The Day After

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According to the Republicans, the initial motivation for the shutdown came from their desire to prevent the damage they alleged will be inflicted by Obamacare. It is thus rather ironic that their shutdown, as a matter of fact, cost the United States about $24 billion and slowed growth. It also harmed the government employees who were furloughed and the other Americans who were impacted directly by the shutdown. Naturally, it also impacted how we are perceived by the rest of the world. As such, the Republican strategy to protect America seems to have the exact opposite effect. Thus it is no wonder that while the majority of the public disapproves of the way the situation was handled, the Republicans are bearing the brunt of this disapproval.

One counter is to endeavor to lay the blame on the Democrats. Fox, for example, did its best to spin the story so that the Democrats were morally accountable for the shutdown. This does raise an interesting question about responsibility (and perceived responsibility).

In terms of the facts, the Republicans initially insisted that, on the pain of putting the government on the path to shutdown, Obamacare be delayed or defunded. Obama and the Democrats noted that Obamacare is a law and that it had been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. As such, they refused to negotiate the matter. Given that Obama had yielded in the past, the Republicans probably expected that he would yield once more. However, he did not and the shutdown went on until the brink of the default.

The facts would seem to show that the Republicans bear the moral blame for the shutdown. After all, the law was passed and upheld in accord with the constitutional process. That is, it was done by the proper rules. The Republicans partially shut down the government and threatened to take the country into default if they did not get what they wanted. Obviously enough, this sort of thing is not in accord with constitutional process. That is, the Republicans were not acting in accord with the proper rules and the Democrats refused to give in to them.

To use an analogy I have used before, this is like having the Red Sox beat the Yankees in a legitimate game and then having the Yankees threaten to burn down the stadium if the Red Sox refuse to negotiate the outcome of the game. If the Yankees then set the stadium on fire, it is not the fault of the Red Sox-they are under no obligation to yield to the unwarranted demands of the Yankees. The Yankees bear full blame for the burning of the stadium. As such, the Republicans bear the blame for the shutdown and the damage it caused. As a general rule, if someone threatens to do harm to others if he does not get what he wants, then the responsibility for the harm he inflicts rests on him and not on those who refuse to give him what he has no right to demand by means of a threat.

It could be countered that Obamacare is so bad, “the worst thing in our country since slavery”, that the Republicans were in the right to inflict such harms in order to try to stop it. It could even be argued that by passing such a wicked and destructive law the Democrats are to blame-the Republicans had to take such extreme measures in order to try to save America.

This, obviously enough, rests on establishing that the law is so wicked and destructive that such extreme measures are warranted. It would also involve showing that the damage done by the Republican strategy is outweighed by the harms that the strategy was supposed to prevent. This would most likely involve a utilitarian assessment of the harms and benefits.

The damage done by the Republican strategy is known: $24 billion in 16 days. Obamacare would certainly have to deal some serious damage in order to match that, but perhaps it can be shown that this will be the case. As it stands, there are only guesses about what the impact of Obamacare will be. There is plenty of rhetoric and hyperbole, but little in the way of disinterested, rational analysis. However, it does seem reasonable to believe that Obamacare will not be the worst thing since slavery (let alone as bad as slavery) and that it will not destroy America. After all, its main impacts will be that people without insurance will need to get some (or pay a small fine) and that large employers will need to provide insurance (or pay a small fine) or evade the law by cutting employee hours. Even if the worst case scenario is considered, it will hardly match the hyperbole. As such, Obamacare does not seem bad enough to warrant the Republican strategy.

To be fair, the Republicans might honestly believe that Obamacare is as bad as they claim. That is, they believe their own hyperbole and rhetoric. If this is true, they could be morally excused to the degree that they followed their informed consciences. However, if they are operating from willful ignorance or do not really believe their own hyperbole, then they would have behaved wrongly—both in their hyperbole and their actions based on this.

In any case, most Americans do blame the Republicans and this is one of the political impacts of the shutdown. Whether this has an effect on the upcoming elections remains to be seen—as many pundits have noted, voters often have a short memory. As with the alleged damage of Obamacare, we will have to wait and see.

