asia.

The insights at home are useful. House Speaker John Boehner is worthless. He paled in the face of a party rebellion.

Voters must take charge. This is not about Democrats replacing Republicans, but about serious Rs stepping forward to challenge timid, ineffectual party members.

The GOP nutcases in Congress are obvious. They are more beholden to wealthy sponsors than the American people. This crisis is courtesy of Republicans who stood by saying and doing nothing.

Washington’s U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Blowin’ In The Wind, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-What Boehner Says, are prime examples.

This looming avalanche of disaster is steeped in Republican cynicism and political cowardice. The party can offer and elect better leaders.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is

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