Thursday, October 17, 2013

If the Government Shutdown Wasn’t About Obamacare (And It Isn’t), Then It Was About?. . . Ready To Be Hot Under The Collar?

Montage above: Koch funded anti-healthcare creepy Uncle Sam ad, David and Charles Koch from Forbes 400 and from a story about  Koch funding of climate change science denial.
After a national election in which the Republican Party substantially lost the presidential election, lost the U.S. Senate, and lost the popular vote for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party has been deferring to a fractional extremist fringe within its ranks, allowing that faction to steer the whole country into a government shutdown and near default on all its financial obligations, theoretically to prevent the enactment of “Romneycare” (now renamed “Obamacare”).  Really?  Romney/Obamacare is a healthcare plan that was originally developed by and sought by the Republican Party.  It was ultimately adopted by President Obama as a concessional compromise that gave the Republican Party what it once said it wanted.

This is really why the government was shutdown and we went to the precipice of default at huge financial cost to the country?  That’s why we risked complete and total chaos in the economy?

Really and truly?

Absolutely not.  Think again.

There are quite a few theories about why the Republicans, chose to prostrate themselves before their Tea Party faction, shutting down the government.  None of them actually accurate.  They are:
    1.    Republicans believed that the Romney/Obamacare would be a complete and total disaster so damaging to the country that it was worth bringing the country to its knees, incapacitating it and threatening the very worst in order to prevent its rollout.

    2.    Republicans actually believe the opposite, that Romney/Obamacare will be a tremendous success, that Americans will wind up loving it and will become (as predicted by Republican Senator Ted Cruz) addicted to its “sugar” when implemented, making it impossible to repeal.  Since even Republicans, including very possibly subcategory Tea Party members might, when actually experiencing the law, decide they sincerely like the result of having healthcare, it is important to nip this in the bud . . .  because, if the Republican and Tea Party constituency realize that the doctrinaire lies they have been fed about Romney/Obamacare aren’t true, it could, among other things, undermine the future credibility of the Republicans and the Tea Party on other matters was well as this.

    3.    Republicans believe that being generally obstructionist will always benefit them in the polls.  (Not exactly the way things are working out.)

    4.    As expressed in a recent Paul Krugman column, Republicans are “deeply incompetent,” so much so that they “can’t even recognize their own incompetence.”  (See: The Boehner Bunglers, October 6, 2013.)

    5.    Shall we, for the sake of a more profound debate, stay away from the perception, often expressed by comedian-commentator Bill Maher (however much unfortunate truth may actually be in it) that Republicans oppose everything Obama does simply because Obama is black?
What is really going on?

Sometimes things in this world turn out as no one could expect, chance having its way, and unexpected results coming out of the blue.  But there are many other times when it is instructive to look at outcomes and assume they were intended from the start.  In this regard, it is valuable to note the recent and well-documented New York Times report that orchestration of the current shutdown crisis was planned way in advance, going back to at least January/February of this year.  According to the Times, “The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort.”  See: A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire, October 5, 2013, accompanying timeline graphic here: House Republican Efforts to Repeal or Weaken the Health Care Law, October 5, 2013.
So, are we to believe that the number one priority of the Koch brothers for which they would shutdown the United State government is denying healthcare to American citizens?

Within days of the Times article the Koch brothers through their chief corporate spokesperson issued a denial of involvement in the shutdown as part of an attack on the healthcare program with an October 9, 2013 letter.  Notwithstanding, when that letter is read carefully against the documented facts it is really not much of a denial.  See: Kochs Deny Pushing for Shutdown Over Health Law, October 9, 2013.

One hint that the manufactured crisis was never really truly about opposition to the Democrats’ passage of a  Republican-formulated healthcare law is that in the waning days of the crisis, as an immediate default on government obligations was about to be avoided, the dialogue had readily shifted from being about the healthcare bill to being about other things, mainly broader government spending and general budget matters.  Like defense spending?: No, that wasn't talked about. . .   One of the problems for the Republicans when they tried to halt the roll-out of Obamacare by defunding the government is that Obamacare is self-funded and therefore rolled out nonetheless.  The other indication of what all of this craziness this is really about is that resolutions sought by the Republicans involved kicking the can down the road with deferral of dates so that the nation will potentially be kept in a state of constant crisis with more of this craziness almost guarnteed to transpire again in the future.

