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  • You have reached (name withheld). Due to the Federal Government lapse in appropriations, I am prohibited from conducting work as a Federal employee, including returning phone calls and emails, until further notice. If you urgently need to speak with someone at the USGS regarding emergencies or matters of protecting life and property, call (703) 648-7411 or (703) 648-7412. For more information on the shutdown, please visit the Office of Personnel Management website at Thank you.

    ~ Automated response from a federal government worker in the Department of the Interior to an email today

    In case you haven't noticed, today the Republican House furloughed "nonessential" federal workers by declining to fund the government unless the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a Obamacare) wasn’t implemented as scheduled today. Well it was implemented, so they lost that battle, but they are sticking to their promises to do nothing to reform the bloated, inefficient, unfair health insurance industry and the way-too-expensive medical system it supports.

    Congressional Republicans say they are acting on principle. Government should not try to right wrongs inflicted by the free market. The marketplace will take care of any problems on its own. Trouble is, health care and health insurance costs escalated by double digits for several decades, and the free market failed to find ways to help people locked out or priced out of that marketplace.

    Leaving aside the issue of whether health care is a right or a privilege, the fact remains that millions of families and individuals cannot afford or cannot obtain health insurance simply because they are sick. If Obamacare has done anything useful, it has been to give such people access to health insurance that the system has continued to deny them. You can call that socialized medicine if you want, but to me it is simply civilized behavior. It's how all other mature nations treat their citizens. Are they doing something wrong?

    After listening to a lot of news coverage of the government shutdown and to Republicans explaining why Obamacare must go, I have formed an opinion about why this has happened. Some of you are not going to like it, but here it is for your consideration.

    Republicans, who have little support among the less privileged, understand the ACA will give poor and sick people greater access to medical care. Once these folks get medical help, they are likely to have better health and do better. Many of them will perceive the federal government as their benefactor, and that's what Republicans cannot abide. They are so sure that government can't improve anyone's life that to prove their point they are willing to deny medical care to people who currently have little access to it.

    A side effect of blocking Obamacare would be to reduce the number of potential Democratic supporters, because people who are struggling to make ends meet or too sick to do so tend not to vote or be politically active. Such people, the right feels, are marginal for good reason and ought not to participate in the democratic process because they will never amount to anything.

    In other words, the poor, the sick, and the infirm are inconsequential losers and should simply be left to whither and die. That's the American way, according to the libertarian propaganda that propels the Tea Party wing of the GOP. With the losers out of the way, there would be greater hope for a Republican comeback. But if Obamacare actually improves peoples' lives, they might see that government has actually helped them to flourish. Republicans understand that people who feel that way would be dangerous to have around, especially if they are allowed to vote.

    A poster child for this attitude is Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas (which, by the way, has the highest percentage of uninsured people among all the states). He famously filibustered in the Senate to defund the ACA, and failed. Along the way, he asserted that he does not participate in the Federal health insurance program that most legislators participate in, simply because it reeks of socialism and government subsidies. This, he claimed, is a matter of principle for him.

    It's true that he doesn't subscribe to the government plan. Yet, he does not lack for health insurance. Ted Cruz's health is in fact insured under his wife's plan. She is an executive at Goldman Sachs, which subsidizes her insurance and that of her colleagues to the tune of $40,000 per year. So apparently Ted is saying "I'm OK, so you must be OK."

    As Marie Antoinette famously said when told that the populace was in revolt because they had no bread, "Then let them eat cake."

    Now, as then, it seems that someone else has taken their cake, and doesn't want to share it.

    During the Cold War, the right wing liked to say better dead than red. Now they seem to be saying better dead than blue.

    At least that's how it looks to me, my friends. What do you think?
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