Desperate to limit the self-inflicted political damage, Republicans now complain that President Barack Obama won't renegotiate the health care law.

Obama shouldn't yield to hostage-taking. The law was drafted, debated and approved in Congress, its constitutionality was affirmed by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court and the president was subsequently re-elected. Moreover, much of the law already is in effect.

"It is settled, and it is here to stay," Obama said at an event Tuesday marking the opening of health care exchanges around the country.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal employees were furloughed from their jobs. Meat inspections were cut back. At the Veterans Administration, new claims aren't being processed. National Parks are closed. The military academies suspended their athletic programs.

In Santa Rosa, the offices of the Internal Revenue Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court was in session but is preparing to close if Congress doesn't act.

The ripple effects will be felt throughout the economy if missed paychecks force federal employees to dip into savings or borrow to pay mortgages and cut back on expenditures in local stores and restaurants. (Don't worry about members of Congress going hungry; they get paid.)

In the longer term, the public will lose if talented people eschew federal employment rather than risk making themselves, and their families, pawns in a political war.

There's another immediate threat. If the debt ceiling isn't raised this month, there's a strong likelihood that the government will default, with impacts far worse than any shutdown. House Republicans say they won't approve an increase unless health care reform is halted or delayed.

If the government defaults, Treasury securities will no longer be a risk-free investment. The stock market will plunge, and so will the economy, driving deficits and debt higher than ever. Will House Republicans risk that?

We hope not. Be we're not optimistic.