“The Shutdown” or “Retards in the Legislature”

I am not a fan of Obamacare. It’s not its much-vaunted permanency problems, nor the hesitant start-up the initiative has been going through. It’s something else. Jesus, it’s like every week since they passed the damn bill into law there has been some weighty challenge to it. There’s no doubt it’s been pushed this way, that way, up and down, left and right, “blather blather blather” (to take a quote from Ted Cruz). But that’s not it. I don’t care for it because it seeks to penalize people who don’t have healthcare. It destroys a single fundamental detail about personal choice and liberty. It’s saying that you have to buy into some health insurance, or you get fined. Now, I’m not saying we need to be the country that’s okay with letting people die rather than offering treatment. Nor am I saying it wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t be good. What I think is that a nation that prides itself on freedom (whatever that might mean to Congress aside) cannot force a people to choose or be fined as legal convention. You can’t put on paper something that forces you to choose something. Where’s the freedom in that?

Now, this is not an anti-big government rant coming. I actually love big government. I believe in Thomas Hobbes and his Leviathan (if you get that, I love you). We built societies to protect ourselves out of necessity. When there was no law and no order, we were subject to all sorts of treatment, with no sense of reproach. We needed something to help us. As countless years have come and gone through human history that protection must now include many more things than might seem doable. Healthcare, Gun Control, and Homeland Security might even go beyond the practical and into a moral grey-area, but so did so many others in history. The Anti-Trust Laws that broke into the corrupt American monopolies and saved millions of farmers from poverty in the early 1900’s were very much the same, just like the Civil Rights Laws a bit later. And let’s not forget our very own Department of Defense. If you dump big government, China will overrun us tomorrow.

To live, not just to operate, we need a big government. For the laws we know are good and right to be implemented and evolve, we must have a large government bureaucracy. Especially with the seriousness lately of the United States’ security situation, you should want that big government. But among countless new needs we must have is healthcare. It does need a more constitutional implementation, to my mind, but it is a need, and it is a human good. Human, ya know, like the species. And I say that because everyone seems to have forgotten that we are a species and that we need to thinking more proactively for the progress and survival of that species than our own selves. It isn’t about what we can and can’t go, it’s what we must do, or we might as well crawl back into the primeval muck. No this isn’t anti-big government. Not at all. This is an anti-Congress rant.

The old joke goes that if pro- is good and con- is bad, Congress is the opposite of progress. I like that one. It seems more truth than joke. These days, our comedians make more sense and show more level-headedness than the people we pay to “represent” us (not so sure about that one), so their words tend to ring true as time goes on. Even better, you watch a single episode of the Colbert Report and there’s more political understanding spewing from an upscale comic’s mouth than is contained in the entire legislative branch of the United States, apparently.

Over the past few weeks a battle has been going on in Washington D.C. That is if you put temper tantrums, selfish bullishness, and empty political gesturing on level with a battle. On one side are the anti-Obamacare people (surprisingly, not me; remember what I said about “representing us?). On the other side are the pro-Obamacare people. Not much to say about either side, except that they all come from the same stock. They’re like Budweiser and Bud Light: poured into barrels from the exact same pipe, just labeled differently. Now, some time ago, the President signed into law a bill called Obamacare that was passed through the legislature (cause that’s how the government works) and tested for constitutionality by the Supreme Court. Its entire point was to give an option for people who qualified to have cheap health coverage, amongst some other things. It would be partnered with large insurance providers, not some insane “death panel” and “healthcare czar” brouhaha (great word).

If nothing more, it was exactly how the government is supposed to work. An initiative was presented, and a bill was drafted. It was debated in committees and the details get worked out and revised until it went into the actual legislature and was voted on by “your” Senators and Representatives. Then (and here’s the crucial bit in case a typical politician is reading and needs to be reminded of his job) it either passes or it fails after those votes. There can be any number of stall tactics, posturing, or grandiose maneuvers, but that is what it simply comes to. It either passes or it fails. If it fails it may go back into debate, but it typically dies or gets neutered heavily then. If it passes, it is signed into law (another word some politicians don’t know too much about) by the President. Obamacare passed and came into law. But, as I mentioned, it even went one step further.

Unlike a lot of other laws which may be reviewed by the Supreme Court specifically only after an outside challenge has been presented sometime later, Obamacare was so controversial it was reviewed almost immediately. Seriously. This is a court that didn’t get to gay marriage cases filed in 2003 until 2012. It was such a hot topic, Obamacare jumped to the front of the docket. And it passed a legal challenge. The Constitutionally mandated Supreme Court of the United States of America found it to be constitutional. Amazingly, it was then, and still is, a right-leaning court, but Obamacare went through. At this point, the furor should have died, and, if you ask me, that should have ended Obamacare’s use of media coverage and that government time that we pay for. But it didn’t. Anti-Obamacare politicians decided that they needed to do something more. Something stupid.

