GOP actions on Affordable Care Act hurt the economy
House Republicans’ rabid hatred of Obama reached new heights this month. Since they can’t express their rage the way they would like to, they transfer it to a Republican health-care proposal named after Obama. They tried to repeal Obamacare for a 41st time and then passed a spending bill conditioned on defunding the program.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said that was the dumbest idea he’d ever heard of, because, well, they can’t defund Obamacare, an assessment Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., shares. But then, they are not talking here about the top of the gene pool.
Sen. Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, added: “There isn’t anybody that thinks that Obamacare is going to get defunded. It cannot happen.” He added, “It is as impossible as anything can possibly be in Washington, D.C.” The Senate is not going to pass it and the president would veto it in any case.
Speaker John Boehner nonetheless termed the vote a victory for the American people. That makes about as much sense as Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., comparing the GOP’s fiscal lunacy to Rosa Parks, Lech Walesa, and Martin Luther King.
Eric Cantor, the majority leader, is apparently also having delusions: he believes someone has to protect middle-class families from Obamacare’s “horrific effects,” you know, like having health-care benefits similar to Cantor’s. An HHS report published by USA Today shows that 6.4 million Americans will be able to buy insurance at $100 or less a month through the new health exchanges because of tax subsidies.
The Republican theology is that Obamacare is extremely unpopular: a recent poll found that 43 percent of Americans favored the law and 54 percent opposed it. But all such polls find that 16 percent or so believe the law doesn’t go far enough. In other words, about 59 percent of Americans support the law or something even more far-reaching. You won’t find that in any Republican talking points.
There are about 40 people in a 435-member House of Representatives who are so angry they are ready to blow up the economy. They are part of a reactionary political movement funded by corporate interests and plutocrats like the Koch brothers to oppose government.
A recent tax filing showed the Kochs spent at least $250 million supporting such activities in 2012, and probably even more for which no disclosure is required. They have created dozens of front groups such as Freedom Partners, Freedom Works, and Americans for Prosperity, “astroturf” groups that pose as grass-roots organizations.
Their real fear is that Obamacare will work, that people will become “hooked” on it and refuse to give it up. If 30 million uninsured people get health insurance at the projected prices on exchanges in Minnesota, California, and New York, they might indeed get to like the program.
Because of this radical faction, the government appears headed for a shutdown Oct. 1, and possibly a first-ever default on the federal debt. Former Reagan Treasury Secretary James Baker III has said, “A failure to pay what is already due will cause certain and serious harm to our credit, financial markets, and our citizens.”
He could have added that it might also result in the dollar being displaced as a reserve currency, inevitably causing interest rates to go up. Baker noted that Reagan raised the debt limit 17 times during his eight years in office.
The reality is that no administration can spend a dime unless it is appropriated by Congress. In other words, the entire debt was agreed to by the House. Having spent the money, they now refuse to allow the government to borrow enough money to pay the bills. Meanwhile, the House just passed another spending bill at the same time they are undermining the country’s credit rating.
But being a tea partier means never having to make sense. The last time Republicans threatened to blow up the economy, we lost an estimated 900,000 jobs because of the uncertainty.
Bill Clinton previously suggested that Obama could avoid default by invoking the 14th Amendment, which says the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned, but Obama has said that he would not do that.
The problem could also be solved by letting the full House vote on raising the debt ceiling. Instead, Boehner is insisting on following the so-called Hastert rule, which says that no legislation will be introduced if a Republican majority is not behind it. So he is giving a veto to the 40 craziest people in the House, with predictable results.
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.
This article was published in the Mankato Free Press, Wednesday, September 25, 2013.