The Federal Government is in partial shutdown over President Obama’s refusal to submit to Congressional Republican extortion by delaying full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare or, as I like to call it, the Greater Health Insurance Industry Profits Act of 2010). At the outset, about eight hundred thousand “non-essential” Federal employees were furloughed. Notably, programs that help people are the most affected, while the military and the police state programs are “business as usual”. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel has called back most of the 350,000 furloughed civilian defense workers. John W. Whitehead, author of the book “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State”, wrote an article cross-posted on several Internet sites, including a You Tube version with a computerized voice, giving a run down of the police state programs not affected by the shutdown. These include the NSA’s global spying program, roving (i.e. in places other than airports) TSA searches, and the growing domestic use of drones.
It is appalling that in the “land of the free”, national security is defined by how many countries we can invade and how many people we can kill abroad and spy on at home, while other programs that contribute to national security in terms of the health and well-being of the population, such as food stamps, Social Security, and Headstart, programs that actually help people, are under ever-increasing attack.
The latest attack comes in the fight over the debt ceiling. The story goes that if Congress does not vote to raise the debt ceiling, the government loses the ability to borrow to pay its bills and if the United States defaults on its bills, horrible things will happen to the national and global economies. But, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently pointed out, “There is no such thing as a debt ceiling in this country because it’s never not been increased. And that’s why we’re $17 trillion in debt.”
As a practical matter, the Senator from Oklahoma is correct, at least as far as the history of debt ceiling debates is concerned. But what about this time? The House of Representatives’ radical Republicans, who make the conservative Coburn look like a flaming liberal, have the Republican leadership in thrall. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promised not to let the United States default, but later said “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit.” i.e. one free of the outrageous demands of the radicals.
I am no fan of Obamacare, because I believe it is a giveaway to the health insurance industry. I wanted Medicare for all, and the private health insurance industry consigned to the dustbin of history. But now that the Greater Health Insurance Industry Profits Act of 2010 (the ACA) is the law of the land, we should examine the House Republican efforts to repeal or delay it.
House Republicans have voted over 40 times to repeal a law that has been largely upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. They have known each time that their tactics would never achieve repeal. So why the constant repetition, as if they were a group of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) patients constantly washing their hands to keep themselves germ-free? Doesn’t Congress have anything more important to do than to keep taking futile votes on the same subject? Don’t these Republicans employ media-savvy staffers who can keep the folks back home informed in some other fashion of their Representatives’ continued opposition to the expansion of health insurance accessibility?
Frustrated by the futility of their efforts to repeal or delay Obamacare, the radical Republicans have upped the ante by tying their demands, which now go far beyond the health law, to funding of the government. Obama, like President Bill Clinton before him, told the Republicans to go head and shut down the government. Boehner and gang took the bait and shut down some parts of the government. Now the government is about to crash its head into the debt ceiling unless Congress passes legislation raising the ceiling. The radical Republicans think they can play chicken with President Obama and that Kenyan-born, Marxist, secret Muslim N-word will blink. (Psst, Hawaii produced his birth certificate, Marxists and Muslims don’t get along–see Afghanistan–so that leaves…oh well.)
As Joshua Holland put it in his article, The Shutdown and “He Said-She Said” Reporting:
“In 2007, Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and had deep political differences with then-President George W. Bush. Yet they passed a clean debt limit increase, with about as many Democrats as Republicans voting “aye.”
But imagine, for a moment, that Democrats had held the House two years earlier, in the fall of 2005, less than a year after Bush’s re-election. And imagine further that in exchange for not breaching the debt limit and bringing economic catastrophe down on the citizens of the United States, they had demanded that the Republican Senate pass, and the Republican president sign into law, all of the following: single-payer health-care, a federal living wage law (indexed to inflation, of course), the elimination of all oil subsidies, a roll-back of Bush’s tax cuts on high earners, strict limits on campaign financing, new regulations of greenhouse gas emissions and an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.”
It is hard to imagine because this year’s Republican hostage-taking is unprecedented.
The American people need not subject themselves to this kind of extortion. The debt ceiling must be abolished. It is not part of our Constitutional framework. (Then again the radical Republicans have only read the Provide for the Common Defense part of the Preamble, the free exercise clause of the First Amendment plus the imaginary part that applies that clause only to Christians, and the Second Amendment beginning after the well-regulated militia part.) It is only a statute that can be repealed as any other can be.
The debt ceiling came into existence in 1917 through the passage of the Second Liberty Bond Act to replace the inefficient process of securing Congressional approval every time the Treasury wanted to issue a bond. The ceiling was raised for the first time in 1939 and has been raised over 80 times since then.
What began as a matter of congressional convenience in budgeting has now become a tool for extortion by a minority who vehemently opposes a President. It has outlived its usefulness, indeed, its purpose has been perverted since it was originally enacted, and this perversion threatens the economic health of the nation and the smooth functioning of the government. The minority that wants to basically repeal the elections of 2008 and 2012, as well as repeal the social safety net established piecemeal in the 20th century, needs to find another weapon. Maybe they should trying convincing people that they have the right ideas by winning more elections and becoming the majority.
Oh wait, they tried that and it hasn’t worked. That’s why they use voter suppression laws and Congressional extortion to try to get what they want.
That means it is up to the people to put these radical Republicans in their place, which is out of office. Unfortunately, there are several problems here. Most Americans don’t like Congress, but they like their representative, so they keep electing him or her. You see the barrier to change here. Of course, gerrymandering and the corrupting influence of money in politics fuels that trend. Money in politics is the reason that a bill requiring universal background checks for gun purchases failed even though 90% of the people favored it. The NRA and the gun and ammo manufacturers associations didn’t like it, and let their money do the talking. (Corporations are people and spending money is speech, so sayeth the Supreme Court). Even if the people’s voice is heard, it would take some time to effect a repeal of the debt ceiling.
In the meantime, maybe Congress should raise its IQ ceiling.