Last Thursday, just after midnight, President Obama signed a bill that re-opened the federal government, ending the standoff between conflicting interests in Washington.
At 16 days, the shutdown was the third longest in American history, following an 18-day shutdown in 1978 and the 21-day shutdown of 1995-96. According to Standard and Poor’s, the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $1.5 billion per day and affected many families’ bottom line.
Surely there must have been a good reason for the shutdown to happen, right? Politicians certainly wouldn’t throw the entire world economy into DEFCON 5 without rhyme or reason. One would also imagine some grand bargain triggered the re-opening of the government, with both sides reuniting and making concessions as well as gains.
But that’s not how it happened at all.
The shutdown, triggered by Republican attempts to shut down Obamacare and limit federal spending, put us practically at the beginning. The Affordable Care Act is still being implemented and Congress even raised the debt limit. I’m not saying the Republicans blinked, but they definitely had something in their eyes.
So what was the reason for the shutdown? Was it an attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act? Are Republicans fighting a holy war on American values? Why did the debt ceiling become an issue halfway through? Does Ted Cruz want to be president?
All of these questions – except the final one – are still up for debate at this point.
The fanatical opposition to Obamacare is laughable at a base level, considering too many of the people I know who oppose it are actually on their parents’ health insurance and rely on their parents to pay for cars and college. Certainly everyone who opposes the law doesn’t fit in this category, but our generation has a tendency ignore our own privilege while simultaneously denying others the same.
One element of the Affordable Care Act provides grant money to states to ensure children in high-risk situations can be monitored for health issues through in-home visits. Instead of saying “Hey, that’s great we’re trying to ensure young, at-risk children receive the quality healthcare they deserve”, the narrative is a mixture of “1984” and “vaccinations cause autism” scare tactics.
Simply put, the pre-Obama healthcare system was an extremely expensive disaster. It wasn’t working. Sick people were getting their coverage dropped or couldn’t sign up for a policy due to pre-existing conditions. Spending was also rising at an uncontrollable level and the costs to Social Security and Medicare were ballooning due to fraud, waste and abuse.
Obamacare isn’t perfect and its implementation has been a little rocky. If Republicans would have contributed to the bill instead of sitting on their hands in opposition, we wouldn’t be going through the motions we are today. Instead, we could spend valuable time addressing many of the other issues affecting our country.
The powers-that-be have settled for continued, purposeful conflict because they think it will benefit them politically. They should really think about how the American people stand to benefit from the work they do while in Washington, and stop worrying about reelection in their gerrymandered districts.