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“A Functioning Government Is A Problem”: Shutdown Isn’t Symptom of Tea Party Ideology, It Is Tea Party Ideology

It’s easy to wonder how a group of people hired to do one job — simply to keep a country running — could be bungling it so terribly. That is, until you remember that a powerful faction of those people were never interested in doing that one job in the first place.

Today’s government shutdown, hitched to an unrealistic laundry list of demands, isn’t a symptom of Tea Party ideology — it is Tea Party ideology. The Tea Party and its allies in Congress have never been interested in using the government to solve problems. Instead, they believe that a functioning government is a problem in itself. And they are willing to risk untold damage to the country in order to get their way.

In previous partisan budget disputes, at least we’ve had the comfort of imagining that neither party wanted to completely destroy the government. Not so this time.

The Republican Party under Tea Party control is in such denial about reality that it is willing to deal a blow to the nation’s economy just because it can’t believe, and won’t admit, that it lost the last two presidential elections. They’re also hoping that their antics will play to their advantage in future elections, deliberately planning votes they hope will back vulnerable Senate Democrats into tight corners.

Just look at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who somehow has managed to wrest control of the Republican Party after less than a year in the Senate. Cruz explained during his long imaginary filibuster last week that “if we listen to the American people, the vote would be 100 to 0 to defund Obamacare.” Apparently, holding a national election in which the candidate who created Obamacare handily defeated the candidate who wanted to repeal it doesn’t count as “listening to the American people.”

In fact, Cruz told us (and then shamelessly denied that he had told us) that those who criticize his defunding efforts are just like Neville Chamberlain, who wanted the British people to “accept the Nazis” and “appease them.”

Rep. John Culberson of Texas went even further, likening Republicans threatening to shut down the government to the 9/11 heroes on United Airlines Flight 93: “I said, you know like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!'”

Rep. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, likened the all-out fight to defund Obamacare to helping free Americans from drug addiction, saying, “President Obama can’t wait to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care.”

This is the alternate reality that is driving the government shutdown.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — far from a liberal group — has warned that a shutdown will hurt business. Wall Street is skittish. Even the majority of Americans who oppose Obamacare don’t want to see it fail. In all, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the plan to shut down the federal government to block the implementation of the ACA. A Quinnipiac poll this week found that 72 percent opposed the shutdown.

Now even Republican members of Congress are coming out to say that the shutdown is nuts and that it’s entirely the fault of a party that’s letting the Tea Party take the reins.

The Republican establishment and big business groups like the Chamber worked to get Tea Party senators and congressman into power and encouraged the rigid anti-government ideology that fueled the movement. They got what they paid for. Unfortunately, the rest of us are now paying too.


By: Michael Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, October 1, 2013

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Our Democracy Is At Stake”: It’s Not Just Obamacare, President Obama Is Defending The Health Of Our Democracy

This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.

What we’re seeing here is how three structural changes that have been building in American politics have now, together, reached a tipping point — creating a world in which a small minority in Congress can not only hold up their own party but the whole government. And this is the really scary part: The lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded. When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.

This danger was neatly captured by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, when he wrote on Tuesday about the 11th-hour debate in Congress to avert the shutdown. Noting a shameful statement by Speaker John Boehner, Milbank wrote: “Democrats howled about ‘extortion’ and ‘hostage taking,’ which Boehner seemed to confirm when he came to the floor and offered: ‘All the Senate has to do is say ‘yes,’ and the government is funded tomorrow.’ It was the legislative equivalent of saying, ‘Give me the money and nobody gets hurt.’ ”

Give me the money and nobody gets hurt.” How did we get here? First, by taking gerrymandering to a new level. The political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in The National Journal on March 16, noted that the 2010 election gave Republican state legislatures around the country unprecedented power to redraw political boundaries, which they used to create even more “safe, lily-white” Republican strongholds that are, in effect, an “alternative universe” to the country’s diverse reality.

“Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 69 percent to 64 percent,” wrote Cook. “But after the post-census redistricting and the 2012 elections, the non-Hispanic white share of the average Republican House district jumped from 73 percent to 75 percent, and the average Democratic House district declined from 52 percent white to 51 percent white. In other words, while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter.”

According to Cook, the number of strongly Democratic districts decreased from 144 before redistricting to 136 afterward. The number of strongly Republican districts increased from 175 to 183. “When one party starts out with 47 more very strong districts than the other,” said Cook, “the numbers suggest that the fix is in for any election featuring a fairly neutral environment. Republicans would need to mess up pretty badly to lose their House majority in the near future.” In other words, there is little risk of political punishment for the Tea Party members now holding the country hostage.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s inane Citizens United decision allowed a single donor, Sheldon Adelson, to create his own alternative universe. He was able to contribute so much money to support Newt Gingrich’s candidacy that Gingrich was able to stay in the Republican presidential primary race longer than he would have under sane campaign finance rules. As a result, Gingrich was able to pull the G.O.P.’s leading candidate, Mitt Romney, farther to the right longer, making it harder for him to garner centrist votes. Last month, for the first time ever in Colorado, two state senators who voted for universal background checks on gun purchases lost their seats in a recall election engineered by gun extremists and reportedly financed with some $400,000 from the National Rifle Association. You’re elected, you vote your conscience on a narrow issue, but now determined opponents don’t have to wait for the next election. With enough money, they can get rid of you in weeks.

Finally, the rise of a separate G.O.P. (and a liberal) media universe — from talk-radio hosts, to Web sites to Fox News — has created another gravity-free zone, where there is no punishment for extreme behavior, but there’s 1,000 lashes on Twitter if you deviate from the hard-line and great coverage to those who are most extreme. When politicians only operate inside these bubbles, they lose the habit of persuasion and opt only for coercion. After all, they must be right. Rush Limbaugh told them so.

