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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A CRAZY SPECTACLE



Just a short time ago today, the United States Senate saw Republican senator Ted Cruz give an over 20 hour long, rambling speech to try and stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare).  In an earlier post (here), I wondered why the right wing in America are so much more right wing than any large political party in any other first world country.  I'm certainly not the only person to remark upon this (Thomas Edsall in the New York Times today had an editorial entitled "How did Conservatives get this Radical"), and, sadly, Cruz's speech today fit right into that idea (in the midst of his rambling he compared Obamacare to the Nazis and himself to the founding forefathers!).   And along with Cruz's speech,  there has been a ridiculous series of commercials attempting to scare young people out of getting health care.   And then there's the house of representatives...
Recently the Republican house passed a bill that would fund the government except for Obamacare. The bill is sure to die in the senate, and of course President Obama will never sign it, but the Republican party has shifted so far to the right that they'd rather push a bill with no chance of passage than admit that Obamacare will soon be law.
The tumultuous history of the Affordable Care Act is a long and rambling one, which featured numerous fights in congress and some screeching protests, along with some crazy rhetoric from the right (remember Sarah Palin literally saying that her handicapped son's life was threatened by death panels?).  But the important thing to remember about it is this: it is a bill that was passed by a majority in both houses of congress(without a single Republican vote) and was signed into law by the president, and it was then upheld by the supreme court.  As any 5th grade student of the US government will tell you, that's how bills become law.  Furthermore, Mitt Romney very specifically ran on a platform of overturning it, and he lost.  The law has survived every possible test, and yet the Republican party still acts like they can kill it instead of accepting it.  The word compromise simply seems to mean surrender to them.
The crazy thing about this is that the Affordable Care Act is far from radical; a real different plan would have expanded the popular medicare program, that covers senior citizens, to all Americans.  Something like what they have in every other industrialized nation.  Instead, it's a watered down plan that requires people to sign up for health care or pay a fine, with poor and middle class people getting some government aid to help pay for it.  It actually is similar to a plan first suggested by former Republican senator Bob Dole way back in 1993 as an alternative to then president Clinton's doomed health care plan.  The idea that it's some government take over of health care that will raise prices and destroy jobs seems absurdly over the top, if not out of the realm of possibility, but even Social Security, one of the most popular government programs ever, had to go through some tweaking after it was passed.  Hopefully Obamacare can also be improved if need be.

The issue of the house trying to defund the bill shows one of the real differences between the two parties in our country today, and why it's often so hard for Democrats to get things done even when they have one house of congress and the presidency.  This partisan contrast can be easily seen if one looks back to the year 2006; that year the Democrats took both the house and the senate in a stinging rebuke of President Bush and the way he was handling the war in Iraq, which was growing less popular by the day.  After taking over the house, there was some talk of the Democrats trying to defund the war in a manner similar to what the Republicans are now trying to do with Obamacare, but the Democrats realized that simply defunding the war and demanding immediate troop withdrawal, which could have resulted in a government shut down, would have been too radical a move.  Sadly, today's Republicans have no fear of being too radical.

It's possible that what we are seeing is the last gasp of the extreme right in this country, what with demographic changes working strongly against them as they struggle to appeal to anyone who isn't an old white man,  but if that's the case, I'm afraid it will be a long gasp.  For years the Republicans have often had an advantage in raising money from corporations and the wealthy (like the billionaire Koch brothers) and while more money does not always equal electoral  success, it certainly can help.  So, sadly, we may be seeing uncompromising extremists like Cruz shooting off their mouths for years to come.

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