One of the most deliciously nihilistic ways in which the cordial creeps of political populism and political egoism unite is in the use of the legislative machine for ideological masturbation. In some ways this is worse than the extortion of the state – this behaviour enriches no one, not even the politicians.
Healthcare in the USA is a locus for this sort of narcissism, on an admirably bipartisan level. Democrat enthusiasts for a Single Payer healthcare system (publicly funded, privately delivered) in California twice passed their bill through the state legislature, knowing that Governor Schwarzenegger would give it his Presley sneer then bin it; this is legislative time nothinged.
Seed-spilling like this is, however, totally outdone by the Republicans. They have attempted to repeal Obamacare 37 times, knowing that the president can veto any such attempt. Considering all the innovative laws which remain untried and the bad laws which remain unrepealed, this waste of law-making time would be tragic were it not so hilariously pathetic and indicative of a severe lack of imagination and ironic understanding. Most recently, the Republicans demonstrated that they would prefer to shut down the federal government than to tolerate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Of course, Democrat Senators could have averted the shutdown had they accepted the House Bill which would de-fund Obamacare for a year, though, of course, politically they couldn’t be expected to accept a measure which would throttle at birth the bill which carries their president’s name and, morally, one which represents the health of millions.
Any red-blooded Republican and I would agree that the Adam of Obama’s labours is a Monster – expensive, cumbersome and bureaucratic. Where we would disagree is that Obamacare is superior, in these three respects, to the current American healthcare system. The present state of American healthcare should offend anyone with a socialist instinct given its astonishing costs and the fact that it does not cover millions of poor Americans – offending anyone who believes in competition and small government by massive federal intervention and spending.
Were you a Senator or Representative, Dear Reader, which piece of legislation would be so abhorrent that you would rather switch off the government than see it funded for a year? For certain representatives, Obamacare is such a law – one with a hilariously poor website and a monstrous price-tag, yet one with no murderous or unethical programme. Imagine if certain American politicians refused to agree a budget until the executive closed Guantanamo. Further, Obama is president and has been chosen as such, the Republicans may think this a poor choice on the part of the electorate but their choice stands – I’m sure that a Republican president would relish repealing Obamacare having being chosen by the people; the onus is on them to stop wasting people’s time until that is the case.
In many respects the American political machine, with its proud and written constitution and its clearly separated powers, provides for this sort of egoism. Despite the absurdities of the British system, the government’s majority in Parliament means that budgets can be passed quickly – leaving government and legislature to govern and to legislate rather than to enjoy heroic impasses. The American division of roles, such as between Senate and House, was created to protect the people from the affronts of overbearing leaders and is now exploited to do just this.
One can’t even expect any interest to result from the shutdown – flicking government’s self-designed off-switch would hardly be an interesting Libertarian or Anarchist experiment. In many ways – without wanting to insult, for example, the relatives of dead soldiers who have received their bodies without a burial fund – is hardly off. Delightfully, Congress members will still be paid, unlike federal employees whose money will be delayed until the Federal government restarts. The NSA’s intrusion into American and global data will continue, alongside other programmes which are deemed important for national security.
Air Traffic Control, also, will continue – as someone with observer status concerning the Libertarian position, I would have been fascinated to see whether aviation companies, in the absence of government power, would be able to self-organise and form an independent body which could arrange for safe airways.
Of course, Americans won’t get this opportunity and the shutdown is an offence to those who are sceptical of government, too. The Center for Disease Control is not monitoring disease given the stoppage, also – while the idea of private and voluntary disease prevention is interesting, this development is, instead, terrifying.
This chaos is not, I promise, for any moral cause, it is for the gratification of those who picture themselves in their brave and epic struggle against Obamacare, like General Gordon fighting to the last against the Mahdi’s men.
In 1787, the thirteen states of North America which had recently declared independence from Britain were nearly bankrupt, had been blocked from trading with New Orleans by the Spanish and could not afford to defend themselves against the Barbary Pirates who assaulted their shipping. The Articles of Confederation which bound the early states didn’t provide the government with the necessary power and funds which were required to protect the sapling confederation.
The new Constitution which was ratified during that year meant that the states would hold their sovereignty jointly rather than individually and gave the new and well-restricted federal government the power to raise an army so as to defend against foreign belligerents.
I am particularly hostile to being governed, but I cede the necessity for a certain amount of state power. Were I a citizen of the USA and given the horror of current US healthcare I would say that Obamacare is an ugly but necessary form of this power. Perhaps Americans will reach a juncture in the future at which they outgrow the need for Obamacare and for government, at which point they will dissolve said social contract. Until then, political mishandling which seeks to deprive them of these institutions, to which they have assented, is creepy.