Today marks the first day of the latest government shutdown due to failure of the House and Senate to agree on a spending bill. The main point of contention was Obamacare, which Republicans fought to repeal or delay. This conflict can be seen as a symptom of political polarization which, as multiple studies have shown, increases as economic inequality increases. This might seem counter-intuitive to those aware of how both parties receive money from the same corporations. Still, they get paid varying amounts from different corporations and they need to at least appear to be responsive to needs of constituents. Differences between the majority of Democrat and Republican representatives are analogous to differences between neoliberals and neoconservatives. There’s subtle differences in approach and emphasis but both ultimately serve the corporate-security state.
Many will blame the shutdown on Republicans who oppose Obamacare, but will it really increase access to affordable healthcare? It may have been better to delay implementation in order to work out glitches in the bureaucracy and computer systems. Obamacare has already had the unfortunate side-effect of businesses replacing full-time positions with part-time positions, and without any controls over the rising cost of premiums we should expect to see further rate increases. There may be minor improvements but far less than what would have been provided through single-payer and public option alternatives. If we had a Medicare-for-all system as Green Party candidate Jill Stein proposed, we’d have a system people already support providing comprehensive coverage with far less bureaucratic waste and at a fraction of the cost.
One of the many sickening aspects of the government shutdown is that government agencies that truly need to be shutdown, like the NSA, CIA, FBI, DEA, etc., remain essentially untouched. What will be shutdown or reduced are services related to health, work safety, food assistance, housing, education, parks and museums, regulatory agencies, and labor. Once again, money junkies in power have demonstrated their incompetence at doing things they care little about (ie. providing jobs and services that actually help poor and working class people). However, they have proven to be extremely good at funneling more money to themselves and their cronies while consolidating power. On the surface, the shutdown may appear self-defeating, but both parties can benefit by blaming the other side and can more easily push through questionable legislation in an atmosphere of crisis. Just like the sequestration last Spring, it’s a form of austerity which benefits big banks while screwing over average citizens.