So the government has shut down. Why has this happened? It’s actually more simple and transparent than you might think.
After the passing of the Affordable Care Act (which has done wonders for my parents) the GOP decided to campaign on opposing it. This was for a number of reasons:
1. They’d built their platform on a bunch of social issues, like opposition to marriage equality, that were primarily liked by old people who are dying off. This helped them in 2000, but now they’re fucked with all ascending voting bases. They had to change gears.
2. The ACA is great for the poor and middle class, but will make the wealthy slightly less wealthy. The GOP cannot have this.
But there are a couple problems with this plan:
1. They lack the votes to actually do anything about the ACA. The House, where the Republicans (primarily the Tea Party) are still in power, has attempted to unmake the ACA 46 times. They have proposed almost zero legislation in the interest of job creation (the other primary part of their platform), but have instead focused on anti-abortion laws (still playing to their base) and defeating the ACA. All votes to repeal the ACA have been defeated either in the House or stopped by the Senate. The GOP knew such legislation was foredoomed, but kept right on at it anyway (god bless ‘em). They tried to contest the ACA in court where they failed again.
2. Despite an enormous amount of resources being dumped into trying to scare people away from the ACA, the majority of the public supports it (and are becoming increasingly aware that there is no lie the GOP will not tell to sell its story).
Having spent the last three years exhausting every means available to no avail, and on October 1, with the start of the new fiscal year, the ACA is finally set to go into effect. But the party that lost the Presidency by 7 million votes, which lost the Senate by 5 million votes, and even lost the House by 1.7 million votes had one more play: they decided to string along the process of passing the budget in order to create some leverage against the Democrats. Both the House and the Senate have passed budget resolutions (they did so ages ago). But the House (where the GOP are in power, with a large number of Tea Partiers) has declined repeatedly to open talks with the Senate on a final budget number, which has stalled the process. They have also attached a rider to every version of their budget proposal that de-funds the Affordable Care Act (this had zero to do with the budget) and refuse to take it away. Imagine if the Senate was forcing a government shutdown by saying they’d only pass the budget if it included a rider requiring background checks at gun shows. Same thing.
The intransigence of the Republicans in this way has created a scenario where the government will shutdown without their vote. They cannot vote to destroy the ACA and win, but they can shutdown the government. This has actually been their plan since at least May. In May Paul Ryan even made this clear:
Republicans face a listless summer, with little appetite for compromise but no leverage to shape an agreement. Without that leverage, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday, there is no point in opening formal budget negotiations between the House and the Senate.
….“The debt limit is the backstop,” Ryan said before taking the stage at a debt summit organized by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in Washington. “I’d like to go through regular order and get something done sooner rather than later. But we need to get a down payment on the debt. We need entitlement reform. We’re very serious about tax reform because we think that’s critical to economic growth and job creation. Those are the things we want to talk about.”
Even Michele Bachmann said of the shutdown:
“We’re very excited,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”
In the absence of the ability to destroy the ACA by vote, and without public opinion on their side, the GOP needed leverage – so they planned to take a hostage. Well, they planned to take 314 million hostages (that would be the US population). While 800,000 Americans will now be without pay, the shutdown is costing our economy in the neighborhood of $1 billion each week. This is affecting everybody who lives in this country, including you and me.
The talking point for the GOP is that they want to go to conference with the Senate and work out their differences on the ACA. The thing is they have had this chance and then the votes were tallied not in their favor. Also, passing a budget doesn’t preclude further talks about the ACA. It just allows for those talks based on the merit of the proposals, without the Democrats having to think about the unrelated suffering of hundreds of millions of Americans (Americans the GOP claims to care about more than anybody, but who they are now using as negotiating chips, hoping the Democrats concern for the people will cause them to permit legislation they wouldn’t vote for otherwise). It’s like the story of the judgment of Solomon. The nation is the baby, and the GOP, which clearly doesn’t care if the baby gets cleaved in half, is hoping the real mother will cave rather than see the baby severed in two.
Here are reporters trying to get an answer out of John Boehner on whether or not he’d allow a vote that would fund the government, with further talks about the ACA taking place once the government is running. I don’t see how anybody can watch this and think the GOP has any interest in speaking candidly about the subject.
In order to come out of this with any hope of not losing their ass in national elections in 2016, the GOP needs to convince America that it’s the Democrats who are responsible for all this. Thankfully, polling indicates that nobody but the most staunch Tea Partiers are buying that story. The Democrats want government to operate the way it has been laid out. In that system, sometimes laws get passed that you don’t like (it happened for us during George W. Bush’s two terms). You simply must live with that fact and try to change things fairly. We all must live with it. You don’t get to take the nation hostage when you can’t win fairly, in order to oppose laws you don’t like.
Now, those who read my blog know I’m not the biggest fan of the Democrats either (though they are by far the lesser of the two evils). But any fair person must realize that the government shutdown is not only the fault of the Republicans, but it is something they have intentionally set up over the last several months (at least). Whether you agree with the platform of the GOP or not, surely you must acknowledge that their actions betray contempt for democracy, contempt for the process of legislation for which they signed up, and a level of care for Americans (and America, herself) that rises to only their level of usefulness to legislators who have spent the last four decades looking out for the wealthiest among us. Even if you think we need prayer in schools and that gays are icky, surely you have sufficient moral fiber to be disgusted that the Republicans are treating you this way. Surely you have the character to deplore pursuing legislation, even legislation you may support, through means so unethical they’d give a sociopath pause.
I’m kind of split on the outcome. On the one hand, I hate seeing America burning. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of negotiating with terrorists, as it were. So far the Senate is holding firm, saying that the GOP can play fair or not play at all. It’s a terrible situation they’ve been put in, but it’s only for now. In 2016 the GOP will pay for what they’ve done…unless we let them lie their way out of it.
TPM has a handy list of the six big Republican talking points on the ACA and the shutdown, all nicely and concisely refuted.