Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Politics of the 2013 U.S. Shutdown

I still follow national politics very closely, but nowadays I don't write about it as much as I did during the Bush Dark Ages.

However, the ridiculous clown show surrounding the government shutdown, led by the Tea Party mutiny within the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, has literally forced my hand into typing a reaction.


My news & perspective comes from a wide variety of sources: the Google News & Pulse News aggregators, TPM, Democracy Now!, CNN, Bartcop, Politico, BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, etc.
One of the problems with today's political climate is that many people only get their news & opinion from limited sources, usually just those that affirm their existing worldview.

As brain-dead as their commentary often is, I often visit FoxNation or other ultra-conservative media outlets, to get a handle on how people (whom I usually don't agree with) see things. Conversely, it's also easy to tell when someone starts sputtering talking points & bizarro facts straight from Fox News, when it's clear they don't understand the reality of the situation.

I've always been an Independent voter, but generally I think the Republican party is wrong on most policy positions. They're ideas are often short-sighted, usually benefiting a narrow set of interest groups. Through endless obstruction & political stunts like this shutdown, they've also shown they simply can't run the federal government effectively. Despite the myth of their superiority on fiscal matters, the modern GOP have a pretty poor record of racking up public debt & governing in a way that does not advance positive solutions for the country.

The staggering incompetence of the Bush administration screwed the country and the global economy over 8 years. Their "Shoot first, ask questions later" cowboy approach to foreign policy left our country mired in *un-funded* trillion-dollar military occupations, which we are still trying to fully extract ourselves from. On the domestic front, they tried their best to give away everything in the public domain to Wall Street - by further deregulating the markets, so people lost their savings to the Great Casino, & by attempting to privatize Social Security.

Since Barack Obama was elected, the stated goal of the political opposition has been to make this President fail, at any cost. (I'm old enough to remember when criticizing President Bush was akin to anti-Americanism & treason, in the eyes of his supporters.) The Republican leaders have been quite open about the fact that their main objective is to oppose ANY progress the President, Democrats, & the reasonable Republicans seek to make.

Anti-Government politicians are the ultimate hypocrites, & they're also the masters of self-fulfilling prophecy... Their constituents are convinced that government does more harm than good, so they vote in these buffoons to prove them right, by causing chaos once in office - eliminating public programs & making the political process dysfunctional.

In fact, many Republicans actually ran on the promise of shutting down the government, as if this was a badge of honor!

Because I'm interested in this political theater for some reason, I was flipping through the cable news channels late last night as the shutdown loomed. Rachel Maddow had a good piece on the overt nature of this destructive political goal, leading to it's culmination last night:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For the 2 years when the Dems had control of Congress, after Obama was elected in '08, there was actually a fair amount of meaningful legislation passed.

Since John Boehner & the GOP have been running the House of Representatives, though, little of note has been advanced by them- except for 40+ failed attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act, ACA, or "Obamacare".

Thanks to the partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, Republican candidates in deep red areas have been forced to lurch farther & farther to the right... and, in many cases, lower & lower on the IQ scale. This has given rise to the completely anti-government "Tea Party" faction of Congress, which is responsible for the current state of affairs.

I have no love, or even trust, for the government by any means. However, I do understand that there are hundreds of thousands of public workers providing vital services every day. One of the benefits of being part of an organized society is a working government to keep things running smoothly.

The fringe element of the GOP has wildly miscalculated their strategy by willfully neglecting their basic duty to keep the government running, so the country can function. These ideological Reps. have no sense of responsibility or history, and they have completely ignored what happened last time their party, led by Newt Gingrich, tried to fold their arms & stomp their feet, at the expense of the nation:

Attempts to blame Obama or the Democrats for refusing to go to conference, or negotiate on terms, for a continuing resolution is bullshit. The Republicans in the House could agree to fund the government right now, by advancing the clean CR bill waiting for them. The merits & flaws of the Obamacare law can then be debated through normal procedure. It is a separate issue- one that should have no bearing, whatsoever, on whether government continues to function in a regular manner.

