Sunday, September 22, 2013

What a Foul Way to Govern

 For eight long years we had to live with Junior Bush's confused-but-belligerent-cowboy style of governing, watching the Republican-controlled Congress go along with his excesses as if he could do no wrong. With their collusion, two wars, a new Medicare benefit, and tax cuts were “put on the credit card.” Vice President Cheney proclaimed that deficits didn't matter.

We can blame Bush for that, but not for dismantling all the safeguards on investment practices put in place after the Great Depression. Some of that was done under Bill Clinton's watch.

As the pop of the bubble loomed, Sen. Barack Obama ran for president on a progressive program to end the two Bush wars, finally pass health care, and reduce the gridlock in Congress by working with the Republicans. The bubble popped, and he won.

Despite the distraction of the worst recession in two generations, he made good progress on the first two goals, but getting along with the GOP eluded every effort he made. I think it was because of his African heritage, but whatever the reason, he could do absolutely nothing right from the Republican point of view. They simply hated him from the first.

The Senate and the House started work on health care. I watched it go on for months on C-SPAN. The Republicans fought every inch of the way. They did not want health care.

As the battle dragged on, the GOP health plan became clear: 1. Establish health savings accounts that would be offered by, and provide easy profits for, their friends the bankers. 2. Allow people to purchase health care nationally, thus reducing regulation to the weakest insurance commission in the 50 states. 3. Reform malpractice laws, thus hurting their enemies, trial lawyers. In addition to those three demands, they spent many hours telling their colleagues how illegal aliens were going to get health care and abortions would be provided under the Democratic plan, thus scaring their base with its two greatest bugaboos, with no regard to the actual contents of the proposed legislation.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which they quickly labeled “Obamacare,” passed without any GOP help at all. Then the Tea Party showed up to bemoan fiscal irresponsibility, only eight years too late. Regressive Republicans gained seats in the mid-term election, and they started trying to reverse the legislation. They filed suit claiming it was unconstitutional.

Americans soon got their fill of teabags, despite whose best hopes and efforts the Supreme Court ruled the act constitutional and President Obama was re-elected on a platform of full implementation of what he, too, was now calling Obamacare.

The teabags lost seats in the 2012 election, but not enough seats. They have managed to install a boot on the tire of Congress that has been effective despite their waning popularity. There is still a strong core of Fox News bubbleheads to encourage their efforts, although that cohort's median age continues to rise. The brief Republican anti-Obama surge hit before the last election, and gave them a leg up on redistricting, but their popularity is sinking so quickly that even many of the seats they thought safe for a decade are now in play.

Apparently, that means it's time for last-ditch efforts. The House majority has demonstrated its unrelenting contempt for health care, and last week voted for all practical purposes to shut the government down if it's not stopped.

Luckily, that bill has to go to the Senate, where cooler heads allegedly reside. The Senate will pass its own version, which will put Obamacare back in, but it may take some time. Freshmen GOP and Tea Party senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Hill of Utah, with erratic support from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, plan to do what they can to block health care.

Then it will go back to the House, where God knows what will happen. If it passes, the president will sign it right away; if it doesn't, we face another shutdown.

Any legislation to avoid the shutdown must be enacted before October 1st. And even if it is avoided, thus setting up Congress for another showdown in just a few weeks, government agencies will have spent much time and money preparing for it. What a foul way to govern!

The Republicans ran in 2012 with the motto “Repeal and Replace,” and they have been criticized since then for not having a plan to replace Obamacare. Well, finally there was a breath of fresh air from the House GOP, which released a plan created by a special committee. Guess what's in it.

That's right: establish health savings accounts, allow people to purchase health insurance nationally, and reform malpractice laws.

Nancy Pelosi called the “shut-'er-down” policy of the teabags “legislative arson.” It's more likely to become self-immolation if those cooler heads don't prevail.

Whatever happens, it will be followed in short order by yet another crisis manufactured by the Republicans: Does the United States of America run out on its debt?

What a foul way to govern!

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