My in-laws, whom I've written about in the past, are emblematic of the economic meltdown: They're both 57 years old--in the doughnut hole of being too young for Medicare, too old for the job market. They worked as middle management in businesses tangentially related to the housing industry. After the crash they were both laid off. They went on unemployment until it ran out. They've yet to find work. They didn't benefit from the boom times, but the crash hit them hard.
Their golden years have been fed to Goldman Sachs.
They've each been paying $1,000 a month for COBRA coverage (the only insurance that would cover them) since they've been unemployed. That's $24,000 annually. Their retirement savings have been going to their premiums. And that pricy COBRA coverage is set to run out January 1. People in other industrialized nations--all with universal health care and most single payer--can't imagine how Americans accept this as a reality. My in-laws aren't even sick and health care costs were going to bankrupt them.
But under the ACA--Obamacare--they're eligible for California's primary public insurance program, Medi-Cal. Because of Obamacare the state expanded eligibility to poor adults with no dependent children. And once they're back on their feet, they cannot be denied coverage for preexisting conditions (which is basically being over 55). Also because of Obamacare.
Politics is not a football game. It's not who's up and who's down and what quarter we're in. You might not gather that from the reporting on the budget showdown, but the stakes are just slightly higher than whose approval rating could be affected.
New York Times: "With Shutdown Near, Talk Is of Who's at Fault, Not of a Deal?" USA Today: "Blame Game for Impending Shutdown Plays On." Washington Post: "Just One in Four Approve of Republicans Handling of Government Shutdown Standoff."
Because what really matters is who will challenge Ted Cruz in his 2020 presidential re-election campaign.
The House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare--the Affordable Care Act or ACA--42 times. The House GOP are lawmakers-in-name-only. They've been the leaders of the least productive Congress in the history of the institution. In this way Speaker John Boehner has already shut down the government. Now we're just talking about degrees. James Lankford (R-OK) in an appearance on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki" on Sunday morning said, "There are also people that are going to be negatively impacted by [Obamacare]. We want to fix that."
They had 42 symbolic, go-nowhere votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now Lankford tells the American public they just want to fix it...or shut the government down.
It's a favorite GOP pastime to make up horror stories about Obamacare. In Ted Cruz's meandering 21-hour talk-a-thon he used Sarah Palin's 2009 Lie of the Year "death panels." Tea party Freshman Congressman Tim Huelskamp tweeted on Sunday, "Because of a new #ObamaCare rule, Delno's wife is prevented from receiving a much-needed surgery. #DontFundIt." I asked the congressman via Twitter which "rule" in Obamacare he was referring to.
He never answered. Because there isn't one.
The GOP has used a fire hose of baloney to try to thwart a law (they often refer to it as a bill) passed after a grueling 18-month debate in Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court and tested in a presidential re-election. Now the government is shut down: The Statue of Liberty, the symbol of American greatness is closed. The National Archives' original copy of the U.S. Constitution is locked away. How very appropriate.
And for what? So that the House GOP can save us from having affordable health care? Yes.
"We're very excited," said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) last Saturday when it seemed inevitable the government would be shut down. "It's exactly what we wanted, and we got it."
Speaker Tip O'Neil said, "All politics is local." But really all politics is personal. And nothing is more personal than health care.
And the Teapublicans want nothing more (and I mean NOTHING more) than to repeal health care reform that's set to give more Americans private health insurance.
Beltway prattle within the paradigm of who's winning and who's losing doesn't register the impact of affordable health care on the struggling working class. They're not an abstract--they're my family.