Despite claims by both sides, that it's their opponents who will not come to the negotiating table, it's now pretty obvious that the GOP have wanted to use this lack of a settled budget as leverage to hold the country hostage- in exchange for their demands for blocking the ACA from being implemented. The GOP is trying to twist the normal order of business, so they can hijack the legislative process.

The crazy thing is that the shut down doesn't even affect Obamacare, which is still funded! Also, the fact that millions of people are visiting the Healthcare.gov website, even causing system crashes, shows just how much people need health insurance.

The shut down is frankly a stupid strategy, & it's going to have serious consequences for the Republican party. Conservatives stuck in the Fox News/Right-Wing Radio alternate reality bubble seem to think they're doing the will of the people by shutting down the government. They are going to find out that not everyone is living in their distorted fantasy world, & the scrutiny of the real world is going to judge them harshly.

The often-used description of these conservative hard-liners as "tea-hadists" is completely justified. The Republican Tea party caucus is a small group of fanatics inflicting widespread, real damage on the general population, to force their ideological agenda.

To be clear, I don't think Obamacare, nor the President himself, are without their flaws. He has said himself that there's always room for improvement in the laws.

However, Pres. Obama consistently been the adult in the room, pushing to get important things done, in spite of an obstinate minority party. The petulant right-wingers would rather let the country fail, than allow Obama any perceived victories. He has still been able to advance certain policy goals- by outmaneuvering the Congressional Republicans, who cannot let their base see them doing anything but obstruct the evil Kenyan Socialist.

John Boehner has been pathetically ineffective as a House Speaker. Now he has been totally undermined by the self-serving weasels in his caucus, like Ted Cruz & Eric Cantor. You may not like Nancy Pelosi, but she would not have allowed this kind of subversion when she was Speaker.

Despite the right-wing rebellion in the House, thankfully there are still Republicans who haven't gone way off the deep end.

I don't often agree with the governor from my state, but Chris Christie (R-NJ) correctly calls the GOP shutdown strategy simply "irresponsible":

It's even more rare for me to agree with Rep. Pete King (R-NY), but even his crazy-ass recognized this is going to have a negative effect on his party & the country:

So, it's been almost 24hrs & the standoff is still going on. At some point, the House Republicans are going to have to realize this is a suicide mission & agree to stop this madness.

The irony of the whole situation is that the ACA is actually a relatively conservative health insurance system! It's a product of the Heritage Foundation & "Romneycare" the system implemented by the cyborg former gov. of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. The insurance is still provided from private companies, & now there will be competitive markets for businesses to compete. These are originally conservative ideas.

The people who don't see the necessity of individual mandates, apparently don't understand the concept of "insurance". The purpose is to get the maximum number of people enrolled to create as large a funding pool as possible. It's not that hard to figure out. The idea that people should be left to fully pay their own health care costs is idiotic & selfish.

If dirty, hippy, socialist liberals (like me!) had our way, there would be a single-payer, or Medicare-for-all, system of nationalized health care. The private insurers would be outlawed entirely. Conservatives may gasp or grimace at that idea, but people's health care should not be administered by for-profit private corporations. Those profits are unnecessarily adding to the already exorbitant  health care costs in this country.

I'm always baffled by the argument that the government has no business being involved in health care. 

It's not specifically used as a basis for legal interpretations, but I'd say look no further than the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. It clearly states the people's government is meant to "...promote the general Welfare". What could be more crucial to the general welfare of the citizens of a country than their health?!?!

One could also look to Article I, Section 8, Clause 1,  the Tax & Spending Clause:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

If people could look past their ingrained aversion to all things government, they'd see that having & funding essential public services, including health care, are essential to improving the standards of living for everyone in society.

Sure there's always potential for abuse & corruption in the various gov't agencies & services, but that doesn't mean we should abandon the idea of a representative government that can work for its citizens. We need people in office who believe that the power of government can be effective, not people who think that government needs to be "drown in a bathtub".

We cannot even have these debates about social policy, until the Congress gets its act together & starts to operate in a normal way. This means the Congresspeople have to stop drinking whatever's making them lose their minds & move forward with the business of the nation.

The onus is on the House Republicans to simply agree to keeping the government running & it's employees working, with no legislative strings attached.

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