By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor
It’s a new year and we have a new Congress, with the House of Representatives dominated by Republicans and the Senate still under control of the Democrats. The election was hardly over before the new House majority began announcing its major policy plans. It’s a pretty short list – the only top priorities the Republicans have are repealing the Affordable Care Act (which they call “Obamacare”) and freezing the ceiling on the national debt.
Last week, the health care repeal bill, the so-called “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed the House on a mainly party-line vote. The vote was largely symbolic; it stands little chance of passing the Senate and virtually no chance of getting President Obama’s signature. Why would Obama sacrifice his own signature achievement to give his political adversaries one of their own?
More to the point, why would a major political party gamble away its future on a pointless political maneuver? Before the election, support for repeal ran pretty high (among Republican voters, at least), at 61 percent. Today it’s down to 49 percent among Republicans, according to a recent Associated Press poll, and as low as 25 percent in some polls. Why would they risk their political future by trying to scrap a law that most Americans actually support?
Sure, the law isn’t perfect. There are a lot of features in it that need to be changed. The individual mandate, for example, is one of the least popular provisions. And, in my opinion, the law doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing insurance company abuses. But its other consumer protections – like closing the prescription drug donut hole and ending the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions – take important steps in the right direction. Repealing the entire law would be a mistake.
The second policy goal is the larger threat. The national debt, as horrifying as it is at over $14 trillion and growing, is also crucial to maintaining America’s standing in the world financial markets. Our ability to leverage our debt and trade on the full faith and credit of the country is what is keeping the economy moving forward. Limiting our ability to borrow money to meet operating expenses would completely derail any progress made so far. It would threaten Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits and our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much is tied to our ability to borrow money – even more so since Republicans refuse to raise taxes to cover their own deficit spending – that defaulting would mean fiscal ruin for the country.
It could even spread internationally. We’re still one of the last world superpowers. What kind of reaction can we expect if we default and can’t pay our own bills? For the U.S. to default on its loans could cause chaos in the international markets. We’ve already seen Italy, Greece and Spain go into full-blown debt crises; how would the world respond to America doing the same? We’d lose credibility on the world stage and our own economy would go into a tailspin.
The idea of imposing fiscal responsibility on Washington D.C. by taking away the credit card appeals to some. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently called the debt ceiling vote the “first really big adult moment for the new Republican majority.” Other, more mature voices, have different opinions. Bruce Bartlett, former advisor to President Reagan, called the freeze supporters “children playing with matches.”
Between their pointless and callous attempt to repeal affordable health care and this insane idea to force us to default on our debt, one has to wonder if the Republicans are actually putting “country first” as Senator John mccain, R-Ariz., once used as his campaign slogan. If they are, they have a strange way of showing it.