The first thing to keep in mind is that this does not mean "anarchy," in Harry Reid's typically subtle formulation, or even a complete government shutdown. Functions deemed "essential" will continue, and it's debatable how many of those really are crucial to daily American life. The military will be paid, Social Security checks will still go out. Many Americans will be inconvenienced, but tens of millions may come to realize how easily they can do without most of the vast federal Leviathan.
A second reality is that both parties are responsible for getting to this point. Americans chose a divided government in 2010 and again in 2012, electing House Republicans as a check on Democrats whose undiluted liberalism alarmed millions of voters when they ran the entire government in 2009-2010. The inability to compromise now is rooted in the wide disagreement about the role of government that now separates the two parties.
This is a President who is eager to negotiate with dubiously elected Iranian mullahs but can't abide compromise with duly elected leaders of Congress.
Mr. Obama also refuses to bend on any part of ObamaCare—except when he unilaterally announces bending in his own political interest. He decided on his own, and contrary to the plain text of the law, to delay for a year the business mandate to provide insurance for employees.
Mr. Obama's refusal to negotiate suggests that he wants a shutdown—either over the budget or debt limit. His agenda is dying on Capitol Hill, because of Senate Democrats as well as House Republicans. With his approval rating down and independents leaning toward the GOP, he figures his only chance to salvage a second-term domestic legacy is to restore Nancy Pelosi as Speaker in his final two years. His best opening to make that happen is a shutdown or debt-limit crisis that he will try to blame on Republicans. A shutdown is as much his strategy as it is Mr. Cruz's.