It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD Washington

If the government shuts down on Tuesday, throwing thousands of federal workers out of work, we know whom to blame.

Republicans and Democrats.

The latest brinksmanship over funding the government between the Republican-dominated House and the Democratic-majority Senate starkly illustrates that we have a Congress that places partisan considerations above the welfare of the American people, where each party is willing to thwart, subvert and undermine the agenda of the other at all or any cost. What we have before us is a policy — adopted by both sides — of a form of Mutual Assured Destruction, known during the Cold War as MAD. MAD was a strategy that assured that in a nuclear war no one wins — and everyone loses. Congress is currently not composed of two parties seeking compromises, but two adversaries trying to make sure neither formulates any solution to the issues facing the nation.

In this case, House Republicans are willing to shutter the U.S. government rather than let Obamacare go into effect on October 1. That will mean that federal workers will have to pack their bags and go home, interrupting whatever work they were doing. Work interruption has a steep cost. The cost of the 26-day government shutdown in 1996 was $1.4 billion. Private companies with contracts with the U.S. government won’t get paid, and that in turn will precipitate more layoffs in the private sector.

Layoffs will, of course, trigger a spike in unemployment, spook global markets and hack off an ill-afforded portion of economic growth. As it is, GDP has been sputtering at barely above 2 percent. But all that economic devastation is only collateral damage in the eyes of some Republicans who want to send Obamacare to oblivion.

Adopting this MAD approach of taking down Obamacare and, along with it, the U.S. economy, is a betrayal by the House of the interests of the American people; but at the same time, Democrats are responsible for pushing forward a version of the Affordable Health Care Act when, in its current form, it contains major flaws that have yet to be addressed.

Because of Obamacare, numerous companies have resorted to hiring only part-time employees in order to escape the law’s mandate of providing health care for full-time employees. There’s ample evidence that small companies are scrupulously keeping the number of full-time employees to under 50, also for the purpose of staying under the provision’s radar. Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, has upped its part-time workforce to 10 percent, up from only 1 percent from two years ago. Such concerns about the costs of being forced to provide health insurance has put a definite crimp on employment.

And there are other major flaws as well. For all its promise to bring down health-care costs for Americans, it’s lowering costs for some, but raising it for others. In California, health-care premiums will rise an estimated 14 percent when purchased through the new government exchanges. The pledge wsas that the law would widen the choices for consumers shopping for a health plan. In some instances, Obamacare is proving to limit choices: In New Hampshire, for example, there is only one health insurer available from whom to purchase health insurance. Take it or leave it isn’t much of a choice.

The law’s provisions place tighter controls on insurance companies, forcing them to cover more high-risk patients, which means higher costs for insurers. Insurers have to cut costs somewhere, and the way they are starting to do it is by giving hospitals a flat fee to provide coverage for patients. The effect of that will be that hospitals, in order to stay financially afloat, will have to push patients out as fast as they can. Sicker patients out on the streets wasn’t what Americans had in mind when they supported the health-care law. Democrats have repeatedly denied that Obamacare will have death panels, but with hospitals and insurers trying to balance compliance with the law and turning a profit, it’s hard to believe that the high cost of care for the critically ill won’t lead to some morally questionable decisions.

Those are only some of the issues with Obamacare — extremely important failings that have yet to be fully addressed. And they have to be fixed. Nevertheless, they don’t give Republicans the right to hold hostage the functioning of the government. If Republicans care so much about the harm of Obamacare, they should offer serious solutions and alternative programs to the health-care crisis the nation is facing. Republicans would do far better if they focused their efforts to iron out Obamacare as much as they can through legislation, instead of just trying to obliterate it. If Obamacare proves itself unfixable, the American people will be quick to grasp that and recognize that those opposing the current health-care reform were right. Overturning legislation has not been that big of a deal in American history. Why, even constitutional amendments have been overturned; Prohibition was repealed in little more than a decade. MAD worked as a deterrent against the designs of sick minds during the cold war; it doesn’t work in promoting a healthy democracy.

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