Yesterday’s post, on the seemingly unstoppable growth of federal transfer payments to state and local governments, ended on a question: what happens when both parties to the transaction, the states and the feds confront unsustainable commitments? The brilliant answer our federalism has produced: make yet more unsustainable commitments. Why? Read on to find out.
All Republicans say they oppose Obamacare and vie to call it bad names. But while some will not vote for any bill that appropriates money for it, the Republican Establishment’s leaders in Congress are poised to vote to save its funding. They call the Republicans committed to de-funding Obamacare worse names than they call Obamacare itself, as do The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. They couch their animus in the pretense that withholding funds from Obamacare is impossible. Not so. The Constitution requires that the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President agree on identical versions of each and every appropriation. Otherwise, zero money. So, if Congress ends up appropriating money to enable Obamacare, it will be because Republicans made that happen. Period. That is a fact, not an opinion.
Republican Establishmentarians dislike Republicans who are resisting Obamacare more than they dislike that law because the resisters are forcing them to choose which they value more, their standing in the ruling class or their standing with their voters. Since these Establishmentarians have lived by pretending to represent those voters against big government, forcing them to reveal their true political identity portends a major reorganization of American public life.
The more that the Republican Establishment vilifies the Obamacare resisters, however, the more it clarifies its identity.
The House, which has a Republican majority, can fund Obamacare only if Republicans join the Democrats in voting for it. In the Senate, an appropriation for Obamacare can be voted on only if enough Republicans join Democrats in a sixty-vote majority to cut off debate. But the Republican Establishment, which seems committed to providing those crucial votes, argues that since Obamacare’s proposed appropriation is part of an omnibus “Continuing Resolution” that funds the entire government, Republicans can refuse to fund Obamacare only by refusing to fund the entire government, thus “shutting it down.” They profess certainty that the American people would punish the Republican Party for that.
The profession is false. The assertion that the American people will (and by implication should) punish Republicans for “shutting down the government “ to de-fund Obamacare merely echoes Democratic partisanship. In fact, the government’s many parts lack long term funding strictly because the Senate Democrats have refused to pass individual appropriations for them. By contrast, the House did pass appropriations for each of the government’s parts and even passed a “Continuing Resolution” that funds all the government except Obamacare. So, if Senate Democrats now refuse to vote, or President Obama vetoes, money for any or all parts of the government unless Obamacare is also funded that is their doing – strictly, and no one else’s.
But why does the Republican Establishment prefer to demean the Obamacare resisters rather than to point out these undeniable facts? The standard explanation of its spokesmen that verbal opposition to Obamacare combined with funding it makes for a “kindler, gentler” less confrontational image that will broaden Republicans’ appeal to the general public rings hollow. “We’re trying to grow the party to women and Latinos” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. But there is no reason why women, Latinos, or anyone else should prefer politicians who presume to be rewarded for opposing something in word while enabling it in deed. Besides, the polls are running strongly against Obamacare in most of America’s demographic categories.
The true reason why Republican Establishmentarians act as they do is less that they prefer to obtain the favor of people who have not voted Republican while certainly disappointing people who have voted Republican, than it is an attachment to the one sector of American life that strongly favors Obamacare, the ruling class.
The government’s vast bureaucracies, the judiciary, academe and the media, have become Americas’ primary arbiters of wealth, prestige, even legitimacy. The government’s vast co-dependencies in the corporate world – such as the insurance companies and the hospitals – are major sources of contributions to ruling class politicians. This class dispenses money and privilege. It pretends to know things that the common herd cannot. It claims its opinions as “science.” Departing from its set of habits, and tastes, from its secular canon of sacred myths, saints, sins, and ritual language – never mind serious opposition – means being classed with common Americans: stupid, racist, prone to violence. Thus this class exerts power over power seekers much as the sun does over sunflowers. No surprise then that some Republicans push ever farther into it even as their roots wither among their voters.
The Republican Establishment’s speculation about who might be blamed for “shutting down the government” thinly veils the crisis of its identity, its discomfort with those withering roots, and its dismay at the rise of Republican politicians deeply rooted in the sectors of society that seek representation against the ruling class.