Anti-Obamacare legislators had campaigned against Obamacare heavily before it passed. It was caught up in the “Tea Party” movement basically spurred on because Obama gets a lot of heat for some reason.  The idea of Obamacare now being an on-the-books law was just insane to these people (apparently American politicians aren’t fans of how the American government works; who knew?). So all their arguments resurfaced when an opportunity to kill Obamacare came along this last month. Except it couldn’t be dropped cleanly. In fact, it couldn’t be dropped easily, either. You see it was bound up in the federal budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014. Nice one guys. Their plan was to force the government to accept a budget that didn’t fund Obamacare. Hopefully, it would kill it long enough to repeal it, or at least neuter it (equally dumb: it’s already a law and debating is over). Even better, it puts Pro-Obamacare folks at an impasse. Pass a budget that kills your Obamacare victory or close down the country. Definitely.

Well, no. Maybe. See nothing’s definite at this level of crazy. And it does sound crazy.

Let’s see: Defund a passed, signed and tested law? Check (You dick). Stall the economy as a negotiating tactic?! Check (You asshole). Fail completely to think it through and allow the nation to slip into shutdown because you’re a group of amazingly terrible losers? Check (You mother…).

Worse, common sense was against them. Obamacare is far more popular than anyone expected (which had very much to do with it passing). It is even more popular now than when it was being written and debated. Trending and Gallup show increases in positive association with Obamacare and an increased support for the measure. Even worse, it compromised the security of the economy which Washington D.C. has been soooooooo quick to fix. Seriously, this is just what our depressed-fucking economy needed. Even worserer, Obamacare is going ahead anyways! You see, just cause you de-fund something doesn’t mean it stops going. It’s critical the government functions. It’s the same thing that’s happening in the economy. It doesn’t all fall apart because you’re in debt and close to defaulting; we’re all just keeping closer tabs than is normal. Even worserest, we’ve basically invited in terrorists and other security threats to walk right into our critically understaffed Department of Defense, Homeland Security, etc. etc. etc. Nice one guys!

Even in imaginary circumstances this doesn’t work. James Bond villains never prevail because they always come up with something as dumb as the Republicans did (you can’t convince a politician he’s not thinking it through, though: as Danny Trejo in Sons of Anarchy said, “Stacks of cash have a tranquilizing effect on people).

Now that the government has gone into shutdown what happens? Well all the anti-Obamacare guys start taking swings at the President, because now that they’ve shown they can’t be responsible they need to shift blame ASAP. “If Obama can negotiate with the Iranians, why can’t he negotiate with us?” seemed to be the Republican Whip’s new line for whiny Republicans going on television to pretend they care. Some even question what the pro-Obamacare individuals have to gain, as if successfully shifting blame on someone is as easy as saying, “our neighbors are kind of sketchy, so I think they’re try to horn-in on our illegal moonshine operation.” And this all when nothing can be gained. For one, the brinksmanship that drove this nation into shutdown today has actually failed, because threatening someone with a gun doesn’t work in negotiation if it turns out you’re going to shoot them anyways. Secondly, the government is basically doing nothing to make people  less cynical about it, and actually feel like their government (read: political parties) is doing/can do something. Thirdly, because Obama already has his second term! What does it accomplish trying to bring down a man that can’t run for re-election? “You really showed me guys, too bad you’re doing it from behind a brick wall.” Not to mention this will only beat relations between the parties with a tenderizing hammer to the point where nothing is going to get done before a new president comes in. And there are no guarantees even that would fix it.

But the worst are those that are ignoring Obamacare saying that Obamacare is unconstitutional and doesn’t have to be heeded. Why is that so dumb? Cause it’s already a goddamn law. How do you not obey a law? Oh, right, if you’re a shit-head politician. Did you not pay attention to how this happened? American democracy and government happened, ass-hat. It worked exactly like it’s been designed to work. Who are Ted Cruz, Eric Cantor and John Boehner to say a law is unconstitutional? They’re not Supreme Court Justices. The actual Justices already fucking looked at it! Constitutionality is not checked by the congress, it is checked by the Supreme Court. That’s how America works. And who are they to say they can just bully a law down? No one can do that. You can’t just disobey a law. Just like you can’t just kill Obama cause he got elected, again. That’s how America works. That’s how democracy works. If you don’t like it, I know some guys in Afghanistan you can stay with. Am I letting the pro-Obamacare coalition off the hook? No. Compromise, damn you. Keep the fucking country working. It’s your goddamn job.

But that’s just it. We can’t solve our own problems by design, and “our” politicians, the guys that have to do it by design, can’t do what they’re supposed to do. There is nothing to keep them actually working. They don’t have a supervisor that looks over their shoulder, or shouts ’em down when they don’t get work done. They’re not threatened with being fired. Goddamn, it’s like Anthony Weiner is coming up with things to try and get him fired! That boss was supposed to be us, but that went out the window long ago. Again there is one rule for the political class and one for the working class. We suffer, while they carry on.

In the midst of this, if you can’t get mad about the sheer stupidity and bullshit that got us here, remember one thing. While our troops away from their families and away from home, embedded in hostile places like Afghanistan and Iraq are going to be paid with I.O.U. cash vouchers, while your veterans are being denied access to your sacred war memorials, and while public nature itself is being denied to us at our national parks, your federal Representatives and Senators get a cashable check as usual.