Because the No. 1 priority of House Republicans is to cater to the fantasies of their tea party constituents, the federal government has been shut down. The loony legions that drive Republican primary elections now are driving the United States toward calamity.
Weirdly, the continuing funding resolution that the Republicans have refused to pass is a seriously conservative budget plan far closer to what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan asked for than what President Obama would have liked. But, instead of claiming a victory for fiscal conservatism, the Republicans’ right-wing absolutists have refused to pass the continuing resolution unless it includes provisions to cripple or kill the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.
On the very day that Obamacare’s new insurance market is opening to make healthcare affordable to millions of Americans who have gone without it, the GOP radicals still think they can bring the system down. In this, they are clearly deluded, given that the Senate and the White House are under the control of the people who created healthcare reform, but, then, their whole crusade is built on fantastical thinking.
From the very start of the healthcare debate that began after Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the tea party Republicans have believed some preposterous things. Most famous of all was the big brouhaha about “death panels,” those fictitious boards of bureaucrats who tea party types claimed would be empowered by Obamacare to kill off grandpas and grannies. But there were many other untruths and, from a long list assembled by Politifact, here are just a few:
• The Affordable Health Care Act is a scheme to ration care, just like the systems in Canada and the United Kingdom. The truth, of course, is that Obamacare leaves American healthcare in the hands of the insurance industry. That is why many people on the left do not like it. They would much prefer a single-payer plan like Canadians have.
• Muslims are exempt from the healthcare law. This whopper made the rounds in right-wing blogs and talk shows. Of course, it’s utterly absurd.
• All non-U.S. citizens, including illegals, will get free healthcare. Another bit of pure mendacity from the tea party blogosphere.
• Under Obamacare, "75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.” Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said that and many have repeated it, but it ain’t so. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey indicates less than 10% of small businesses will cut hours or get rid of workers because of Obamacare.
• Obamacare will place a sales tax on real estate transactions, send out government agents for forced home inspections and produce the largest tax increase in the history of the world. These claims from right-wing emails and talk radio fantasists are completely false.
Does it matter that almost all the right-wing opposition to Obamacare is based on lies and exaggerations? Politically, it doesn’t matter at all. If the base of the Republican Party gets behind a string of crazy ideas, do not count on the politicians who seek their votes to correct them. On the contrary, they will make those delusions their own and fight for them, no matter the cost to the country.
Better to shut down a government, after all, than to risk the wrath of the tea party in the next election.