The Republican Party is vigorously pursing reductions in the federal budget that will severely impact those who most need help. What is worse, many in the party are willing to shut the government down and disrupt the global economy in order to make their point.
Republicans in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner, have scheduled a vote Friday on legislation to fund the government through Dec. 15 at existing levels while permanently defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The same bill will include a requirement for Treasury to give priority to Social Security and disability payments in the event the government reaches its borrowing limit and cannot pay all of its obligations. The plan is then for the Senate to take up the measure, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, says that such a measure will not pass.
Some 48 million Americans are uninsured, and the Republicans have offered no viable alternatives for the law. Obamacare remains unpopular with Americans mainly because the public has misunderstood it and conservatives have demonized it. Cries of death panels and deficits overshadow the many benefits that the law puts in place. For instance, providing health insurance to everyone, requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting health conditions, ending lifetime limits on coverage, providing coverage to adults under 26, and reigning in health care costs.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been among the most vocal proponents for defunding Obamacare at all costs. While House and Senate Republicans have sparred over which chamber should take the lead, Cruz now says he will do "everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare," including filibuster any funding bill in the Senate that funds the Affordable Care Act. Earlier he had received the ire of many House Republicans because, after stoking up grassroots opposition in Republican districts around the country, Cruz conceded he could not get such a measure through the Senate.
If Congress doesn't pass a spending bill by September 30 the government will partially shut down. And if Congress fails to raise the federal government's debt ceiling later in October, the USA will default and throw the global markets into economic chaos.
But some Republicans in Congress love to play brinksmanship, and have stirred up support among their core voters, all in an effort to change the way Washington does business. Such tactics can also get an ambitious Senator more national attention and enhance political fundraising efforts.
But Obamacare is the law of the land. It was approved by Congress, was signed by the president, and was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. The president will veto any measure that would kill his most significant domestic accomplishment. So the defund effort is a fool's errand and many Republicans know it. The Wall Street Journal concluded that the defunding strategy will backfire on Republicans, "The kamikazes could end up ensuring the return of all-Democratic rule." GOP strategist Karl Rove wrote, "Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it."
Meanwhile, House Republicans have voted to cut $4 billion a year out of food stamps over the next decade. The controversial measure will force about 14 million people off the program by 2013. 48 million Americans currently get food stamps, or about 15% of the U.S. population. House Republicans say their bill would eliminate those who shouldn't get food stamps by closing loopholes and cutting benefits to "able-bodied adults" unless they work part time or are in a job training program. It is estimated that 3.8 million people will lose benefits in the first year.
Both these initiatives come at a time when the Census Bureau announced that the number of Americans living in poverty has climbed to 46.5 million. Remarkably about 16 million children and 4 million seniors are now living in poverty in America. While most of the 8 million jobs lost during the recession have been recouped, many of those jobs are in low paying service industry. Meanwhile the nation's economic recovery remains tepid, in part due to state and federal government cutbacks. Yet corporate profits are rising and the wealthiest 1% of Americans are doing better than ever.
So, just when so many Americans desperately need help and are most vulnerable, the Republicans are most determined to cut the deficit on the backs of the poor, and to deny every citizen access to proper health care.
So it goes with the compassionless conservatives of today's Republican Party.