By Marc Jampole
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is once again at the forefront of a movement to shut down the federal government by not passing a spending bill as a means to inflict his harsh social vision on the country. And once again the threatened action will not achieve its results.
Two years ago, Senator Cruz convinced his Republican brethren in the House to stonewall passing a budget unless the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was defunded. For about 16 days, the federal government curtailed routine operations and went into emergency mode. Approximately 800,000 federal employees were laid off and another 1.3 million were ordered to work with no pay—at least until an appropriations authorization bill passed. Hundreds of thousands of private sector workers for government contractors were laid off on a temporary basis.
And it was all for naught, since the federal government finances are structured in such a way that even during the shutdown, most of Obamacare money could still be spent.
When Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the hard right once said “There you go again” in a debate with Jimmy Carter during the 1980 election campaign, it was his way of sloughing off Carter’s accurate description of Reagan’s objections to Medicare.
“There you go again” thus takes a completely different meaning when uttered to Cruz and his crazies, who are threatening to block an appropriations measure and thereby shut the government this fall, unless Congress defunds Planned Parenthood. And as it turns out, the government shutdown once again won’t have the impact its supporters want, since much of Planned Parenthood’s funding from the federal government will not be affected by a shutdown. Not only that, the shutdown will certainly lead to increased support of the organization by private donors. Neither women nor most men like it when you start messing with their birth control!
So once again, just like in 2013, the shutdown would be symbolic only, and once again the symbolism would come at a great cost to the economy and the many Americans who depend on the efficient operation of the federal government. Once again, it would make the United States a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.
When I first read about the possibility of yet another government shutdown over an issue of people’s healthcare, I thought it was an idle threat or a trial balloon. But the past few days have been filled with news media speculation about the threatened shutdown. Most of the pundits commenting on both sides of the aisle seem to agree that voters will not like the shutdown and will blame the Republicans. Of course, a year after 2013, all was forgotten and forgiven and Republicans swept the off-year Congressional election, albeit with the help of a fawning news media, new voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts.
What are these guys thinking? Let’s forget about the immature petulance of trying to punish an honorable and popular organization that does so much to bring low-cost medical services to women—and men—just because 3% of its budget is dedicated to performing a legal procedure that these self-proclaimed moralists don’t like. Think instead about the absurdity of forcing a $3.5 trillion operation to grind to a halt because you don’t like an organization that receives less than two hundredths of one percent of the budget (approximately .0156%), especially given that the organization gets absolutely no money from the government to perform the services that its opponents dislike.
Regardless of one’s place on the political spectrum, anyone who does the numbers must realize that the campaign to shut the government down rather than fund Planned Parenthood is a fool’s mission.
I wonder if Cruz is thinking that if he leads a shutdown attempt it will help him gain in the polls. After all, he is currently the leading candidate in Iowa among Republicans who have ever been elected to any office. Of course his standing among elected Republicans puts him in fourth place, with a mere 9% of likely Republican voters supporting him in Iowa, behind amateurs Donald Trump and Ben Carson, tied with 23% each, and Carly Fiorina, with 10%. Perhaps advanced secret surveys suggest that Iowans like it when the federal government shuts down. Except, of course, those who get social security checks, have to use the informational or research services of the government, know someone with a case in immigration court, are expecting refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, are victims of domestic abuse, have a child in Head Start, visit national parks, or have or work for businesses that serve the government or depends on imports.