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SHUTDOWN – blared the Washington Post headline. None of the powers-that-be could stop a small faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives from shutting down many federal government operations starting on October 1.
Suddenly the powerful Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are powerless, along with two hundred corporate trade associations, who see Uncle Sam as their big customer. Suddenly, the Republican dominated National Governors Association, together with Mitt Romney, the Party’s presidential nominee in 2013, are powerless. Also powerless so far are the allegedly sovereign people, who want uninterrupted safety inspections, enforcement of labor and environmental laws, children’s nutrition and educational programs (like Head Start), student loan processing, veterans benefits, detection of epidemics, access to national parks, and inspections of nuclear power plants.
All of the above want the federal government to stay open. Most of them do not want to see 800,000 federal workers (out of two million) furloughed. It doesn’t matter to House Republicans. About thirty-five to forty obscure, foot-stomping Republicans have scared the easily frightened House Speaker, John Boehner, and his curled-lip deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor, into doing what no foreign enemy since the British burned Washington in 1812 has been able to do. This cohort, representing the most cruel, ignorant, narcissistic Republicans in the Party’s history, has closed down much of the national government.
Usually lapdogs for big business or business lobbies back in their one-party dominated Congressional Districts, this small echo chamber in the House, assisted by some of their ilk in the Senate, have become “mad dogs.” These “mad dogs” do not obey their owners, they embarrass them and make our tepid economic recovery shudder. They shake foreign allies’ confidence in the super-power, whose lawless military Empire budgets are mostly untouched by the shutdown.
To make matters more calamitous, these “mad dogs” are also attempting to block the increase in the nation’s debt ceiling later this month that is necessary to pay for bills already incurred. Just the rhetoric by these ideologically inebriated Republicans is giving the stock marketers and the big business barons nightmares.
The ostensible reason for these “mad dogs” frothing at the mouth is Obamacare, or what is euphemistically called the Affordable Care Act, which does little to control the drug, hospital and insurance industry’s prices. These congressional canines bark daily that the American people are against “big government” Obamacare. They fail to point out that a solid segment in the polls consists of Americans who oppose Obamacare because they want full Medicare for all, or what is called single-payer – a far more efficient, accessible, and simple system with better outcomes and opportunities for disease and injury prevention. Under single-payer, everybody is in, nobody is out, with free choice of doctor and hospital. (Visit www.singlepayeraction.org)
Why is this Republican faction – a minority in its own Party – so extortionately against Obamacare that they would shut the government down? The answer is simple: Obama. They do not like him. Moreover, these Congressional “mad dogs”, well paid and insured by taxpayers, prefer the present ‘pay-or-die’ gouging marketplace that, according to a peer-reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers, takes the lives of 800 Americans each week who cannot afford health insurance to be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner (http://www.pnhp.org/
The question remains: Why have all these power brokers suddenly become powerless, including all the business lobbies? One explanation is that hyped-up Tea Party activists can threaten primaries against moderate Republicans. In addition these “mad dogs” are in a feeding frenzy and cannot see any reality beyond their pack.
Most puzzling are the allegedly sovereign people, including federal employees, their families and the millions of workers around the country who extend or rely on federal operations. True, there are a few scattered protests around the country. In France, were the Parliament to shut down the government, the French would likely sack the Parliament. In Washington, D.C., the press reported an “eerie silence,” before and after midnight struck on September 30. And they might have added – around the country.
How can this not embolden the “mad dogs” further?
It is one thing for America to be a nation of sheep, controlled by the multinational corporate supremacists who have no allegiance to our country other than to control it and ship jobs and industries to repressive regimes abroad. It is quite another matter altogether to be sheep led by “mad dogs” from uncompetitive Districts, whose sheepish voters brought them to Congress where they are exercising their slash and burn plundering.
Who is in charge here? Our Constitution opens with the words “We the People,” not “We the Congress” or “We the Corporations.” That is why people are deemed sovereign.
That sovereignty is in our hands only if we exercise it and challenge our wayward politicians. Time again for that oft-repeated but ignored cliché: Wake up America! (Easy first step – the Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121 or find your member of Congress’s email address at contactingthecongress.org.) Tell Congress they are putting their own jobs at risk by allowing the shutdown to continue.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.