Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Going Into The Shutdown

So the government shut down last night. (A lot of it, anyway. Those performing functions deemed "essential" or who can't easily be sent home- such as soldiers overseas, or astronauts on the International Space Station- will keep working; there's an infographic here for you.)

Now, there are several ways we could go with this. We could go into the blame game and delve into who's at fault, but there isn't much to be said there, because as Rachel Maddow dissected last night, the Republicans are not merely at fault but have actively taken credit for and campaigned on shutdown. So you can just go to Maddow and let her lay it out for you; there's not much value I can add to that.

We could go into how this affects the next round of elections, but that doesn't take too long either. Though both parties are catching heat from voters, ultimately the balance of Congress is a zero-sum game, with third parties only gathering up one or two seats these days, so the real question is who comes out ahead of the other on the day. The Republicans, as long predicted, are going to take the bulk of the heat here, the so-called 'generic ballot' is getting uglier by the day, but the odds of a House flip to the Democrats remains rather long, at least for now, solely because of the 2010 redistricting that was gerrymandered well and truly in the Republicans' favor. Retaking the Senate is at this moment likely to be a very tall order for the Republicans if not outright unrealistic. It's a long way out, so specific numbers are going to be tough to come by for a long time yet, but there you go.

We could go into the fact that Congress will still get paid throughout this, but that involves more creative application of swear words than I'm really willing to do today.

We could go into the fact that, even though this shutdown was brought upon us in an effort to derail Obamacare, Obamacare has, lo and behold, rolled right along with or without the government. (48% of the Department of Health and Human Services is, after all, still working, along with 96% of the Department of Veterans Affairs.) The website opening the health insurance marketplace opened the very second the government shut down, and here it is. It's actually been under some load strain today due to all the traffic the website has received, which isn't out of the ordinary for an online launch day if you're popular enough and nothing that Team Obama hasn't had to deal with before; I recall they managed to cripple quite a few servers in, for instance, the 2008 campaign. Things ought to be running smoothly within a few days if history is any guide.

We could go into if the Republicans are going to do this with the debt ceiling as well. But that answer is easy too: yes, unless either enough Republicans defect for fear of going down that path, or unless Speaker of the House John Boehner gets fed up and relaxes the Hastert Rule that he's been following requiring a 'majority of the majority' (e.g. a majority of Republicans) to get anything done. Doing so would virtually guarantee a Republican primary against him, because the Tea Party is just like that, but the side question is whether at this point they would primary him anyway, as they've been listening to Ted Cruz over Boehner lately.

We could go into the fact that Republican members of Congress, led by David Vitter of Louisiana, are intending to cut their own staffers' healthcare, which is just the height of stupidity if you want the people who read your mail and handle your schedule to have any sort of loyalty to you. Boehner, for his part, is opposed to that plan.

In fact, I guess we just got into all those things, didn't we? Thinking out loud accomplishes a bunch sometimes.I guess that's really the best way to go into it: take all the different facets of this debacle, touch on each of them, and lay them out in a group.

But I guess the thing I want to highlight most is the fact that, even now, after all this time, after a long national debate and a Supreme Court case and an election that was effectively a referendum on Obamacare and multiple shutdown threats and now a real, actual shutdown over Obamacare, after all this time and all this talk... there are people who STILL have so little of a clue as to what's going on that they do not know that 'Obamacare' and 'the Affordable Care Act' are the same exact thing. Jimmy Kimmel, of all people, has put this disconnect in perhaps the greatest relief thus far with the following segment on last night's Jimmy Kimmel Live.

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