Right-wing conservatives are again using the threat of a government shutdown to accomplish their anti-worker agenda. Party like it’s 1995, they say – the last time the GOP forced the federal government to shut its doors.
Their targets this time around aren’t surprising: public housing assistance, money for schools with low-income students, food inspection and programs like Meals on Wheels and Head Start. Don’t forget the Affordable Care Act either, these Tea Party-backed Republicans want it defunded, off the books and the uninsured to stay that way.
In some ways it’s a rehash of 2011, when right-wing extremists in Congress turned the rise of the debt ceiling, a normally routine task that’s been done 74 times since 1962, into an excuse to hold the country hostage for reckless and indiscriminate spending cuts. In reality, raising the debt ceiling does nothing to cut spending; instead, it allows the government to pay bills it’s already obligated to pay.
At the time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called the Tea Party’s demands “foolish” and “deceiving,” but his sentiment had no effect. The result was the Budget Control Act, which led to sequestration, and the downgrade of America’s credit rating, which put the economic recovery, and the global economy, at risk. For the extreme right wing, it was mission accomplished.
Two years later, they are forcing the country into another crisis. If House Republicans don’t get their way by the time the fiscal year ends on September 30, the gears of the federal government will begin grinding to a halt. A few weeks later, Congress will need to raise the debt ceiling for the government to pay its bills, and all indications point to the extremists using that as a pawn to get their way once again.
The victims of their rashness? Low-income families, the unemployed, the elderly or disabled, millions of Americans who are just starting to find their financial footing after the Great Recession, and over 100,000 federal employees who could lose their jobs.
“Federal employees make this country work,” said National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE/IAM) National President William R. Dougan. “Budget cuts and shutdown threats do nothing but undermine the great work these patriotic Americans do for our nation every day. There is nothing political about caring for a wounded veteran, keeping our drinking water safe, or protecting our border. Congress needs to quit the political posturing and help us do what we do best: make America great.”
“Are some of these folks so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they’re willing to tank our whole economy?” asked President Obama. “Are they willing to hurt people?”
Unfortunately, the answer might be yes.