In just over 24 hours, the federal government will drastically scale back operations and come practically to a standstill, if the House vote on a continuing resolution that includes several amendments to delay the implementation of Obamacare (set of Tuesday) eliminate the medical device tax (major funding source) and, oh yes, delaying the rule that non-church employer benefit plans cover contraception without copays, stands.
Good patriots that they are, they did add an amendment to make sure members of the armed forces get paid. They, by the way, will also continue to be paid, although their staffers who will be furloughed will not. Likewise, Americans who need the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program, which helps pregnant women buy healthy food, will be stiffed. National parks (a revenue source) will close. Head Start grants that expire Oct. 1 will not be renewed. The National Institutes of Health will not take new patients. Air traffic controllers will be on the job, but good luck getting a passport if you wanted to fly overseas. The EPA – long a Republican target anyhow – would be shuttered.
And while the actual economic costs are hard to predict, there seems to be a consensus that a shutdown of about three weeks could cost the economy about $2 billion and shave 1.4 percent off GDP in the fourth quarter, which begins Tuesday.
A core of Republicans, most notably Sen. Ted Cruz, who apparently has also become the de facto Speaker of the House, have convinced themselves this will boost their political fortunes.
They haven’t read the polling, which shows that even though Obamacare is not viewed favorably by a majority of Americans (although, interestingly, approval goes up if the pollster calls it something besides “Obamacare;” go figure), large majorities, around 60 percent, do not want the government closed just to stop Obamacare from launching.
Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have cried, “Don’t do this!” Senior Republicans in the Senate have said this is a dumb idea (Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said as much). I’ll wage Speaker-in-name-if-not-in-fact Boehner would not go there if he wasn’t a slave to the Tea Party Caucus. (Although they should check polling, as well; their “party” is down to a 22 percent approval.)
All that said, this is about a small group of (let’s not mince words here) extremists, backed by a big wad of corporate cash (check the National Journal’s September 24th story), who will create economic and social chaos to try to win a fight they actually can’t win. And they’re willing, if the shutdown isn’t enough, to block an increase in the debt ceiling that is due sometime in mid-October.
Call it cruel, crazy or just blindly ideological, this doesn’t end well for the Rs, and at least some of them know it.