NEWS FLASH: Republicans invent phony crisis, use it to justify not passing a budget and closing the federal government

By now, everyone is aware that the federal government is operating an unpaid skeleton crew, thanks to Congress’s failure to pass a budget for the 2014 fiscal year. Naturally, the question is “why?” Ask House Republicans and the answer you will get is this: “The president refused to negotiate with us.” Wow, that sounds bad. I wonder why this most conciliatory of executives wouldn’t negotiate with House leaders. Oh, wait, that’s right, it’s because this is complete and utter bullshit.

House Republicans would not submit a bill that did not include provisions for “defunding” the Affordable Care Act. What is the connection between the Affordable Care Act and a functioning federal government? Nothing really. The connection is between the success of the Affordable Care Act and the subsequent downward spiral of support for Republican policies. A two-year-old law, challenged to and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States and the subject of over 40 meaningless “repeal” votes in the lower chamber of Congress, whose stated objective and actual consequence would be to make health insurance (and thereby health care) more accessible and affordable for everyone, has nothing at all to do with funding government services.

Since Republicans want to talk about health care so badly, let’s do that. There is NO excuse for one of the world’s wealthiest nations to have some of the poorest health outcomes and yet have the highest healthcare costs. Take a look at this analysis: Why are we paying more for health care in this country and getting less? Are we dramatically healthier than France, England, Switzerland, or Canada? What are we getting for these dollars?

One of many federal government websites that were shuttered as a result of the shutdown.

One of many federal government websites that were shuttered as a result of the shutdown.

Apparently we’re reaping the benefits of tremendous administrative costs. Um, yay? The Affordable Care Act was the Democrats’ attempt to address some of the problems with this country’s health insurance system. Here are some things it does:

1) Allows dependent children to remain on their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26

2) Requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions

3) Sets up state-run exchanges that allow people to purchase health insurance at a lower cost than they would have purchasing coverage as an individual

One of the big problems with the way health insurance is currently operated in this country is that young and healthy people don’t buy insurance through some common delusion of immortality and invulnerability. Because insurance is an industry that is based on collective calculated risk, premiums are higher when only sick people have insurance. When the risk and the cost are spread throughout the population in a more even-handed manner, costs are lowered for everyone.

That’s the Democratic plan; what is the Republican plan? Apparently it’s to let costs continue to skyrocket so that fewer people have insurance and no one can afford to get sick. As the old joke goes, the Republican plan for health insurance reform is “don’t get sick.” Most people understand that broken systems do not fix themselves. However, rather than proposing some alternative ideas for solving what is a genuine crisis in this country, Republicans take the chickenshit way out of manufacturing an economic crisis and blaming Democrats in general and the president in particular for wanting more people to have access to affordable health care.

By the way, if you’re enjoying the current stupid self-imposed gunshot-wound-to-the-face that is the federal government shutdown, this is merely a preview of the forthcoming 2013 debt-ceiling crisis. I know it feels like we just did this last year–because we did. And this is what the Republicans want this year in exchange for doing something that was a routine practice until Obama came into office–essentially enacting the entire Republican legislative agenda. When that doesn’t happen by October 17, they’ll gladly force the nation to default on its debt for the first time in .  .  . ever.