In the debate surrounding the partial US government shutdown, rhetoric and scare-mongering often seem to be overwhelming the facts. Lest they be lost, here are some highly pertinent facts about the shutdown fight, and about Obamacare.
First, fiscal conservatives in Congress want to fund the government – all of it – except for Obamacare. The House of Representatives, which takes the lead on budget and tax bills, has passed – several times now – legislation that would defund or eliminate portions of the widely unpopular health-care law, while fully funding all other federal operations.
The Senate, controlled by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada and the Democrats, has so far rejected the lower chamber’s attempts to keep money flowing to government operations. In case the Senate continues to rebuff these attempts, the House has taken the precaution of passing legislation (which the Senate approved and President Obama signed into law last night) that would ensure that our military personnel around the world will continue to receive their hard-earned pay during the shutdown.
Second, the Obama administration’s stated position for months amounts to agreeing to the shutdown of the government. The president’s advisers have publicly threatened to veto multiple House-passed spending bills. Those threats came because the president and his allies want to replace spending cuts already agreed to under the Budget Control Act with more tax increases. In other words, if Mr. Obama and Sen. Reid didn’t shut down the government to insist on funding Obamacare, they likely would have shut down the government to essentially insist on spending more.
Third, while a “government shutdown” is an inconvenience to many Americans, the federal government never fully shuts down. The majority of the nation’s 2 million federal workers will likely not be furloughed. The military will continue to protect our shores, Social Security and Medicare checks will be processed as usual – and the Postal Service will remain open for business to deliver them. In many respects, the term “shutdown” is a misnomer; the current situation is more like a slowdown of government services than a complete shutdown.
If that conflicts with the dire predictions you’ve heard about the “disastrous” consequences of a shutdown, consider this. Since 1976, the federal government has “shut down” 17 times. And still the republic survives!
As for Obamacare itself, many of its effects will be more harmful, and more long-lasting, than a temporary government slowdown. First, premiums continue to go up. Even a recent report released by the Obama administration admitted that. When the report says that premiums have come in “lower than projected,” that doesn’t mean “lower.” That means “slightly less high.” As for the $2,500 per family premium reduction that candidate Obama promised his plan would deliver when campaigning in 2008, forget about it.
Second, Obamacare is undermining America’s health-care system. Many individuals have already found out they’re losing the health insurance they have and like. Others have learned that they may not be able to maintain access to their current doctor. One “dirty little secret” about Obamacare is that the law is built around an expansion of Medicaid – and Medicaid-like insurance plans offered in exchanges – even though Medicaid patients often have worse health outcomes than the uninsured.
Third, Obamacare is harming our economy. Firms are dropping health coverage, or cutting back hours, in response to the law’s new mandates and penalties. Bureaucrats have already turned out more than 20,000 pages of regulations implementing Obamacare. All of these regulations will have costs, many of which will be borne by the small businesses that traditionally serve as the nation’s job generator and the backbone of the economy.
Defunding the law represents the best way for Congress to combat the looming threat Obamacare poses. Defunding Obamacare would prevent the law’s costly new entitlements from taking effect, and would prevent the enforcement of its 18 new tax increases. Just as important, defunding Obamacare would ensure that bureaucrats in Washington would not be able to add to the 20,000 page “Red Tape Tower” any more regulations strangling the economy.
Obamacare was, has been, and remains unpopular; support even among Democrats has dwindled in recent months. The law is unfair: Witness the waivers and exemptions granted to unions, to big businesses, and most recently to members of Congress and their staff. As it stands now, the law has proven to be inherently unwieldy: More than a dozen elements of the law have been delayed, modified, or repealed.
Conservatives in Congress do believe in funding the government, but also want to save the American people from Obamacare’s harmful effects before they take root. Unfortunately, President Obama and Harry Reid have insisted that the only way they will keep the government open is if Congress funds every last word of the 2,700-page law. We hope they will listen to the people, reconsider, and move to save our country from the Obamacare train wreck about to hit.
Chris Jacobs is a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies.