By Barbra Streisand.
As we now enter the third week of the unnecessary government shutdown, Americans should remember the words of GOP Representative Martin Stutzman, “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” This statement reflects a cultural resentment in the land over a changing America. Maybe if the President calls and says he respects the Congressman and the Speaker, the country could move forward.
As the October 1 New York Times front-page story pointed out, this shutdown was conceived in meetings sponsored by the billionaire Koch Brothers and former Reagan Administration Attorney General Edwin Meese. The purpose was to defund the duly authorized Affordable Care Act by holding the rest of the government hostage. Talking points were prepared for members of Congress and tens of millions of dollars were spent on propaganda trying to convince Americans that the health care law was going to ruin America and end their health care options.
President Obama has provided access to health care through private insurers that will both help our economy and millions of Americans. It should be noted that the ACA was based on an idea from the conservative Heritage Foundation. The 2012 GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney signed similar legislation in Massachusetts as Governor. Our country is one of the few major industrial nations in the world that did not provide access to health care for its own people. Many have a simple, single payer system.
The opening days of the ACA showed significant demand for health care access. Perhaps the greatest Republican fear is that their rhetoric about the ACA, including government “death panels,” will be quickly proven false. When explained properly, the provisions of the ACA are quite popular. Americans will soon understand that the law provides both needed benefits, and reduces medical costs and the deficit in the long run. This is the forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
There is no excuse for the obstinacy of Speaker Boehner insisting on renegotiating a law passed by Congress and deemed constitutional by the GOP-led Supreme Court. There should be an immediate vote in Congress to re-open the government of, by and for the people. Let the people see the Tea Party Republicans vote.
This government shutdown has had immediate effects. It has delayed the death benefits for survivors and associated funeral costs of the soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. This is just the most outrageous outcome of the GOP’s actions. Embarrassed Republicans quickly tried to pass an ad hoc fix. They pretend the World War II Memorial should be open and ignore that imported seafood is not being inspected. This shutdown is also costing the American people real money — over a billion dollars so far. The stock market has reacted by shredding over 600 points, as uncertainty mounts and Americans are thrown out of work.
Reacting to polls, the Republicans switched gears and decided that Obamacare was not the issue but federal spending was. A budget sequester is already in effect cutting federal spending in arbitrary ways. The deficit has already been cut in half. Our children are now being denied placement in Head Start programs, and vital other government services, like medical research, have been curtailed. The Senate also accepted the Republican total budget number, but this was not enough. The GOP decided to fool with the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening to exceed the debt ceiling.
Apparently there were enough moderate Republicans left in Congress to pass the Senate bill to end the shutdown and pass an immediate debt ceiling extension, but SPEAKER BOEHNER, fearful of the Tea Party and its billionaire backers, WILL NOT ALLOW A VOTE. The GOP position is, “Give us what we want or we will promote economic chaos.” They ultimately want to overturn the results of the last election.
In this country, our elections are supposed to mean something for policy outcomes. In 2012, the President was easily reelected with 332 electoral votes, the Democrats picked up two more seats in the Senate and received over 1.1 million more votes for Congressional seats than the Republicans. The Republicans were able to retain control of the House of Representatives because GOP-led state legislatures redrew Congressional lines after the reapportionment and redistricting following the 2010 census. According to the latest AP-GfK POLL, the approval rating of the Congress is 5%, the lowest figure ever recorded.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted one of the real aims of the Tea Party conservatives is to undermine the faith of the American people that the federal government can solve national problems. Given all the voter restrictions Republicans have instituted on the state level, they hope fewer and fewer Americans are civically engaged and vote. This should particularly concern American women as it took nearly 150 years of struggle to have this “right”.
I hope enough Americans draw the opposite conclusion and hold those Republicans responsible for this orchestrated and manufactured crisis fully accountable in 2014.