Sunday, October 6, 2013

To Govern Or Not

As I write, Washington DC is caught up in the throes of the Federal Shutdown. Government employees have been sent home, unless they were considered essential, in which case they were told to work with the knowledge that they will some day get paid back pay. Those Capitol Police responding to an incident where the grounds were on lockdown were in fact working without pay.

Furloughed FEMA workers have been asked to return to duty so they may deal with a hurricane threat in the Gulf States. A Park Service employee staffing closed gates has been berated by a Republicans Congressman for doing her job. Government is said to be non-essential except when government services are necessary – does this make any sense? Some restaurants in the area are offering free food to furloughed employees to show solidarity – and maybe increase foot traffic. Many local businesses and Metro are seeing decreased revenues because the volumes of usual workers are not there. In fact, the only benefit I have heard of is a lower volume of traffic in the area.

The Democrats say that a clean Continuing Resolution (CR) with no strings attached can be passed in the House but that the Speaker is too afraid of the Tea Party Caucus to bring it to a vote. The Senate said they will not vote piecemeal, or for bills with conditions attached but will pass a clean bill. The President stated he will not negotiate until the debt ceiling is raised and a CR is passed. I agree that he should stand firm here. So is there a real stalemate here or do we have a situation which was started without a plan B for an exit strategy? Does anyone sense a feeling of unreality? Does anyone note that this is not to get rid of the sequester or to pass a budget. It is just to continue finding at current levels for six weeks until a real budget can be passed. This crisis was manufactured as the spending hit the end of the Federal fiscal year and no more funds had been authorized.

It seems to me that Washington is becoming a division of Disney and we are all living in Fantasy Land. You know the place where little girls become princesses, fairy godmothers grant wishes and frogs turn into princes? The House of Representatives appears to be living in this state of unreality. They are claiming that NO really means YES and that saying something makes it so. This type of magical think-speak should disappear as one becomes an adult, and usually does in the absence of severe mental illness. But what else could lead one to believe the possibility that passing a "defunding Obamacare" motion 50 times makes it happen? Are they all wishing upon a star?

Well, according to the New York Times today, a loose organization of very rich right wing conservatives (Koch Brothers and Former AG Ed Meese to mention a few) has been pushing for this day for years and revel in it happening now.

They have funded anti-Obamacare ads and campaigns since the introduction of the legislation and have increased them recently. It matters little to them that many of the claims they make are untrue (remember "death panels?"), misrepresentations ("tear up your Obamacare cards" -- they do not exist) and meant to create divides in the country between the young and the old.

They are running scurrilous ads showing a foreboding figure as an ACA Uncle Sam performing pelvic exams on vulnerable college students. Groups have been founded such as Young Americans for Liberty and Generation Opportunity which target young people and college students. The Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity have also signed on to wage this battle. And of course, the me-too guy, Senator Ted Cruz, has been grandstanding for many of these causes. In an unheard of breech of etiquette, he has berated the House into many of these ill-considered moves, and then of course, stepped aside when they have been seen to be ineffective.

In the meantime reality has demonstrated that the sign up for the ACA has been a success, even as websites crashed and phone lines rang busy signals. Why? Because millions and millions of Americans surged forward in a visceral response to the nonsense on Capitol Hill, and signed on to the exchanges or Federal sites. There are said to be over 35 million Americans without healthcare at this time, and this does not include undocumented adults who are not qualified.

Some have reported that almost 9 million either logged on or signed up in person in the first few days. People in some places were said to be in tears, because they had waited for so long for the sign up day. Even though the implementation does not start until January, they wanted to be first in line.

This program will not be perfect, and I am certain we will see some bumps in the road, but the response puts the lie to the claims of the right that the American people do not want this. The rich may not want it, but real people who have been denied care for many years see this as a lifeline. They no longer have to sell their homes in order to pay for chemotherapy, or watch their child struggle with congenital conditions. Seniors who are covered by Medicare are also seeing the benefits as the drug program donut hole slowly disappears until it goes away completely in a few years. The recent college graduate or grad student allowed to have coverage on a parent policy can also see the benefits as they may enter the work force in a job without coverage. Americans know that this has and will be a help to them and their families.

So why is the House continuing to beat this drum?

In a recent speech Hillary Clinton spoke of our "living in an evidence free zone where ideology trumps data and common sense."

Only when the American people speak out and let the Congress know that enough is enough will this nonsense stop. Why should a few hundred people with a lot of money hold the country and its laws hostage to an ideology without a heart? Why does the right continue to deny the legitimacy of this President and the law deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court? Why are a few allowed to threaten the pensions of the many by threatening to deny the increase in the Federal Debt Ceiling?

The big banks and other Wall Street types profited greatly by the downturn, but real people lost much of their savings and saw their home equity disappear in the foreclosure mess. In an era of decreasing incomes, is the dwindling middle class going to stand by and again see our investments made worthless in another artificial financial crisis? An interesting discussion about this was presented in a film I saw recently -- "Inequality for All" with Robert Reich in which the former Secretary of Labor under Clinton speaks about the widening gulf between the rich and the rest of us. He provides a lesson for us all here. Go see the movie if you can.

So what can or should we do? First of all call your representatives -- let them know that this situation on Capitol Hill is untenable. (My representatives are all Democrats, so I can get little traction here. I must rely on those of you from the Red States.) Make some noise, vote in the primaries in the next year. Get some good candidates chosen who can replace these Tea Party types who care little about the Americans who might be poor, have diverse nationalities or believe in the real American Dream. If you are in a safe district, volunteer somewhere else by phone banking, help by registering new voters. Let's get our country back from those who would destroy it! Do let me know your thoughts here.

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