As a final point, one ironic effect of the shutdown is that it gave the Democrats an amazing distraction from the real problems with the implementation of Obamacare. One legitimate concern is the fact that employers get a one year delay in implementing Obamacare while individuals have been denied this same option. This, on the face of it, is unfair and the main “defense” of this has been the use of the red herring and smokescreen, as I noted in an earlier essay. While the Republicans did initially want to delay Obamacare for a year, they handled this poorly and instead decided to go with hyperbole and a shutdown. What could have been a potential win for them turned into what seems to be a major loss. A second legitimate concern is the problems plaguing the sign up and implementation of Obamacare. While there were some attempts to raise criticism about these serious problems, the shutdown dominated the center ring of the political circus. Thus, what could have been a reasonable criticism of Obamacare was drowned out by the Republicans themselves. In the Game of Obamacare, you win or you die. The Republicans did not win.

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  1. You raise an interesting issue about the states of mind of the rebelling Republicans. Their behavior reminded me of the non-compliance with the Fugitive Slave Law of the 19th century by those who found it morally reprehensible. In my view, you correctly (if indirectly) dismiss the comparison based on the fundamental differences between the both the impact and import of the two laws. The possibility that the contemporary rebellion, consciously or unconsciously, may have been motivated by prejudice against a US President of color adds special irony to the comparison.

  2. “Fox, for example, did its best to spin the story so that the Democrats were morally accountable for the shutdown.

    This does raise an interesting question about responsibility (and perceived responsibility).”

    It’s wife beater logic; look what you made me do!

    That’s not a joke either. Wife beaters always believe they were driven to violence by their wives. Rapists believe their victims were asking for it. And so do Fox News, and the Republican party.

  3. “could have been a reasonable criticism of Obamacare”

    The GOP’s stated goal, always, was to destroy Obamacare, which works to undermine any reasonable criticism. Any delay they sought was merely a tactic in order to make it easier to destroy.

  4. Now that democrats are calling for a delay in Obamacare are they now evil?

    If a democratic legislature shuts down a republican like what happened in Wisconson with unions or Texas with abortion did you write a similar screed?

    You are a hypocrite like any other liberal. You despise the democratic process when it produces impasses as it was designed to do. Shutdowns are a feature, not a bug since humans will always disagree. But in your little mind you dehumanize anyone who disagrees you and your mark the Other as immoral and unjust. Next you’ll send them to concentrations camps for disagreeing with your moral superiority.

    The is only so much money. One day it will run out since no one can borrow 40% forever, but anyone who says otherwise is evvviiiiiillllll.

  5. Whatever,

    “The is only so much money. One day it will run out since no one can borrow 40% forever, but anyone who says otherwise is evvviiiiiillllll.”

    40%, that’s an astonishing figure. An absolutely astonishing figure, so I had to go look it up to see what more I could establish about this factoid.

    I found a Forbes article from early this year. Forbes are not renowned for their communist sympathies.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/02/27/the-best-kept-secret-in-american-politics-federal-budget-deficits-are-actually-shrinking/

    In the article it said that Bloomberg had just recently done a poll, asking the public whether they believed the deficit was rising or if it was falling.

    The results were:

    (a) Sixty-two percent of Americans believe the deficit is getting bigger this year,

    (b) twenty-eight percent believe the deficit will remain about the same; and

    (c) six percent believe the deficit will shrink

    Now if reality were decided by majority consensus, then the 62%, the As, would have it. But reality isn’t like that. It’s the Cs, the 6%, who are correct. The US deficit is falling. And has consistently fallen since Barrack Obama took power. GW Bush’s government were incompetent spendthrifts.

    And where does this 40% figure come from? When GW Bush left office, the deficit was 10.1% of GDP. Does that look more personally responsible to you. Under Barrack Obama, the deficit is falling to 5.3% this year.

    Obama has halved the deficit. I will not accuse anyone who disagrees with that fact as being evill!!!, dishonest, or just stupid, that is just the fact of the matter.

    Now let’s get back to democracy. If only 6% of the people know what the reality actually is, then why are the 94% even allowed vote.

  6. Whatever,

    I did not call the calling for a delay evil. Actually, since business got a delay, I think that individuals should have gotten the same treatment based on the principle of consistent application. My dispute was with their methodology.

    If the Democrats shut down the government and brought us to the brink of default, I would write a piece critical of that.

    Thanks for the examples of fallacies in your last bit-I’m always looking for those.

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