Shutdown: When truth is the first casualty

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteBlog by Harrison White 

We’ve heard that in wartime, truth is the first casualty. A close second must be the current brouhaha about the government shutdown and who’s responsible. What seems lost is the record of how we got here.

1.    President Obama was elected in 2008, then re-elected in 2012, promising health care reform. He kept his promise and presented a plan.

2.    His plan –the Affordable Care Act – while certainly not perfect, was intended to meet a demonstrated need. It was based on ideas dating back to President Richard Nixon, and carried forward successfully by Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, plus suggestions of Sen. John McCain (R – AZ).

3.    After lengthy debate and discussion, congress and the senate approved the Affordable Care Act.

4.    The Supreme Court ruled that the ACA – with a change – was constitutional.

5.    It has been known well in advance when the ACA would take effect.

So…we have in place an act that has been described, debated, and discussed for years, supported by the majority of voters, and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. And so far, the Republicans have tried 42 times to derail the ACA.


Will it the Republican stall work?

Spreading discontent with the government shutdown indicates not. In the Valley, we are heavily dependent on tourist income, especially in the fall. No National Parks means no tourists. Discontent may increase as the ripples spread wider and wider. There are 170,000 federal employees in Virginia and 30 percent of the economy of Northern Virginia depends on government spending. We will lose more from the government shutdown than any other state.


Will the ACA work?

At this early date, registration for the program is quite steady. People naturally have many questions about the process and plans available. Political advocacy groups do not make things easier, when they send self-described experts traveling through the state who spread misinformation by accident or design. Plus people have encountered the computer glitches that accompany any new program. States that will not expand Medicare coverage risk leaving millions of people uninsured, and losing millions of dollars.


Has any plan like this worked?

The nearest real-world experience is in Massachusetts, where former Gov. Romney’s plan has been in operation for some years. The plan managed to cover nearly all residents at minimal additional cost to the state. A report by the non-partisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concluded that the cost to taxpayers to achieve 97 per cent coverage has been relatively modest and well within initial cost projections.


What’s next?

The Republican leadership in Congress has said very clearly that it does not want people to have access to healthcare and will try to do everything it can to prevent it, including shutting down the government and possibly letting the government default on its debt. They have chosen to use a shutdown to pressure President Obama to give up an approved healthcare plan. But their rhetoric tries to make the story of the shutdown into a partisan standoff where both sides are equally to blame. This is not the case. The most sensible way out seems to stop holding the country hostage, and move on to solving real, not manufactured, problems. Let the Affordable Care Act succeed or fail on its own merits.

Harrison White resides in Staunton, Va.

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