An appropriate metaphor for America at the moment might be the Costa Concordia wreck that is now rusting away as it’s being systematically picked apart. The once gleaming cruise liner, 70 feet longer than the Titanic, lies ignobly on her starboard side off the western coast of Italy, another victim of gross irresponsibility on the part of the men charged with her safekeeping.
The Affordable Health Care Act was passed by Congress in August 2010. The Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2012. Those two factors alone might lead some overly optimistic souls to conclude that, whether they personally like the provisions of the act or not, it is now the law of the land and should be respected as such.
Ah, but this is 2013 folks. The House of Representatives, with its Republican majority secured by a potent combination of gerrymandering and the equally adroit manipulation of fear, confusion, and anxiety, is utilizing a ploy that, even all dressed up in its red, white, and blue pinafore, still looks an awful lot like the basest kind of extortion. The tactic is fairly simple: If you can’t have what you want, exact a terrible price for the fact that you’re not getting it. And a lot of the people orchestrating all the howling over the Affordable Care Act are very used to getting what they want.
Social programs are really no more than an acknowledgment that, as a civilized society, we owe a certain responsibility to those among us who are, for whatever reason, less fortunate. Sometimes the greater good has to take precedence over the perceived infringement on freedom and free enterprise that regularly serve as smokescreens wafted by the guardians of the status quo (read flunkies of the rich).
The Affordable Care Act is now being cast as the country’s portal to hell, a role once played by Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Transported to another period in American history, the same people who today are merrily cashing their checks every month, would be screaming that Social Security was going to be "the end of America as our forefathers intended it to be!" It might be interesting to know how many members of Congress would be opposed to the law they contemptuously dubbed Obamacare if they weren’t covered by the best health care plans that taxpayer dollars could buy. Instead, we are treated to the travesty of one member comparing himself to Rosa Parks because he is willing to deny 11 million Americans health insurance. It interferes too much with his elitist ideological perceptions. Miss Parks is rolling in her grave.
There is, of course, another factor that figures very prominently into the mass weeping and wailing over the evils of the Affordable Care Act. Its opponents are not so much concerned that it will fail as they are terrified that it will succeed. When John Roberts failed to hop aboard the unconstitutional bandwagon, the anti-health care clique shifted gears to delay and obstruct routes to its full implementation. The effort has been shoddy and transparent and mostly a waste of time, but opponents are willing to embark upon it because, by not doing that, they have to concede an enormous personal and political victory to the president. It is a victory that he has already won, but these people aren’t functioning in the real world anymore.
I wonder what someone like Dwight Eisenhower or Gerald Ford would think of the shrill carnival barkers that pass themselves off as spokespersons for the Republican Party today. I was watching Wolf Blitzer’s mostly pointless attempt to interject pertinent questions into Michele Bachmann’s non-stop, nonsensical diatribe on CNN. She hit upon all the talking points that the Tea Party keeps reiterating about the Affordable Health Care Act. It is going to kill children and women and old people, as if those three demographics suffer no ill effects whatsoever from not having access to medical care at all.
I don’t know what the full impact of a long-term government shutdown might be. As of this writing, it is difficult to predict if this unbelievably reckless group of congressmen in the House will carry through on their threat to allow the United States to default on its financial obligations, something that has never happened before in the country’s history. It is quite possible, however, that if Congress refuses to raise the debt limit, it will undo a lot of the progress that America has managed to make since the last Republican keeper of the flame left the nation in ashes.
I sincerely hope, no matter what the consequences might be, that the president holds his ground. Ms. Bachmann, employing the same rationale that has condoned bad behavior since the first 4-year-old tried to shift the blame for spilt milk, had the nerve to tell Blitzer that it will be the president’s fault if the government is forced to shut down, not the fault of the people who brazenly attempted to blackmail him to avoid doing it. Neither she, nor the egomaniacal Mr. Cruz, nor the spectacularly ineffectual Mr. Boehner are kidding anyone. They had better be prepared to face the wrath of the American people, a spectacle that, at least historically speaking, is something to behold.
The Costa Concordia, it should be noted, will eventually be towed to the scrap yard. If the nation provides the same fate to the Tea Party after this latest nightmare excursion, then maybe the journey will have been worth it after all.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.