House GOP shuts down government, harming workers and economy alike

The federal government remains in partial shut down today after the House GOP, spurred on by a fringe element of Tea Party extremists, refused to pass legislation authorizing a budget until and unless funding for the Affordable Care Act is eliminated or the implementation of some of its important features are delayed.

The problem is that the ACA is already law and has been delayed once so that insurance exchanges could be set up. The GOP demands for rolling back so-called “Obamacare” therefore amount to blackmail and coercion by a minority of politicians who lost the legislative fight to defeat it. Now like children who can’t get their way, Republicans are using the budget battle and looming debt-ceiling crisis to try and gain concessions to which they have no right.

The GOP says it is the party of responsible economics and ordinary Americans, but when one looks at their track record, all that can be seen is a list of failures and lies:

1. The GOP’s economic ideology and subsequent policies under President Bush deregulated the economy, particularly the financial sector, to risky levels never before seen. As a result banks and financial institutions engaged in increasingly irrational behavior in order to make short but huge profits that led to the Great Recession in 2008. The idea that markets work better without government interference is a facile talking point, but in reality it means leaving capitalists to do whatever they want no matter how the risky the outcomes. Government oversight of the financial industry is not the same thing as “interference” unless one thinks it is better to let wealthy and powerful banks and hedge funds to loot the financial sector and outsource the cost to the taxpayers, which is exactly what happened. The rich got richer, but Americans had to foot the bill for it in the form of government bailouts of banks, the auto industry, and housing market.

2. The GOP’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act is also an irrational piece of fantasy motivated by the false economic ideology it continues to promote in the face of overwhelming facts that “free” markets basically amount to permitting market failures. The problem of uninsured Americans is the single largest example of a market failure in recent history. Over 50 million Americans lack health insurance because the costs have exceeded the demand—individuals and businesses alike simply cannot afford insurance because of sky-rocketing medical care costs and declining marginal profits of insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act uses markets to incentivize competition and create better access for the uninsured. Why does the GOP resist using market exchanges for providing health care? The answer is that Republicans irrationally assume (along with a public blitz of misinformation) that the federal government is making a grab for health care, and that “socialist” Obama is undermining democracy, but this is red herring and racism rolled into one. The truth is that the Affordable Care Act will help millions of ordinary Americans get access to health insurance they could not otherwise afford, which means that the GOP’s opposition to it reveals that it really doesn’t care about ordinary Americans at all.

The sad fact is American politics is increasingly partisan and divisive because it is increasingly driven by personalities, and they are increasingly uneducated, ill-mannered, and downright spiteful personalities. Just listen to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who claims that Republicans are “right” that the Affordable Care Act will destroy America. Since the law went into effect yesterday, the sky hasn’t fallen but Republicans like King keep on believing they are right, and this dangerous mentality of extremism is at the root of the problem. It must be rooted out methodically before this fringe minority destroys America and the global economy along with it.