Obamacare and the Shutdown

Hi everyone! So last time I wrote, we were talking about Syria and I actually didn’t see too many people my age talking about it (and understandably so. I can think of many things that are much more exciting than foreign policy). However, to my pleasant surprise, I’ve definitely noticed a MUCH higher level of engagement among young people surrounding the topic of Obamacare and the government shutdown.

On a bittersweet note, since I started a new job last month, it means that I’ve had a lot less time to read the news and research as much as I would have normally done. Since I haven’t been able to spend as much time on this, I’m going to try and keep it as short and painless as possible.

A few weeks ago when Syria was in the news, I focused on the potential results of huge political and military power struggles among countries on a global scale. As many of you see now, power plays like can often occur on the federal level, right here in the United States.

Before I get more into Obamacare, it’s important for me to mention that people largely think we’re still a two-party system: Republican and Democrat. The truth is it’s not so easy to differentiate between the two anymore. The lines between these parties have been blurred so much that Republicans are fighting Republicans and Democrats are doing the same.

It is my belief that, in our country, there is only one true political party with power – the business party; that is, the wealthy elite, the bankers, the corporations, and the military-industrial complex. For most others, it’s a constant uphill struggle.

What I hope people can come to realize is that this isn’t easily labeled as a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans, rather it’s a fight between the .01% and the rest of the country. What is happening is the unfortunate ramification of the wealthy using their money to buy political influence, and when it snowballs out of control. In layman’s terms, a monster known as the tea party has been created.

Just to outline some basics, every year, the government budget must be approved by Congress: the house (a Republican majority) and the senate (a Democratic majority). If a budget is not approved, the government can’t spend any money for the coming fiscal year (which was October 1st)

In a conniving maneuver that encapsulates what I believe to be the very essence and horrific beauty of politics, a very small core group of Republicans in the House decided that in order to gain some leverage against this whole Obamacare thing, they tied defunding/altering it into the very same measure that would have approved a new budget for the government. This was thought to be very clever on their part because obviously the Democrats don’t want to defund Obamacare. Obama doesn’t want to change Obamacare because his entire presidential platform was based on it. Republicans believed that threatening a shut-down would have forced the Democrats to either defund Obamacare, (yeah right) or at least compelled them to sit down and discuss changes to the law (nope).

I’ve heard a lot of people claim that Republicans are being big whiny brats and that they need to respect Obamacare because it is the “law of the land”. Yes, they are being whiny. However, just because something has been passed into law does not automatically deem it effective, nor efficient. Think No Child Left Behind or our welfare policies – that’s just off the top of my head.

The Obamacare act is not only over 2,000 pages long, but is also extremely complex and probably isn’t the soundest piece of policy ever written – it, like a number of other policies, could use some work. However, it will still benefit many people. The only thing that I can claim for sure is that it’s MUCH too early in the game to know whether or not this piece of legislation will create more good than harm. Its potential costs on society in the long run won’t be known until it actually gets there.

As I referenced in my last piece, the whole Syria fiasco was a standoff between Russia and the U.S., where Syria was potentially going to be used as their chessboard. This time, it’s our government using middle class America as their (nonviolent) battleground. This is a stretch, but I can see how the Republicans are doing something slightly akin to what the U.S. was doing to Russia, China, Syria and Iran when we threatened military intervention – but without the risk of blowing the world up.

So how did something like Obamacare get passed in the first place and why didn’t Republicans do something about it earlier?

At the time it was passed, both halves of Congress, the Senate and House, were controlled by the Democrats. Majority leaders seized this small window of opportunity to steamroll through the Obamacare act – a MAJOR healthcare policy overhaul. They were able to do this without including Republicans on the discussion, because they really didn’t have to. This avoided the possibility of the act being amended or changed before being passed.

Of course, a major part of the Obamacare act is vital for a number of Americans. It eliminates penalities for pre-exisiting conditions and illnesses and will provide healthcare to many who weren’t able to access it before. BUT, its potential cost on society as a whole, while maintaining healthcare quality is so undetermined, that it may be worth taking a step back and reevaluating it.

