While talk may be cheap, not talking is becoming prohibitively expensive. House Republicans continue to refuse funding portions of the government unless the White House postpones implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act for a year, a delay the president will not even contemplate. With Congress and the president at an impasse, the government shutdown continues to exact its devastating toll on the U.S. economy, which is hemorrhaging $12.5 million an hour, $300 million a day, $1.6 billion a week.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a two-week shutdown would stunt third-quarter growth by .5 percent. If the shutdown were to continue until the end of October, GDP growth would take a two percent hit. As the shutdown continues, hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers will start to pull back on their spending. That, of course, will have a domino effect, driving down consumer spending. Confidence will start to erode and have a negative effect on the broader economy.
The impact of the shutdown wasn’t lost on world markets. Last week, Wall Street reacted to the shutdown, as the Dow and the S&P 500 finished in negative territory for the week.
It’s time to end the squabbling and stop the needless damage to the economy. Both sides keep claiming that they have the interests of the American people at heart. The president said the shutdown “would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy and the idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn’t have to happen.”
House Speaker Jim Boehner also said he’s refusing to back down for the sake of the American people: “The American people don’t want their government shut down and neither do I. All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government, and bring fairness to people under Obamacare.” The speaker is now even making sure that Congress doesn’t harm the American people, refusing to bring to a vote a bill that would reopen the government.
We doubt their sincerity. Congress and the president “care” so much about the American people that they are willing to destroy the U.S. economy, throw thousands out of work and depress global markets, all for the sake of fairness and progress. They “care” so much that they are willing to let important medical and scientific research come to a halt. This stalemate has nothing to do with fairness or progress but about appealing to radical elements of both parties. Little wonder that, according to a CBS poll released on Friday, 90 percent of Americans say they are fed up with Washington.
What we need are concessions, not the kind of “caring” that is killing the U.S. economy. Republicans have to agree that the current health-care system deprives millions of individuals of basic health care and that those who have it are facing skyrocketing, increasingly unaffordable premiums. Instead of putting off Obamacare for another year, a likely delaying tactic, they should offer serious alternatives to the current plan that would provide coverage to millions without insurance. They should offer constructive ideas on how to control the cost of coverage. Alternatively, if Obamacare will be such a disaster, as they claim it will be, why not let it self-destruct? Republicans can then happily print bumper stickers that say, “We told you so!” American history is rife with legislation that was overturned by Congress or the courts.
For his part, the president should concede that some Republican criticism is justified, and work with Congress to fix the problematic issues. And yes, serious problems do abound. Small companies, which will be forced to provide insurance, are making sure not to hire more than 50 full-time workers. Now that all people are required to have their own insurance, companies are rescinding health-care plans from part-time employees, who will have to purchase their own insurance. Last week, Home Depot and Trader Joe’s announced they are pulling the plug on health insurance for part-timers.
Sure, some of the Obamacare insurance coverage will be better than what those employees currently have, but taxpayers will now have to foot the bill for subsidies that were once paid by corporations. That means the price tag for Obamacare, as Republicans warned, will be higher than first projected. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the estimated costs of the government subsidy will rise to $5,510 per person, increasing the cost of Obamacare by $125 billion for 2014.
Congress and the President keep saying they care about the American people, but it looks increasingly as if they could not care less.