The federal government is shut down. Let’s review the basics of how we got here.
Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. One of his top priorities specified during the campaign was health care reform, and specifically to extend health insurance to as many of the tens of millions of people without it as possible. We, the people, chose that path.
In a long and pretty awful process that exemplifies the sausage-making process that is how laws get passed in the US, Obama got a bill passed through both houses of Congress and he signed it. So the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” became law.
For various reasons—some legitimate and some not—Republicans largely did not go along with the bill. But the bill still became law.
Immediately, special interests around the country sprang into action, initiating various means to defeat the law, even challenging it in the courts.
One direct result of this was the birth of the “Tea Party”—not an actual political party and really not even a grass roots movement but instead an effort by very wealthy and powerful individuals to protect their financial interests. Google the “Koch brothers and Tea Party” if you don’t believe me.
Based largely on outlandish and false claims about what Obamacare would do (e.g., death panels!), this Tea Party phenomenon resulted in a complete turnover of government in some states and the US House went Republican as well (which is precisely the plan these wealthy, powerful folks drew up). And they started right away working to repeal Obamacare.
But, ultimately, the US Supreme Court upheld the law, finding it to be constitutional.
Then we had another election in 2012, and the Republican party ran candidates for President and Vice President who promised they would repeal Obamacare if elected. But, Americans rejected this and instead re-elected Obama.
On top of that, Democrats gained seats in the Senate and House, although Republicans held control of the House even as Democrats received a higher number of cast ballots. Because of safe districts, the far-right Tea Party faction of the House remained in place, and was empowered to continue to keep up their fight against Obamacare, even though it is the law of the land and is constitutional.
These are the folks who voted to overturn or repeal Obamacare a total of 42 times, most recently voting to continue running the government but only if Obamacare were defunded or delayed (these efforts cost taxpayer dollars tens of millions of dollars, by the way).
Each and every time, the US Senate did not pass a similar bill. And of course, President Obama would never have signed it anyway. So outsiders generally concluded that these were wasted efforts (and dollars) that could have spent on improving economic conditions so that more jobs are created.
To summarize, this is why the US government is shut down: a group of about 30 “Tea Party” Republicans in the House refuse to pass a bill funding the government without stipulations. In spite of the fact that Obamacare is law, is constitutional, and even after Americans have voted to keep the person who created the law in power over competitors who wanted to repeal the law, one faction of one branch of government—a faction funded by billionaire special interests whose opinions are actually not in line with a majority of Americans—let the government shut down simply because they refuse to go along with a law that is both constitutional and that has been defended in a national election.
It is that simple.
Now, people have different opinions of these Tea Party House Republicans. I’d like to offer mine: Immature. Spoiled. When you look at how the shutdown is hurting real Americans, I’d say it’s fair to even call these legislators mean. Especially since there are already enough votes in the House to pass a clean spending bill right now.
We can only hope that enough Americans in their districts share these opinions so that, next election, we can put people in power who are actually interested in governing rather than acting like immature, spoiled, mean people.