If all this drama and damage to the country has not actually been about the Koch brothers wanting to block a healthcare program, what is it really about?   . . .   Instead of believing that the Koch brothers have an intense, burning and paramount desire to deny healthcare to Americans (which seems rather absurd), let's think about what the Koch brothers are really interested in and where they direct most of their other political spending: They direct that money to climate change science denial and to the frustration of any efforts to societally address the issue of global warming.

The Koch brothers are vastly wealthy and their wealth comes principally from the extraction of fossil fuels.  With an estimated personal wealth of $36 billion each this year, Charles and David Koch are now tied for fourth place on September’s Forbe’s 400 list.  If we think of them as a single united unit of family wealth then the Koch’s jump to the head of that Forbes list alongside of Bill Gates and place well ahead of the $58.5 billion that earns Warren Buffett his Number Two status on this list. Lesson to us all: The Koch’s wealth has been rocketing up concurrent with their involvement in politics.

Would American industrialists really do something as outrageous as wrecking the government for the sake of advancing their personal wealth and private industrial pursuits?  Is that so very different from putting the fate of the entire human race and the rest of the planet at risk with climate change— or simply a mere subset of such behavior?

How is the attack on healthcare and the government shutdown connected with efforts to fend off people doing something about climate change?  Just think what would be happening if we had not been embroiled in this silly mess about preventing Romney/Obamacare from going into effect: With a working government we would very likely be proceeding to the biggest priorities at hand.  We might therefore be taking measures to deal with climate change at this very moment.  Even if we weren’t dealing with climate change right now we’d certainly be getting to it considerably sooner.

For how many weeks and months has the issue of the pending government shutdown been consuming all the oxygen in the media for any discussion of anything else?  Attention everywhere has been diverted as we heard about this silliness 24/7 in ad nauseam detail.

It goes further than that.  At the same time that we haven’t we heard anything about what the government ought to be doing about climate change we also haven't heard about the reverse: We haven’t heard anything about the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty (TPP) which will go a long way to prevent government from doing something about climate change.  In fact, most Americans are probably unaware that the TPP exists at all or that it is a stealth corporatist attack on government regulation, including government regulation of such fossil fuel climate change game-over business activities as hydro-fracking.  It is, if you will, another envisioned form of government shutdown, intended to replace government control of corporations with corporate control of governments.  See: Saturday, October 12, 2013, The Other Government Shutdown Now In The Works (One You Are Not Hearing About): A Corporate Replacement Of Government Via The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty.

At first blush it might seem odd that John Boehner, Speaker of the Republican House, would have sacrificed so much of the Republican Party's reputation, deferring to the Tea Party faction, the extreme end of his party financed by the Koch brothers, rather than letting majority rule solve the problems.  Of course, the analysis is offered that with such things as gerrymandered districts, average and middle-of-the-road Republicans are more afraid of being ousted in primaries than in being perceived by the general electorate as extremist, but it is important to know that the Kochs don't just finance the Tea Party.   The "moderates" are beholden to the Kochs as well, even before you consider whether Koch brother money can be used to threaten in primaries.

The visuals below are for the purpose of illustrating something the last set of election results have probably not significantly changed: How the Koch brothers have contributed to over half the members of the House and half the members of the U.S. Senate.  They are from the one-hour Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) 2012 documentary “Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream” about income inequality in America, including very particularly its corrosive effect on politics.

The Zeitgeist of the Tea Party, and now the Republican Party as well, is an extreme refusal to allow the government to work.  One can't help but notice that for the Koch brothers and their fossil fuel industries gridlock that preserves the status quo is a win.  So, yes, in this regard, those who perceive a working healthcare program as a threat to Republicans are in a sense right: Because if your goals is to have a dysfunctional government you want the public to see as few examples of successful government programs as possible.

But, I suggest to you, in the end, crippling the government is only an intermediate goal:  The end goal is to defer the day of reckoning for the industries like the Kochs' that are fast and furiously bringing us climate change that, unaddressed, we are less and less likely to survive.  Feel any heat under your collar?

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