Like everybody else in the world, I woke up this morning to find the US Federal Government has gone into shutdown, with all non-essential Federal workers on mandatory furlough until otherwise advised.
National parks, galleries, museums and zoos are closed until further notice. NASA, the Center for Disease Control and the IRS are all facing severe cutbacks, with only a skeleton staff in place. Federal loans for homebuyers and small businesses are stalled, garbage collection and parking enforcement in the Capitol is suspended and buying a gun just got harder, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is a non-essential service.
I’m no political junkie, but here’s how I understand the situation: the federal government has passed a law that says all Americans MUST buy health insurance or face a fine, and that law has been upheld by the Supreme Court. This law is referred to as Obamacare. Lots of people love it, lots of people hate it, but it IS the law, and it goes into effect today. The government shut down has nothing to do with trying to prevent the passage of a healthcare bill. The bill has been passed. It’s the law.
So what is the shutdown about? I think it’s straight-up posturing. Shutting down the government is a Very Bad Thing™ and whoever ends up getting the blame is probably not going to be re-elected. If the Republicans can stick the Democrats with the responsibility for the shut-down, they have pretty much annihilated Hilary’s chances in 2016.
Personally, I think it’s going to go the other way, and the Republicans are gonna get stuck with the shitty end of this stick, but we shall see. The fight, as I understand it, is over whether the implementation of the law should be delayed or not. And tacked onto that delay measure was some bullshit about companies being allowed to decide if the insurance plan employees are paying for should fund preventative health measures like birth control.
This is a war of ideology: is healthcare a fundamental right that all citizens should be guaranteed or should it be something you choose to have or not have? I’ve lived under all different regimes:
China – fully funded national healthcare with a robust black market providing private care
England – National Health Service with some private sector health providers
Australia – separate private and public systems
Canada – fully funded national healthcare with very little private healthcare available
USA – total fucking mess
For me it comes down to economic efficiency. A national healthcare system is just a more efficient way of spending healthcare dollars. National healthcare systems piss Americans off in particular because they are also progressive –they redistribute the resources of the rich to the poor. But they’re only moderately progressive. Nothing to get all up in arms about, if you ask me.
Using data on expenditures and life expectancy by income quintile from the Canadian health care system, I find that universal, publicly-funded health insurance is modestly redistributive. Putting $1 of tax funds into the public health insurance system effectively channels between $0.23 and $0.26 toward the lowest income quintile people, and about $0.50 to the bottom two income quintiles.
Health Care Financing, Efficiency, and Equity
Most of the media commentary on the shutdown focuses on these differences in ideology. FoxNews frames the conversation as one about a “critical spending bill”, and paints the Republicans as the good guys trying to “woo” the recalcitrant Democrats into negotiation.
CNN focuses on all the workers who won’t be getting paid and blames the Republicans for hating Obamacare.
blah blah blah
There is one curious exception to the overall coverage, however. Both Slate’s Double XX blog and Jezebel have identified the battle as being not over a fundamental ideological difference about personal responsibility, but as a targeted example of misogyny.
The government has shut down because someone hates women.
Here’s where it gets tricky: almost ALL of the senior branch of the government is comprised of men.
The braying ladies can’t blame ALL men for this debacle, or they would end up blaming the men they count on to do the tricky, difficult job of governing for them.
What to do, what to do?
I know! Let’s focus on that one provision that allows companies to decide whether or not to fund particular preventative health measures and make the argument ALL ABOUT THAT, because that way, we can blame Republican men and save “our” men from criticism.
And they say that in 2013 women still don’t have any power. Behold, the US government, steward of the most powerful and wealthy country in the world, is about to be brought to its knees by a group of post-fertile conservatives who, more than anything, fear a loosening of their demographic’s grip over the choices of sexually active women. In fact, conservatives hate sluts so much that at midnight to night, they’re going to shut down the government over it.
Shutdown Looming, Republicans Spent the Weekend Trying to Cut off Your Contraception Access
The amendment reflects an extremely creepy view of the employer-employee relationship, in which apparently your boss’ beliefs and views are supposed to be in the mix when you’re making personal decisions about how you have sex and procreate.
This is not the first time Republicans have tried to hold our government and economy hostage with their misogynist obsessions—in a 2011 spending bill, the GOP threatened to cut off family planning subsidies for places like Planned Parenthood.
Here’s theFrisky, deploying the same tactic, helpfully illustrated with a white male Republican looking suitably grim. You just feel his lady-hate.
Congressional Republicans Willing To Let Government Shutdown Over Birth Control In Obamacare
What’s more important: letting your boss refuse to cover your birth control pills in your health care plan or the jobs of 800,000 federal workers? You guessed right — it’s your boss’s input on your family planning decisions! Oh, Lord, I just can’t anymore with Republicans.
Seriously. Are we in need of any more proof that feminism is deeply narcissistic? Not every debate is about women. Not everything is a “feminist” issue. Not everything is about meeeeeeeeeee!
How many ounces of human compassion do you need to realize that a lot of families are about to suffer with no money coming in to support them? No matter where you fall in the debate about healthcare, how hard is it to understand that almost a million people will not be getting paychecks for the foreseeable future?
You’re embarrassing yourselves.
You’re embarrassing everyone.
Lots of love,