The government shutdown is a travesty that has been orchestrated by the GOP.

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.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • baal

    I’m convinced the TeaParty types view this as a win-win for them. On one hand, they get to undermine the ACA and the president if ‘he gives in’. On the other hand, they like to argue that government is incompetent so you should just not ever pay taxes or vote. If it shuts down, then you’ll see government failure in action!

    Only that’s not right. What it shows is government fails when there isn’t government.

    I’m also generally stunned by the amount of misery this will create across society with folks not getting paychecks and tourism dollars being blocked by closing federal lands / monuments. The shutdown weakens us internationally as well. If the US projects this massive a level of dysfunction, do you think China or the neo-soviets will be dissuaded from engaging in actions contrary to US interest?

    • Spuddie

      Its typical of the “Anti-Big Government” types. They do everything in their power to ensure the government can’t function, then they complain that government can’t do its job so functions must be privatized. Privatizing leading to money going in their pockets.

      Bunch of lying, stealing hypocritical [insert expletive of choice here]

      • Baby_Raptor

        I prefer “Fucknuggets,” personally.

  • SabsDkPrncs

    If the Tea Party really cared about the American people, they would designate themselves as non-essential employees and continue working without getting paid. It would be a drop in the bucket. But it would be a powerful statement that would garner very good press at a time when they badly need it. But heaven forbid that the Government Bad party stop taking government money (without a drug test too!)

    • Spuddie

      If the Tea Party really cared about the American People they would disband and commit mass suicide.

      Instead we are stuck with these do nothing, corrupt, theocratic nutjobs ruining it for everyone.

    • baal

      Slightly OT but I want mandatory drug testing done no less than 2x yearly for all Federal House officials and all elected officials in Florida.

      • Spuddie

        But not with that company which the governor’s wife has an ownership interest in. This is what you get for electing a man who plead no contest to the worst Medicare Fraud case in US history.

    • RobMcCune

      The tea party view the government and the american people as resources to be exploited, consumed and frivolously misused. Their narcissistic view of themselves means they view every dollar they get from the government as their rightful entitlement, while other people getting money from the government are stealing what is rightfully theirs.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      If the Tea Party really cared about the American people, they would
      designate themselves as non-essential employees and continue working
      without getting paid.

      They can’t.

      Congress gets paid during a shutdown, while staffers don’t. Here’s why.

      Here’s the background:
      The government shutdown only affects agencies and employees that are
      funded through annual appropriations. But that doesn’t apply to members
      of Congress. Salaries for members of the House and Senate are written into permanent law.
      (Members in both chambers currently make $174,000 a year.) That’s why
      politicians get paid even in the event that Congress can’t agree on a
      bill to fund the government.

      There’s another twist, though. The current Congress can’t actually stop itself from getting paid. That’s because the 27th Amendment specifically says that the salaries of the House and Senate can’t be altered until the start of a new term.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Representatives are up for election every two years. You only have to wait until 2014.

  • Bigus Deanus

    Let’s face it, the GOP have had major issues with Obama since before he became president, and have spent the entire time trying to discredit him with nonsensical stories based around the fact that he was born with more melanin in his skin than most of them. They have obfuscated their aims with this quite successfully amongst some of the US population, where you now have US citizens who hate anything with his name attached to it.

    He’s a Muslim, he’s a Communist, he’s an Atheist, he’s a Socialist, he’s not a US-born citizen, he’s anti-gun, he’s anti-god, he’s pro-LGBTQ, he’s pro-abortion; pretty much everything that sends the willies up the “god-fearin’, gun-totin’, righteous, right-wing” members of society. This shutdown is just another sick effort to discredit him, where they forget that in order to spite their face, cutting their own noses off isn’t the most sensible thing one can do.