Obamacare could lead to massive over-enrollment in state-subsidized health care insurance, as opposed to private insurance. What that means is that our government could end up not having enough money to cover the expenses of everyone who enrolls in state healthcare. They may have to cut corners in terms of quality in order to meet the demands of the people.

At this point, I really can’t pinpoint the blame to one specific group – the entire government is pretty much a constant shitshow (for lack of a better word). Would it be better for the Democrats to hold their ground? Refuse to discuss or amend any part of the bill while the government is shut down and hope that the Republicans will eventually cave? Or should the Republicans stay strong; withhold budget approval and demand alterations to Obamacare with their inclusion? It’s not an easy problem to solve and is hardly one that our lawmakers were ready for either.

On an international scale, this makes us look very bad. AGAIN. Not only do we try to pick fights with other countries, we pick fights with our own people.

This is no longer a debate regarding the welfare of Americans; it has turned into a very personal power standoff between individuals in our House and Senate. It’s a room full of huge egos and neither side wants to back down.

The only thought that I can take the slightest comfort in is the fact that we are all partaking in a huge political experiment. What comes from this and the public opinion that went along with it will forever be preserved on the internet in the hopes that maybe one day the worst parts of history will finally stop repeating itself.

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The Syria Situation in a Nutshell

During the past few weeks, you’ve probably (maybe?) noticed an increase in the talks about our impending attack on Syria, and also the overwhelming amount of support to do so from many of our lawmakers. For my friends who haven’t been able to follow the news, I just wanted to give a very basic idea of what I understand the situation to be.

Currently, the United States, followed by Britain, France and Germany have all agreed there’s strong evidence of the use of fatal chemical weapons by Syrian president Al-Assad. They’re saying it’s time for them to step in and show Al-Assad that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. HOWEVER, the evidence is still heavily disputed by Russia, who is allied with China. Both Russia and China are urging us NOT to stage a military intervention and Russia has vowed to protect Syria against outside aggression. (Aside from Germany and Syria, the aforementioned countries are the 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.)

The rest of the United Nations are also saying that it’s too early to do something so drastic. The UN Chief himself warned against what the United States is trying to do – but our executive authority doesn’t reaaaally want to wait for approval.

Just to provide some reference, China and Russia are currently 2nd and 3rd, respectively, behind the United States in overall military expenditure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures I know it’s a wiki link; the table is just a good visual). HOL-Y S***, is this for real? Yes, it is for real.

As you can see, there are a number of big players in this game – countries who spend a substantial amount of resources on their military, and some who also have nuclear power.

Compounding these issues is the fact that the U.S. has had an increasingly tense relationship with Russia (think Edward Snowden/WikiLeaks and gay rights.)

To put it simply, Russia and the U.S. are about ready to battle it out, and Syria is where they would do it. Such an action could trigger a series of very dire geopolitical events.

If we go to war, the United States will be fighting alongside Britain, France, Germany.

Russia will be fighting alongside Syria, backed by China.

Syria says if we attack, they along with Iran, will launch a military response against Israel (a vital and strategic U.S. ally)

Also, I’m going to throw this out there just for the sake of it, but we all know how much North Korea despises Western ideology. Combined with their relatively positive relationship with China, I am led to think that Kim Jong-Un probably wouldn’t hesitate to oblige if asked to join arms with them.

So, let me break this down again:

U.S. + Britain + France + Germany + Israel + (some other countries)

*

Russia + China + Syria + Iran + (maybe?) North Korea + (some other countries)

=  very possible World War III

I acknowledge that there are valid reasons behind a U.S. strike, but the evidence must be presented clearly and transparently. It has not been. More importantly, I think the imminent threat of a world war hosts such grave consequences, that the general public likely would not want to wage any attack at this point.

This is also a little random/just my opinion, but it’s interesting that our administration has agreed to provide firepower to rebels fighting Al-Assad, all while simultaneously believing that no citizen in the United States is competent enough to safely handle their own. They may argue that the nature of the situation is not comparable, but will it eventually be?

TLDR; U.S. and Russia want to fight each other, want to use Syria as a playing field, could lead to nuclear WWIII. One wrong move, everyone dies.

edit: Since I wrote this, Syria has agreed to begin negotiations and cooperation in relinquishing their chemical weapons supply to the UN.