The radical Republicans' plan to shut down the federal government to block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act was hatched months ago and continues the strategy of obstruction which Republican leadership implemented the very day of Obama's inauguration in 2009.
But it goes farther: this is an insurgent group of "neo-Confederates" who intend to nullify the power of the Presidency. Obamacare is today's demand; next will be privatizing or dramatically reducing Social Security and Medicare; and after that, shutting down the environmental Protection Agency - eliminating regulations that protect the air and water and any policies intended to reduce America's insane dependency on climate-change producing fossil fuels. The next target after that, the Education Department .
And with all of this, Congress gets a pass on actually focusing on pending issues: immigration reform. Gun violence prevention? You've got to be kidding. UN Treaty on arms trafficking? Forget about it.
As the New York Times reported, "A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning," a coalition led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, met shortly after the start of Obama's second term to plot "a blueprint to defunding Obamacare" which "articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government..."
Said Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), “It’s enormously important that the American people understand that this debate is not just about Obamacare. What this debate is about is the Koch Brothers’ dream of repealing virtually every major piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years…. And if they get away with what they are trying to do now, in two weeks they’ll be back with the debt ceiling, threatening the financial stability of the entire world….”
The impact of the federal government shutdown will grow geometrically, but if the Radicals do not raise the debt ceiling, the impact will be exponential, and will reverberate throughout the world.
"In a government shutdown, disability benefits still arrive on time. In an economic shutdown, they don't. In a government shutdown, millions of Americans -- not just federal workers -- everybody faces real economic hardship," Obama explained. "In an economic shutdown, falling pensions and home values and rising interest rates on things like mortgages and student loans -- all those things risk putting us back into a bad recession, which will affect this company and those workers and all of you. That's not my analysis. That's -- every economist out there is saying the same thing. We've never done it before.
"And the United States is the center of the world economy. So if we screw up, everybody gets screwed up. The whole world will have problems, which is why generally nobody has ever thought to actually threaten not to pay our bills. It would be the height of irresponsibility. And that's why I've said this before -- I'm going to repeat it: There will be no negotiations over this," he said to applause. "The American people are not pawns in some political game. You don't get to demand some ransom in exchange for keeping the government running. You don't get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the economy running. You don't get to demand ransom for doing your most basic job."
Raising the debt ceiling "is a routine vote," Obama said. "Congress has taken this vote 45 times to raise the debt ceiling since Ronald Reagan took office. It does not cost taxpayers a single dime. It does not grow our deficits by a single dime. It does not authorize anybody to spend any new money whatsoever. All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent."
In 2011, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the global economy is a “hostage that’s worth ransoming.”
That's why Obama has to break this cycle of brinksmanship, hostage-taking and manufactured crises, and not negotiate. Even though polls show a drop in approval ratings for Obama, the greatest drop in support has been leveled against the Republicans. Obama has to hold firm.
Does anyone doubt that if Obama caves on Obamacare, they will next demand tax cuts for the rich, probably ending estate taxes, or else they will defund Social Security for seniors?
"We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families," Obama said. "We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations.
"I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up. I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.
"There are a whole bunch of things that I’d like to see passed through Congress that the House Republicans haven’t passed yet, and I’m not out there saying I’m going to let America default unless Congress does something that they don’t want to do. That’s not how adults operate.
"Certainly that’s not how our government should operate. And that’s true whether there’s a Democrat in this office or a Republican in this office. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Democratic House of Representatives or a Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- there are certain rules that everybody abides by because we don’t want to hurt other people just because we have a political disagreement...."
In essence, Obama is talking about preserving the democratic process, the Presidency, and the concept of co-equal branches. But the Republicans, apparently recognizing that they may not win back the White House for a long time (they no longer even care to maintain the pretense of a "big tent" that "welcomes" women, Hispanics, Blacks, etc. etc. etc.) have abandoned the concept of the Unitary Executive they so enthusiastically bestowed on George W. Bush (because he was so easily handled by the Neo-Cons), giving Bush the ability to overturn hundreds of laws as passed by Congress with signing statements, and broad authority to disregard the Constitution by claiming war powers. Instead, they want to nullify the power of the Majority and the President.
What is clear is that Republicans are ruthless in taking political power but don't have a clue how or why to govern. They can outspend and buy elections, gerrymander districts so that they don't have to fear any repercussions from irresponsible actions, and when even that is not enough, suppress votes to steal elections by purging, closing and moving polling places, putting inadequate numbers of voting machines, imposing voter ID requirements designed to disenfranchise certain segments including young voters, old voters, disabled and minorities. But they have nothing but disdain for government and the people.
Now it seems they have decided they do not even want to bother about elections (indeed, the demographics are against them) - they want to nullify the result of elections - the fact that Obama was reelected (with a margin of more than 5 million votes) promising to implement Obamacare and Romney was defeated pledging to repeal it, that the Senate retained its majority, and that 1.5 million more votes were cast for Democratic Congressmen than Republicans. They also dismiss the reality that 75% of Americans did not want the government to shut down over Obamacare.
This is quite literally a coup - a takeover of the government - and a destruction of the democratic process by this small group of Radicals. It is the ascension of the Neo-Confederates - no different, really than the Confederates who fought the Civil War - who are using nullification to overturn the will of the majority. These Tea Party Radicals are succeeding where 19 terrorists on 4 planes nor any number of terrorists could accomplish: the destruction of the nation's economy and its political process. "They hate us for our freedom." No, the Tea Party Republicans hate America.
Michael Lofgren, former staff member of the House and Senate Budget Committee for 28 years and author of The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went CRAZY, Democrats Became USELESS, and the Middle Class Got SHAFTED appearing on All In w/Chris Hayes, said, "We have an insurrectionist, neo-confederate party that seems dedicated to all kinds of apocalyptic outcomes. I don't know if this comes from their fundamentalist religious outlook or whether it's just good fund-raising for them among their base, but they are no longer a normal political party. They are an insurrectionist party that is bringing down the government."
So Obama has to up the stakes and show the Radicals there are consequences for extortion. Every day the government is shut down, he should take some action to show Republicans there are consequences of their reckless actions, and to uphold the power of the Presidency. He tried for too long, and too naively to "change the tone in Washington" and compromise. He needs to act through executive order:
First: he should issue his ruling nixing the Keystone Pipeline.
Next: the SEC should issue a rule requiring companies to disclose to shareholders their political contributions, and requiring a vote of shareholders for spending exceeding a certain threshold.
Third: the IRS should enforce the letter of the actual law regarding 501 (c) (4) status for nonprofit social organizations in order to allow their donors to be anonymous: no organization engaged in political activity should have the ability to hide its donors.
Fourth: the SEC should impose a transaction tax to raise money so that Republicans have less of a debt to complain about, while helping to restore more stability and order to the markets and encourage longer-term investing.
I can think of other executive actions Obama can take - on immigration reform, voter suppression, climate change, gun violence prevention.
And he should sue Congress in the Supreme Court for violating the 14th Amendment, and therefore their oath of office, so should be impeached from office.
That would nullify their election, but that's nullification I can support.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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