GOP Kamikazes

Heckuva Job, Wacko Birds: You’ve Shut Down the U.S. Government

It wasn’t the ‘will of the American people’ that the government shut down over Obamacare, says Kirsten Powers.

The GOP “suicide caucus”, led by proud “wacko bird” Sen. Ted Cruz, was, not surprisingly, spawned from a faulty premise.

Their kamikaze campaign to defund President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, ridiculously rests on the idea that they are reflecting “the will of the American people.” It’s true that Obamacare is not the most popular government program in history. But hardly anyone outside this pestiferous little posse supports defunding the law, especially at the cost of a government shutdown.

In a widely touted USA Today/Pew Research survey, 53 percent of Americans expressed disapproval of Obamacare. But of those 53 percent, just half (or 23 percent of the total population) said they wanted Republicans to do what they could to kill the health-care law. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll asked, “Would you say you approve or disapprove of cutting off funding as a way to stop some or all of the law from being put into place?” Defunding was opposed 56-37. When the possibility of a government shutdown was factored in, there was even less support. In the CNBC All-America Economic Survey, opposition to defunding under those circumstances was 59-19.

On what planet is 19 percent of the population the expression of the will of the American people? The GOP has routinely conflated disapproval of or confusion about Obamacare with a desire to defund the law. Now they seem to believe that the American people want to defund the health-care law so much that they are willing to drive the American economy off a cliff. It’s beyond delusional. This is government of, for, and by the fringe.

Could people in Congress possibly behave another way when they disagree with the president on an important policy matter? Yes, it turns out they could. In April 2007, when 76 percent of Americans said the Iraq War was going badly, a CBS/New York Times poll found that 36 percent of all adults wanted Democrats to withhold funding for the Iraq War if no timetable for withdrawal was set. Did the Democrats take the U.S. government to the brink of disaster to get this accomplished? No, they didn’t. They included a timetable in an Iraq War spending bill. President Bush vetoed it, and Democrats relented in the face of outrage from their liberal flank. It’s worth noting that the Iraq War was a demonstrable mistake involving life and death. Obamacare is essentially government-run health insurance that hasn’t even fully launched. The hysteria and hostage taking of Wacko Bird Inc. is not reasonably matched to the current situation.

The inability of this faction of the GOP to grasp the serious repercussions of their behavior is frightening. Take it away, Karl Rove: “A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995,” wrote Rove in his Wall Street Journal column last month. “Back then, seven of the government’s 13 appropriations bills had been signed into law, including the two that funded the military. So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown. [B]ut this time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government. Washington won’t be able to pay military families or any other federal employee. While conscientious FBI and Border Patrol agents, prison guards, air-traffic controllers and other federal employees may keep showing up for work, they won’t get paychecks, just IOUs.” (Obama did sign a last-minute bill Monday night ensuring that members of the armed services would continue to be paid during the shutdown.)

As Reuters reported Sunday, “A shutdown is expected to have a major impact on markets, injecting massive amounts of uncertainty into all asset classes.” If the GOP can’t get it together, we may be facing a default on the federal debt and another recession in addition to a shutdown. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, told The Washington Post, “It’s corrosive on the economy” and we could be headed for “the nightmare of the recession all over again.”

Heckuva job, wacko birds.