If you took a high school civics class and retained the learning, you may wish to try to answer the following question.  Who is really responsible for the government shutdown and debt limit showdown?  That is, who’s to blame?

Some hints:

1. This branch of the federal government has failed to undo the partisan redistricting that has left the House of Representatives hopelessly polarized;

2. This branch has furthered Americans’ cynicism toward politics with nakedly political rulings such as Bush v. Gore;

3. This branch has created a campaign-finance system that is directly responsible for the rise of uncompromising leaders on both side of the Capitol; and,

4. This branch will soon rule in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission where it is anticipated it will expand on its 2010 decision by allowing the wealthy to give about $3.5 million (limit has been $123,000) apiece to candidates and parties in each and every election cycle.

Members of this branch are reported to say that it has already allowed the system to become so flooded with money that more will not hurt anything.  One of its members, A. Scalia, has said, “When you add all that up, I don’t think $3.5 million is a heck of a lot of money.”  Some peons among us, including this peon, would probably disagree with this guy’s assessment regarding that amount of money.

With this kind of money and the conditions for getting it in place, it is estimated that fewer than 500 people will run the U.S. government as it will be run by and for that miniscule percentage of the population of the nation. History talks about this branch when we look back to 1976  and the Buckley v. Valeo decision that made government for sale and created the arms race in campaign financing by equating unlimited spending with free speech.

This branch in 2010 made the system dramatically worse in its Citizens United decision, loosening restrictions and spurring wealthy donors to make hundreds of millions of dollars in independent expenditures.  Now this branch considers selling what remains of the government to about 500 Americans.  It adds up to the Brothers Koch and their fellow travelers filling the halls of Congress with Tea Party representatives to do their bidding.

What happens in this circumvention of democracy is the branch emboldens the richest .000001 percent of the U.S. population to donate to groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action which threaten to fund primary challenges to Republican lawmakers who do not show absolute commitment and unwavering allegiance to a strict ideologically conservative set of goals and objectives.  So, a few billionaires have purchased and will further seal the conditions to elect, by pumping $3.5 million into every Tea Party Republican campaign and send thereby more and more extremists to D.C., those who are dedicated to shutdowns, not paying America’s bills on borrowed money and ending entitlements and all federal social programs and activities beyond protecting the country’s sovereignty and keeping its roads paved.

Partial credit will be awarded to those who answered “former House Speaker Newt Gingrich” and “former President Ronald Reagan;” however, they only set the “ball” in motion. The correct answer to this one question quiz is: the nation’s high court, known by its constitutional name as the “U.S. Supreme Court.”  It is the branch that has launched the actions, bringing about the dysfunctions that cripple D.C. today.

Extra credit question:  Are members of Congress continuing to receive their pay, perks and benefits during shutdown and imminent debt limit showdown that’s effecting the financial lives of millions of Americans?

Should the reader pause to wonder at the correct answer, it’s provided here: yes.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)