- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brinkmanship, blinkmanship and partisan cliffhangers have prompted dire speculations that the United States is going down, with its best days in the past — you know, just like Rome.

Or maybe not.

“The end of the American republic? Not so fast,” responds Cornell University scholar Barry Strauss, whose specialty is ancient Rome. He also is chairman of the history department on the campus and author of 11 books.

“The analogy with the late Roman republic is striking but, fortunately, we’re not nearly that bad,” Mr. Strauss says.

“The Romans had decades of state-sanctioned violence, coups and countercoups, and military dictatorship before they reached the standoff between Cato and Caesar. The current standoff is more a case of ineptitude and jockeying for the next election,” he continues.

“Ours is a case of ‘this, too, shall pass.’ At least, that’s how it seems to me,” the professor concludes.


Lest we forget, CGI Federal — the Canadian company that designed the faltering Affordable Care Act sign-up site — was paid $93 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to build the online destination. Another $684 million in taxpayer funds was spent to promote the health care law in all 50 states. How many people have signed up? Officials at the federal agency have said they won’t reveal any hard numbers until November.

A few early estimates have surfaced, though. Based on their own counts, The Daily Mail of London claims that 51,000 have managed to establish their accounts, made their coverage choices and completed their enrollment. At Forbes, the estimate Tuesday was 5,000 through the federal site and 25,000 through state websites. The figure was 35,000 according to Millward Brown Digital, an industry source.

“In total, 11.3 million consumers visited the federal and state exchanges during their first week of operation. Unfortunately, what started as a fire hose of interest, resulted in only a small trickle of actual health care enrollments,” says Matt Pace, who analyzed the preliminary usage data for the company.

“Among the visitors to healthcare.gov, 5.7 million — or 60 percent of total visitors to the site — navigated to the individual marketplace landing page where, after selecting their state, they were either directed to continue using the federal site or were redirected to their state-run exchange. From here, 1.3 million left for their state-run exchange, while another 3.7 million attempted to register on healthcare.gov,” he continues.

“The latter didn’t get far. For two-thirds of these consumers, the site either hung or failed altogether before it was finally taken off-line over the first weekend. Most had to abandon their attempts to register after facing the government’s equivalent of the blue screen of death, which notified them of ongoing system maintenance.”


With the federal debt-limit deadline looming, crisis appears to be in the eye of the beholder. Fifty-one percent of Americans overall now say it’s “absolutely essential” to raise the debt limit by Thursday “to avoid economic crisis.” But the level of hysteria varies, according to political party and ideology.

Among liberal Democrats, the number is 71 percent, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Among conservative Republicans, however, it’s 35 percent. Among tea partyers, it’s 23 percent.

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