Georgia Says

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on President Barack Obama, Republicans and the government shutdown:

Excuses; we all make them, and we all hate them. Whether they come from a spouse, child, co-worker or the person across the counter, we want what we want when we want it, and hold the alibis.

But if there's one place where excuses seem to be welcomed, it is the nation's capital, where Congress just handed the White House a "dog ate my homework" cop-out it will carve in stone for years to come.

President Barack Obama set that tone in his statements Oct. 17 hours after signing a deal passed by Congress the night before ending the 16-day federal government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling — for the time being, anyway.

In decrying his political opponents' tactics, the president made it clear any downturn in the economy that occurs in the final three-plus years of his term will be blamed on the two-week stoppage.

In other words, the buck stops over there with those other guys.

Talk about paving a golden road ahead of yourself. There's nothing a politician loves more than someone else to blame for the problems laid at his feet — past, present and future. In trying to derail Obamacare and force a decision on the nation's mounting debt, Republicans opened a handy escape hatch for the president to wiggle through when the going gets tough.

Experts will continue to debate what true effect the shutdown had on the economy. As the deal emerged, financial markets surged. Furloughed federal workers will receive the back pay they lost, so most of the damage will be repaired. So how much actual impact it will have over the long haul is uncertain.

But it's clear that the shutdown accomplished nothing. Republicans suspended government operations as part of their goal to defund the Affordable Care Act. That strategy failed, though the health exchange's balky website has accomplished so far what the law's foes couldn't.

Some ripple effects could show up sooner. The National Retail Federation reported that shoppers planned to reduce spending for the upcoming holiday season. More than half of consumers surveyed blame the economy for denting their holiday budgets; nearly 3 in 10 fault the political bickering in Washington.

Thus, both sides will use the shutdown fiasco as ammo to fire at the other side in next year's elections, even though such rhetoric likely will sway no one but the amen choruses within their own ranks.

Washington isn't just broken, as many claim. It's pitifully inept. And it continues to spin out excuses for failed leadership like cotton candy, excuses we are all sick of hearing but will echo in our ears for some time to come.

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on a water-sharing plan:

Georgians who live in this part of the state should oppose a new water-sharing plan that has the potential to hurt downstate communities and their future economies.

With little fanfare or notice, new rules are now in place that allow the state to gain access to some of the reservoirs planned to help supply metro Atlanta and other fast-growing areas of north Georgia with water.

This setup would give the state a mechanism to transfer water from reservoirs in one watershed and move it to another for the first time.

Such a power grab is uncalled for. It merits a thumbs down from the state Board of Natural Resources.

Building reservoirs is a time-tested, if expensive, way to help specific areas survive droughts. But transferring water from one reservoir to another is a new concept that has a potential for political abuse. It sets up a situation where water could be collected and stored near the headwaters of the Savannah River, then transferred to reservoirs that serve water-starved areas around Atlanta and northwest Georgia.

That means communities like Savannah, Augusta and Athens could pay a price in terms of less surface water, a growing source of future drinking water.

Shane Hix, a spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority that operates the program, generally pooh-poohed such a threat.

One of the biggest, long-term issues that Georgia faces is water management. Put simply, the population growth in and around Atlanta — which is where the state's political muscle is — can't be sustained because of limited water in that part of the state.

The state has been drought-free lately. So the water issue isn't on the public's radar screen.

The Georgia Water Coalition, a broad-based advocacy group, reports that metro Atlanta could save between 120 and 200 million gallons of water per day by implementing water efficiency and conservation. This translates into savings of up to $700 million, the group reports.

The initial rules on dishing out state grants were part of a program that Gov. Nathan Deal launched in 2011. The implementation has exposed a flaw that was known from the start: Reservoirs aren't cheap. Local governments clearly want the state to eat the lion's share of the costs. But giving up rights to future water, which is what the new rules mandate, isn't the way to go.

Such a scenario essentially anoints the state as water lord.

The golden rule would take effect — he who has the gold makes the rules. Then the water-grabbing could begin.

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