The problem out on the streets of America during these tumultuous political times is that far too much rhetoric is flying around without a basis in fact…
People of good conscience can have differing opinions; it is where we are supposed to have our political debates. The problem now is that any ideological constituency can get on the internet and find some moron that agrees with their desperate fantasy. They will be validated in their belief regardless of fact or the lack thereof…
So here we are. The government is shut down, 800,000 government employees have been sent home and pundits on all sides are screaming “listen to me, I have the meme that will make you feel just right about your stance.”
The problem is that this isn’t about ideology.
This isn’t about what you “believe”
This isn’t about what you can sell.
This isn’t about what you can spin.
This is about policy not politics.
This is about what you can prove, not what you can say.
This is about facts… And the fact is facts matter.
So where are we and how did we get here? First you have to realize that there are two separate issues at play and part of what makes the situation so confusing and contentious is that the issues have been blurred. First let’s take on the budget or more specifically in the current situation the continuing resolution:
The Continuing Resolution:
The government has been operating under a continuing resolution pretty much since Republicans regained a majority in the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. A continuing resolution is an agreement in the absence of a budget to continue funding the government, usually at current funding levels until the budget dispute can be resolved. A sad example of the practice:
Continuing resolution passed 9/29/2010 funding government from 10/1/2010 – 12/3/2010
Continuing resolution passed 12/2/2010 funding government until 12/18/2010
Continuing resolution passed 12/17/2010 funding government until 12/21/2010
Continuing resolution passed 12/21/2010 funding government until 3/4/2011
Continuing resolution passed 3/2/2011 funding government until 3/18/2011
Continuing resolution passed 3/16/2011 funding government until 4/8/2011
Continuing resolution passed 4/9/2011 funding government until 4/15/2011…
The grand bargain – This was the negotiation attempted during this flurry of continuing resolutions to try to establish a responsible long term plan for deficit reduction while acknowledging the fragile economy and the fact that many Americans are still vulnerable to the worst recession since the Great Depression. Ultimately the talks collapsed when Republicans refused to accept increasing revenues from the wealthiest Americans.
The debt ceiling, round one – In order to avoid a government default for the first time in American history The Budget Control Act of 2011 raised the debt ceiling by cutting spending more than the increase of the debt limit. It also specified automatic budget sequestration should the parties fail to agree to a budget. By letting the full faith and credit of the United States come so close to being breached Standard & Poor’s downgraded its credit rating of the U.S. from AAA to AA+ all major stock indices dropped more than 5 percent the next business day.
The fiscal cliff – The fiscal cliff refers to the confluence of forces it was thought would damage an already weak economy; the expiration of the Bush tax cuts which were to expire in 2010 but had been extended for two years and the effects of the sequester both slated for January 1 2013. The fiscal cliff crisis culminated in the American Taxpayer Relief Act where 98% of the Bush Tax Cuts became permanent, The ATM was “fixed”, and the sequestration was delayed two months (for additional negotiation time)
Sequestration – This is a mechanism that was designed to force congress to reach a compromise on the budget. As a condition of lifting the debt limit both sides agreed to draconian cuts if the sides failed to reach a later agreement, an agreement was not reached and the sequester cuts began in March of 2013. Though Republicans have publicly accused President Obama with creating and wanting the sequester, their budget position in the latest round of continuing resolution negotiations is sequester level spending.
In March of 2013 the Senate passed its first budget in three years, under “normal order” the House budget and Senate budget would be reconciled in a “conference committee”. Though the House had been pushing the Senate to pass a budget, the House has refused 18 requests over 6 months to empanel said conference committee, continuing the continuing resolutions.
A few facts about the current continuing resolution:
The CR passed by the Democratic Senate and not voted on by Republican House offers to keep the government open not at the levels in the Senate Budget but rather at the spending levels in the House budget.
The CR would only fund the government for approximately 6 weeks.
It is likely that if John Boehner brought the “clean CR” to the House floor for a vote, the measure would pass with a very large majority, ending this shutdown and returning 800,000 people to work.
This debate isn’t even close to as dangerous as the deadline we face in 13 days when the debt ceiling MUST be raised, and it really must be raised for the good of the country, it is not a joke and it certainly is not an opportunity for the irresponsible to threaten the responsible, that isn’t governance its extortion.
The real debate should be about the budget, both chambers of Congress have passed one, it is time to pass the CR, empanel a conference committee and return to the task of governance
Which bring us to the second issue, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act:
I could write many posts about the ACA, fact is I have… Some basic facts;
The ACA is not a government takeover of healthcare, healthcare is as it was for 85% of Americans; the remaining 15% now can access affordable care through an exchange by a private, for profit, insurance company. Government runs the exchanges and sets rules; it is still a private market.
The ACA does not and never did contain “death panels” the provision in question which did not make it to the final law was to provide doctor reimbursement for “end of life” counseling for terminally ill patients.
Obamacare isn’t a “job killer” nor is it forcing employers to cut employees hours – The exchanges opened three days ago, coverage doesn’t start until January 2014, the employer mandate wouldn’t start until then and has been delayed for a year… Companies are doing what they are doing for their own fiscal reasons, they may blame Obamacare but it is just a disingenuous excuse to defend their choices. Someday facts may prove otherwise but today the wild rhetoric about how bad the ACA will be isn’t factually provable.
People that have had and continue to have healthcare insurance receive the following benefits through the ACA
Annual caps on your insurance are a thing of the past YOU ARE INSURED.
Lifetime caps on your insurance are a thing of the past YOU ARE INSURED. You don’t have to go and find a new job with benefits if your healthcare demands it.
The practice of rescission, an insurance company dropping your coverage when you get sick is no longer allowed.
Children out of their parent’s house and not yet in a career that includes benefits can remain on their parent’s healthcare plans.
Preventative care is required if you are going to sell a healthcare policy to an American.
Rebates to the insured if 80% of premiums aren’t spent on actual care.
Women cannot be charged more than men for the same insurance plan.
What is most true though is that the continuing resolution has nothing to do with the ACA. There is a system in this country for the passage of laws and a system for their repeal. The Republican Party didn’t win enough elections to repeal the law and therefore it will not be repealed. A government of, by and for the people shouldn’t be derailed by a minority just because they believe the falsehoods fed to them for years about a law that gives the uninsured hope and the insured a better product than they used to have.
We are a nation of laws. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is no mere bill, it is a law. The ACA was rigorously debated. The ACA was passed through both chambers of Congress. The ACA was signed into law by a President of the United States. The ACA was challenged and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. The time has come to turn to more pressing matters, immigration reform, the farm bill, the budget, economic stimulus, and economic certainty.
We have a two party system; it is supposed to be contentious. It is not supposed to be dysfunctional. Make your best argument but if you can’t achieve all you want find a place to agree in the middle for the good of the country. The pressure to do the will of the people has to come from the people, but if the people are allowed to be swayed by cheap talking points facts are lost and the people end up advocating policies that are contrary to their best interests.
People should be able to choose whatever fate they desire but the choice should be based on fact not some slick talking point specifically crafted to obfuscate those facts… to have it otherwise really isn’t a choice, and that is a fact.
Late update: House Democrats are working on filing a “discharge petition”, if they can get all 200 Democrats and 18 Republicans to sign it they can force a vote on a clean CR… Unfortunately the earliest this petition could force a vote would be Oct 14, not nearly soon enough for 800,000 furloughed workers and the greater economy that they impact. John Boehner has no such restrictions for access to the floor, he can call a vote at any time, a vote that would end this insanity, and that, is also a fact…