These “legal” structural changes in money, media and redistricting are not going away. They are superempowering small political movements to act in extreme ways without consequences and thereby stymie majority rule. If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.

President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

By: Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed Columnist, the New York Times, October 2, 2013

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Democracy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Drunk And Disorderly”: Republican Extremists Are Shredding Every Principle The GOP Claims To Uphold

By Washington standards, the current government shutdown is an everyday disaster – of a kind we are gradually learning to expect whenever the Republican Party controls Congress. The impending breach of the nation’s credit, however, when those same Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit to cover the funds they have spent, threatens a singular catastrophe: unpredictable, global, yet entirely avoidable.

The blame for this disgrace seems to be apportioned properly by most Americans, according to the latest polling data. But the future of the country and the world may well rest on whether voters understand the roots of this crisis – in a party controlled by an extremist faction that is violating every public value that party has supposedly espoused for 30 years and more.

Republicans used to tell us, often with a self-righteous air, that they were the true upholders of constitutional order, the rule of law, fiscal probity, personal responsibility, majority rights, and market principles. In their unquenchable zeal to oppose President Obama and all his works, they have discarded every one of those ideals.

They have closed down the government, with all the costs and sorrows that has imposed on the American people, in order to save us all from the Affordable Care Act – a law duly passed under the Constitution and declared to be so by a majority of the Supreme Court, including its very conservative chief justice. (Following that decision, the Republicans spent the next year campaigning to defeat the president on a platform of repealing health care reform – and were soundly defeated by him instead.)

To measure just how grossly the current attempts to obstruct Obamacare violate their supposed devotion to “law and order,” just imagine the Republican reaction if House Democrats had shut down government to force George W. Bush to repeal his beloved tax cuts.

Such hypocrisy is business as usual. But what about the substance of the Republican complaint against health care reform? To anyone aware of the law’s historical context, the fanatical Republican opposition simply seems bizarre. Here, after all, is a market-based system, originally conceived and promoted at the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation as an alternative to Democratic plans for universal coverage. Its fundamental premises are individual responsibility and the power of competition to control costs and stop waste. Its first proven success occurred in a state governed by a Republican business executive — whom they later nominated for president.

Nevertheless, the Tea Party Republicans remain so determined to eradicate Obamacare that they are willing to jeopardize the economic recovery and the nation’s future prospects. They justify these outrages in the name of the budget, which they insist will be ruined by the costs of subsidizing health care for the country’s uninsured millions. But there is nothing fiscally responsible about shutting down government, an act that costs the U.S. economy at least $300 million each day – not including the additional burdens likely to arise from cancelled food inspections, disease monitoring, flu vaccinations, and weather reporting, to mention a few vital services that actually save enormous amounts of money and prevent untold suffering.

Should they continue to foment anarchy by causing a debt default, the ultimate costs are totally unpredictable – except that they will be very large. Even the threat of a shutdown in 2011 caused an immediate slowdown and an increase in unemployment. What will the real thing do? Nobody knows for certain, but the resulting market chaos and economic downturn will cause deeper fiscal problems as well as enormous public pain – at a time when deficits are falling faster than at any time in the past seven decades.

That is why the president and Senate Democrats are right to reject the House leadership’s demand for “negotiations.” Encouraging the destructive strategies of the extremists would convey precisely the wrong message to them and to the world. No doubt many Republicans, appalled at the shame that the Tea Party has brought upon their once Grand Old Party, are quietly applauding the president’s newfound firmness.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 3, 2013

October 4, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Power Of Personality”: “ObamaCares” And The Tea Party Doesn’t

Does anybody care that millions of Americans can’t afford health care? Does anyone care that before health care reform, insurance companies had the power to screw their customers royally? Does anyone care that Americans spend more per person on health care than people anywhere else in the world but are not nearly as healthy as the citizens of nations which provide comprehensive health care coverage to their residents?

Barack Obama does and the tea party doesn’t.

The most important stat that I saw in the 2012 National Election Day Exit Poll was the power of personality in the presidential race. A majority of the voters who looked for leadership, vision and shared values in 2012 supported Mitt Romney. The only other personal dimension measured by the exit poll was caring. The voters who sought compassion in their president supported Barack Obama by an overwhelming margin. The president’s advantage on empathy was so big that it overwhelmed the support that Mitt Romney had on the other three personality dimensions.

Compassion brings us to the Affordable Care Act or, as I like to call it, ObamaCares.

Many Americans who oppose ObamaCares also dislike the mean spirited nature of the tea party. You can talk about issues until the cows come home, but Americans vote for people, not issues. Voters use the candidates’ positions on issues to make personal judgments about their character. Many Americans may have philosophical reservations about the Affordable Care Act, but more than anything else they resent the tea party’s blind opposition to any proposal that improves the quality of health care available to the public. The tea party has demonstrated its indifference to the suffering of millions of Americans by its failure to offer its own plan to improve the floundering system of health care that undermines the health, wealth and well being of the United States

Politics is full of irony, which is what makes Washington so interesting. Republicans pushed hard on the budget because they wanted to use the threat of a shutdown as leverage against ACA. But on the same day that the wacko birds forced the federal government to close with dismal reviews, enrollment in Obamacare began with such a big demand that it overwhelmed computer systems. My guess is the wingnuts don’t see the irony, but do see a lot of red.

The early returns on the shutdown should worry Republicans. A CBS News survey conducted since the federal government closed for business early Tuesday morning indicates that a large majority (72 percent) of Americans oppose the shutdown over Obamacare. The tea party doesn’t seem to care about its electoral fortunes any more than it does about the well being of the working families who make this country great. The party’s indifference to people and politics will cost it dearly next year in the midterm elections.


By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, October 3, 2013

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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