Society and Culture
Here’s Why Republicans Shut Down the Government
Well folks, it happened. After a collective freak out from the media – and a collective yawn from the general public – the government shut down today. Not surprising.
If you’ve been keeping up with this latest political soap opera, you’ll know that House Republicans planned this ridiculousness months ago, when they refused to meet with House Democrats and Hash out their budgetary differences ahead of time.
You’ll also know that this government shutdown isn’t the end of the world. A ton of federal employees will be furloughed, possibly without pay, military troops will stop receiving paychecks, national parks will close, passport applications won’t get processed, and Social Security checks will probably be a bit delayed. Obamacare will still become law. And Ted Cruz will forever be known as the latest King of Crazytown. (I told you all that someone would replace Michele Bachmann!)
To the average American, some of these facts will be irritating, inconvenient, or downright awful. (Are you the poor soul who planned a Washington, D.C. vacation for this upcoming week? No panda for you!) And the economy will definitely take a dip. But overall, nothing too horrific.
But! Let’s not get too comfy in our government-shutdown-who-cares apathy. Even though this doesn’t mean our entire democracy will come crashing down around our shoulders, it does bring up some very interesting questions about who matters in our government.
Let’s start with Obamacare, shall we?
A few days ago, Ted Cruz filibustered Congress for 21 hours, talking about why Obamacare is an awful, terrible idea.
First of all Ted, trying to dismantle healthcare reform while engaging in a very medically irresponsible activity probably isn’t your smartest idea. Just something to think about.
Second of all, what is so awful about Obamacare? Why is Teddy over here torturing himself, and creating quite the media circus, over defunding it?
Here’s what’s so awful about it – Obamacare benefits mostly everyone, but mostly poor people and women. Who are, incidentally, often the same thing. Also people of color and queer folks. Again, many times the same thing. Who does it benefit the least? Rich people! White people! Men! Again – many times, one in the same.
Ted Cruz’s obsession with defunding Obamacare is reflective of a larger idea that’s present across both parties, but which has come to a particularly alarming head within the GOP. Poor people, women, people of color, and queer people don’t matter. They are not worth out tax dollars or our reform efforts, and bills – like Obamacare – that would benefit them are offensive. That’s a really classy concept, isn’t it?
Seriously. It’s pretty gross that House Republicans would rather the government shut down than to extend basic healthcare to folks who don’t have access to racial, gendered, or economic privilege.
Now, obviously, that’s pretty shitty. But since the whole government shutdown thing isn’t overly dire, it’s not really a big deal, right? Jerks will be jerks, can’t we call just roll our eyes and move on?
Not really. Very soon, this government shutdown won’t be our only problem. In just 17 days, Congress will have to vote to lift the United States’ debt ceiling. While this sounds like voting to allow the government to spend more and rack up more debt, that’s not at all what it means – instead, lifting the debt ceiling simply means voting to keep the American economy running.
Without lifting the debt ceiling, the U.S. won’t be able to pay any of its bills. That means indefinitely delayed Social Security checks, no more benefits for veterans, and no more paychecks for soldiers. Also, hundreds of thousands of companies that do business with the U.S. government won’t get paid, the cost of borrowing money will skyrocket, and the U.S. won’t be seen as a safe place for business or investment.
Basically the U.S.’ economy, and the global economy, would go kaput. You think 2008 was bad? Failing to lift the debt ceiling would be much, much worse. And guess what! The GOP doesn’t want to do it.
Unless of course, a whole bunch of entirely unreasonable demands are met. Halting healthcare reform, building an oil pipeline, and nixing the regulation of greenhouse gases all make the list. It reads, essentially, like Mitt Romney’s campaign platform.
But, you see, Mittens lost the 2012 election for a reason.
He wasn’t shy about his disdain for the less fortunate, for those of us who are outside of privilege. We all remember his comment about the 47 percent. And last November, we all collectively decided that his wasn’t the kind of attitude we wanted in the White House. The American people have spoken! This case should be closed.
But the GOP isn’t willing to let it go. Some of their other demands over the past few years have included eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood – which would leave thousands of women, mostly poor and of color, without access to necessary healthcare – slashing food stamp funding – a program that is already insufficient for making sure the poor don’t starve to death – and preserving or implementing a bunch of tax reforms that benefit the rich and screw the rest of us.
The pattern is very clear. To the GOP, political negotiation means demanding people who are outside of privilege be made as vulnerable as possible. It means crusading against women, poor folks, people of color, and the queer community. It means threatening political and economic ruin for the entire country if our lives and livelihoods aren’t seriously threatened.
So, even though this latest government shutdown isn’t the end of the world, it’s only one episode in an ongoing political drama. And in 17 days, things could get much, much worse.
Because today, the Republican Party has shown that it would rather shut down the government than support a whole bunch of disenfranchised citizens gaining access to healthcare.
What will they do on October 17th?
Hannah R. Winsten (@HannahRWinsten) is a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and blogger living in New York’s sixth borough. She hates tweeting but does it anyway. She aspires to be the next Rachel Maddow.
Featured image courtesy of [Mount Rainier National Park via Flickr]