As this is being written, a shutdown of the federal government due to Congressional budgetary impasse appears imminent. The reason is pretty simple: House Republicans insist the budget bill include anti-Obamacare amendments. Senate Democrats are equally entrenched in opposition. It need not be this way. It ought not be this way.
Foes of the move to de-fund key provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act like to use the word “highjacked” when discussing the Tea Party-led stalemate. On a recent episode of Politically Incorrect with Bill Mahr, former Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich suggested that a better descriptor would be “extortion.” We agree.
The fact of the matter is that only a very small percentage of Americans could be negatively effected by the new health care laws. Not that this is a good thing, but it beats the present situation where tens of millions have no health insurance at all.
Sadly, much of the anti-Obamacare furor can be traced to propaganda funded by billionaire philanthropists and reactionary extremists David and Charles Koch. Their fortunes permit the Koch brothers to wage a media and campaign finance war on virtually every aspect of the Obama administration.
At times, their zeal hovers dangerously close to the megalomania that marks third-world dictatorships. Of course few third-world dictators control the kind of wealth they do. People like the Kochs exemplify all that is wrong with our current political system: If you have enough resources, you can declare up is down, black is white, wrong is right… and do so wrapped in the U.S. flag such that fearful middle and lower class people will fall behind you in naïve lockstep.
A Greenpeace report called the Koch brothers’ front company, “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups.
As the New York Times reports, “the (Koch) brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies — from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program — that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.”
This sullies the good name of cephalopods everywhere. It also shows that well-produced advertising that distorts reality, fear mongers and maligns is sufficient on face to sway the willing public. If for no other reason, this is why a couple of Constitutional Amendments are needed — and will never, ever happen.
First, we need a Constitutional amendment that requires Congress to either pass a permanent yearly budget before September 30th or forfeit their salary for the preceding year. Even if the federal government shuts down, members of Congress still get paid. They also still get access to their unbelievably handsome package of health insurance. In short, we need to incentivize them to do their jobs.
Second, we need a Constitutional amendment that fundamentally alters our campaign finance paradigm. The reason people like the Kocks have such disproportionate, undue and unethical influence is because they can buy it.
To fight this distorted oligarchical terror, we need a system that limits private campaign contributions. The Kochs — along with many from both political extremes — know that Congressional votes are more amenable to purse strings than principle. They may bind all of their votes in the language of principled stands, but at the end of the day, the eerie correlation between votes cast and dollars received is irrefutable.
In America we never believed that might makes right — it just makes for successful bullies. Why don’t we dare to remember that simple truth now?