by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
August 8, 2013
CAN THE FIRST AMENDMENT SURVIVE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S ATTACKS ON WHISTLEBLOWERS?
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's hard to expect Congress to do anything substantive when one party has clearly stated its intention to not only do nothing of substance, but also not implement laws that it doesn't like.
It's hard to expect a functioning federal government when one party clearly wants it not to do anything that would help the average person.
It's hard to expect a two-party political system to work when one of the two parties is dominated by nihilists who hate democracy, thumb their noses at the idea of the common good, and whose only concern is winning the next election so it can deliver more goodies to its supporters.
This is today's Republican Party, and take them at their word when they say they are willing to shut down the government, or refuse to raise the federal government's debt ceiling, unless the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, is not killed before most of it goes into effect next year.
Yes, the ACA isn't perfect. But it does accomplish many important things. It requires insurance companies to cover all Americans. It provides subsidies to help people afford to buy private insurance, and expands Medicaid eligibility for lower-income Americans. It put millions of young Americans on their parent's insurance plans and has given policyholders premium rebates from overcharges.
That is why, since it was first proposed, Republicans have fought the ACA - even after it was passed by Congress in 2010, even after it was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, even after it has gained substantial public support across the political spectrum.
It's not just the dozens of show votes that House Republicans have taken to repeal the ACA. They have refused to OK any budget that has funding to implement the Act. Some Republican lawmakers have said they will not attempt to help constituents understand or benefit from the law.
At the state level, 24 Republican governors are refusing to participate in Medicaid expansion and refusing to create health insurance exchanges so people can buy coverage. It's estimated that more than 15 million Americans will miss out on coverage because of these governors' actions.
The Republican strategy is clear - undermine Obamacare by any means necessary, complain how it doesn't work, campaign against it in the 2014 midterm Congressional election and the 2016 presidential election, and win control of Congress and the White House thanks to disgruntled voters unhappy with the results of health-care reform.
Writing in The Atlantic, Norm Ornstein stated that "what is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous - just sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing."
Remember, this isn't a wild-eyed liberal writing these words. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the top conservative think tanks. But he is thoroughly disgusted with what's going on in Congress.
"When a law is enacted, representatives who opposed it have some choices (which are not mutually exclusive). They can try to repeal it, which is perfectly acceptable --unless it becomes an effort at grandstanding so overdone that it detracts from other basic responsibilities of governing. They can try to amend it to make it work better - not just perfectly acceptable but desirable, if the goal is to improve a cumbersome law to work better for the betterment of the society and its people. They can strive to make sure that the law does the most for Americans it is intended to serve, including their own constituents, while doing the least damage to the society and the economy. Or they can step aside and leave the burden of implementation to those who supported the law and got it enacted in the first place.
"But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its implementation --which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options; to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting turmoil -- is simply unacceptable, even contemptible."
With Congress entering its summer recess, Republicans hope they can do this August what they did in 2010 -- sow enough fear and doubt about Obamacare among their constituents so they'll pressure the Obama administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If this happens, the chances we'll see any meaningful reforms to our broken health care system are nil.
We know the Republicans don't want to govern. We know they seem to take particular glee in kicking the poor. But they have sunk a whole new level when it comes to Obamacare.
Are there enough rational, well-informed Americans willing to speak up against this rising tide of ignorance and intransigence? It's going to take a whole of them to win this battle.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.