Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What The US Government Shutdown Really Shows

Last night, the US Government shut down all 'non-essential' services.  The reason?  Because a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives had a hissy fit over funding health care and tried to slam riders onto the budget legislation which would defund it, and the Senate refused to pass the amended legislation.

The end result?  A stalemate, and the wheels of government brought to an abrupt halt.

Republicans have been trying to block "Obamacare" since day one.  At the end of the day, they have lost at every turn.  It has been passed in both houses, their court challenges against it have failed and so on.

Practically speaking, what this shutdown really looks like is a hostage taking.  The far right in the House Republican majority have chosen to hold the funding of the US government's routine operations hostage to their demand to not fund "Obamacare" (more correctly the "Affordable Care Act" - ACA).

This is a highly manipulative, dishonest act on the part of the Republicans - and in particular the "Tea Party" rump.  The Tea Party followers seem to have decided that they can achieve their goals by being rigid, inflexible and dramatic - if not outright extremist - in their politics.

However, the bigger question that people should be asking is "who benefits from the Tea Party tactics?".  It certainly isn't the 50 million Americans who cannot access health care coverage today.  It certainly isn't the people who rely on the government services that are currently shut down or the employees of those services either.  Nor, from a political standpoint does it appear to be something which will ultimately benefit the Republicans or the Tea Party rump.

So ... who benefits?  ... and how do they benefit?

You need to look at the who is the money behind the Tea Party movement, and then try to understand how they benefit from the kind of disruption that the Tea Party is creating in US politics.    How do the very wealthy benefit from the current situation?  In several ways.  Some direct, some indirect.

While I don't necessarily think that the Koch brothers (for example) benefit directly by shutting down the US government, they do have something to gain.  First of all, the shenanigans going on in Washington serve as a powerful diversion of the American public's attention.  That creates a lot of opportunities for groups like Koch to move pieces around the chess board without being noticed.

One of the pieces that many people are likely overlooking is how Obamacare undermines the emerging corporate feudal state.  The current situation in the US makes health care a pivotal piece of how corporations can retain control over employees.  An employee who is covered by health insurance, but has a long term health condition (euphemistically called a "pre-existing condition") is in a very difficult place when it comes to changing jobs, or starting their own business.  Move to a smaller company that doesn't provide benefits coverage, and suddenly you are paying the full shot for premiums out of your salary - a non trivial amount.  Start your own company?  Likely as not, you won't have a lot of income for a year or two while getting it off the ground.  Suddenly, you find yourself in the place where you have no coverage and that pre-existing condition renders you either unable to get coverage at all, or with so many exceptions to what is covered that you are fundamentally hosed.

So ... what does that mean for the average employee?  They're stuck.  They can move between similar sized companies to some extent, but taking major steps in new directions is unlikely.  This gives the people at the top of the economic food chain effectively a feudal lord's control over their staff ... and it makes it much easier to exploit people by paying them less, reducing benefits or increasing hours of work.

In a similar vein, one has to only consider the utter lack of empathy that is exhibited by the extremists towards those who are struggling to survive.  Republicans have voted to strip funding from the Food Stamps program, now they are trying their best to kill off the biggest health care reform in decades.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but working actively to undermine the supports for those who are the most vulnerable demonstrates an almost pathological lack of empathy - one that is only surpassed by the seemingly endless greed that the mega corporations and their leadership seem to exhibit.

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