Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Saboteurs in the Capital

Once again, the Republican Party has “shut down” the federal government.  Furious about their inability to frustrate the implementation of healthcare reform, the fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party is hoping it can blackmail the President into repealing the healthcare law in order that a continuing resolution to fund the federal government can be passed.
As Bernie Sanders noted recently, in many ways the nation’s healthcare law, which over time will help a great many people in the U.S. is a “good Republican program”.  It is market-based, and it will lower costs over time (and is actually cheaper on average than estimated).  Even the universal healthcare of Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia that the Republican Party fundamentalist love to hate is cheaper: those countries spend far less on healthcare than the U.S., where insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries’ immoral profiteering makes their bottom lines a greater priority than the welfare of our citizens.
Very likely, the GOP is afraid that if the world does not end after the healthcare law goes fully into effect, and if “Obamacare” actually works, they won’t have any ground to stand on and they will lose what has become the central plank of their fearmongering over the last several years.
But the merits of an existing law aside, it is absurd that the GOP’s pique should permit them to hold our nation up.  And make no mistake, although people are fond of complaining about how the two parties are the same, and how we need to “throw the bums out”, some of the bums are much more deserving of the sack than others.  An article in the Atlantic does a good job of showing how the media’s concern to portray the two parties as equally responsible (and I say this as someone who is not a fan of the Democratic Party) distorts the true picture.  It is Republicans who are claiming that they are doing voters’ will in waging guerrilla warfare on the state in Congress.  But that’s a claim that’s difficult to sustain.
If voters wanted an opportunity to endorse fundamentalism and repeal Obamacare, 2012 offered the perfect opportunity.  But let’s review the results of that election.  The President whose name is associated with healthcare reform won five million more votes than his rival.  In the Senate, Democrats gained seats and won over 10 million votes across the country than Republicans.  In the House, Democrats gained seats, and although they remained a minority under our country’s antiquated and undemocratic first-past-the-post voting structure, won nearly two million more votes across the country than Republicans.
If the public was tired of being victimised by our fascist, socialist, Islamist, atheist, coal-plant hugging, envirofascist President and his signature accomplishment in office, they had a funny way of showing it.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to solve a real, honest-to-God problem.
“Our health care system was broken.  48 million people in this country had no health insurance.  Women couldn’t get access to cancer screenings.  People with diabetes were denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.  People with cancer hit the caps on their health insurance spending.  And health spending in this country was growing too fast.
“So we worked hard, we compromised, and we came up with a solution.  A solution that will substantially improve the lives of millions of Americans—because that’s the way a democracy works.
“It’s time to end the debate about whether the Affordable Care Act should exist and whether it should be funded.
“Congress voted for this law.  President Obama signed this law.  The Supreme Court upheld this law.  The President ran for reelection on this law.  His opponent said he would repeal it—and his opponent lost by five million votes.
“Right now, Republicans are taking the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both unless the President agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act.  For days, they even tried to change the law so that employers can deny women access to birth control coverage.
“I am the mother of a daughter and the grandmother of granddaughters.  I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control.  We have lived in that world, and we are not going back.  Not ever. 
“I see things like this and I wonder what alternate reality some of my colleagues are living in.
“So let me be very clear about what is happening in the real world: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.  Millions of people are counting on it—people who need health care coverage, people who need insurance policies that don’t disappear just when they are sickest.
“The law is here to stay, and it will stay.
“Now the government is shut down.  We haven’t fixed the sequester because of all the obstruction.  We haven’t finished a budget because of all the obstruction.  We haven’t even passed a single appropriations bill because of all the obstruction.
“The least we can do—the bare minimum we can do—would be to pass a ‘continuing resolution’ to open the doors back up and turn the lights back on.  We could ensure that over a million federal workers aren’t staying home for no reason.  We could end the government shutdown.
“But the Republicans have refused to do even that.  They have continued to shutter the government unless the President agreed to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.
“The threats may continue, but they are not working and they never will.  In a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in Courts.  For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left—a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy.
“The time has come for those legislators who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy to get out of the way—so that those of us in BOTH parties can get back to working on solving the real problems faced by the American people.
“We have real work to do”.
I agree with Warren.  However, I think she is optimistic.  Sabotage by the Republicans might not “work” in the conventional sense, in that they will probably be forced to back down from their outlandish demands—so incommensurate with their reduced power and legitimacy.  However, we have to bear in mind that this is a party which is working towards a system of corporate welfare at the behest of their donors and those donors’ hired guns (like Club For Growth-sponsored Ted Cruz).
For them, so long as they are creating mistrust in the process and encouraging people to believe that “Government” doesn’t work, they’re winning, because in the long run that will mean less oversight in the service of the public interest, less regulation in the service of the public interest, and less demand that affluent interests pay towards the public interest.  Chaos and dysfunction are in the interests of the modern GOP and its corporate handlers.
The basic argument they try to sell to the public is that “Government” doesn’t work.  But that’s essentially untrue.  “Government”, inasmuch as it’s a “thing”, works pretty well (whether we agree with everything it does is an entirely separate question): people get their social security checks; the EPA does a good job of regulating polluters as per its mandate; national parks perform their public service; we have functioning public schools and universities; if there’s a fire, a fire truck shows up. 
Because their fundamental argument is based on a lie, the Republican Party has to spend most of its time engineering the state it claims exist.  And so like saboteurs, they use the very bodies they purport to hate to try to force “Government” to fail.  The worst possible outcome for them is a successful healthcare law and a smoothly-running federal government which executes its responsibilities to the citizens on whose behalf it exists.  That is why they are working overtime to engineer failure.  

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