From the Left: Partisan House GOP vs. the working class
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 03:10
Earlier this week, the U.S. federal government shut down because the Republicans in the House of Representatives were unwilling to continue to fund the government unless that resolution included clauses to repeal a key funding mechanism for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The longer the government shutdown goes on, the more profound its effects will be. Many of the programs and services being shut down are basic social services – literally, the economic security of the working class has been thrown out the window, and it will only get worse as time goes on. Before the shutdown, working families were struggling to survive; now, instead of barely keeping their heads above water, they’re going to slowly sink as social program after social program is going to have their department budgets dry up.
The effects are wide-spread. The National Institute of Health has stopped accepting patients, the Centers for Disease Control is ending the seasonal flu vaccination program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is no longer providing vouchers and subsidies to low-income families to help them pay their rent. Homeland Security’s E-Verify program, which checks people’s immigration status when applying for the job, is no longer operational; national parks (includingYosemite, Alcatraz, and even the Statue of Liberty) are closed. The Environmental Protection Agency loses almost all of its regulatory power during a government shutdown, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission loses most of its ability to regulate market transactions and financial derivatives on Wall Street. Veterans’ hospitals will be unable to hold hearings and process paperwork, causing a massive disruption and delay of care for our country’s finest. Even the websites for federal departments are shut down - preventing students and professors alike at UNH from accessing information, resources and materials needed from the Energy, Agriculture and Education departments that we rely on Monday to Friday.
And, if the shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will run out of its emergency funds and may have to completely stop disability claims and pension payments, leaving an estimated 3.6 million veterans without an income.
Vincent Gray, the mayor of Washington, D.C., said that his office has enough money to fund “police, firefights, and EMS units” and “services like trash collection and street sweeping” for two weeks. After that, basic municipal programs are going to be completely stopped until Congress intervenes and passes a federal budget. And Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics (yes, the same Moody’s that got rid of the country’s triple-A credit rating) estimated that 800,000 federal workers would be without jobs and the economy would bleed $200 million for every day the government’s closed. Economic growth, he said, would be cut by 0.3 percent – and seeing as last year’s was by only about 2.2 percent, the difference between 2.2 percent and the possible 1.9 percent could mean tens of billions of dollars being pulled out from underneath the still-struggling economy.
The government should be shut down, but not like this. What needs to be shut down aren’t social programs and day-to-day public services, but rather the military-industry complex, the revolving door between Congress and Wall Street, and the hundreds of billions handed out in corporate welfare. If we’re going to cut spending and reduce the size of the federal government, let’s do it in a way that doesn’t have the potential to violently throw tens of millions of working-class families into abject poverty.
Now, imagine what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised by Oct. 17. If we don’t have an operating government, we cannot vote on matters pertaining to our national credit; and, without that vote, the U.S. will default on its international monetary obligations for the first time in American history.
Should the government be shut down? Yes, but not like this. We need to shut down the bloated, bureaucratic spending at the Defense Department that sucks up more money than the Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation and Energy departments combined, not Meals on Wheels for seniors and Head Start for struggling students. The blatant disregard of the House GOP for the status of working families is only further evidence that they – and their antiquated, colonial-era notions of patriarchal “freedom” – deserve to be thrown into the dustbin of history. They have again proven that they are inadequate of managing a government and have virtually handed the next election to the Democrats. They’ve created a dream scenario for a fully Democratic Congress to be ready and waiting when Hillary Clinton sweeps her way into the White House in 2016.
Neither of the two capitalist political parties in the U.S. have the vested interest of the working class at heart, but it should now be apparent to all that they will not let anything – seniors’ food, children’s education, public healthcare or even day-to-day social services – stand in the way of their campaign to minimize (and eventually privatize) all aspects of the U.S. government. If you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention. Wake up and don’t be afraid to rekindle the Occupy Wall Street spirit and take the fight directly to the Republicans. Don’t be afraid to throw them out of office and replace every single one of these nationalist bigots with progressive champions of the working class.