IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Knocking down the GOP's one weak pillar

What does Obamacare have to do with the shutdown? Nothing.
Senate Democrats And Republicans Address Media After Their Respective Policy Luncheons
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. John Barrasso (R-PA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) speak to the media after attending the Senate Republican policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill, October 1, 2013 in Washington DC.

Just last night, a friend asked me to help her teenaged son with a homework assignment: explaining the government shutdown. I explained the story as objectively as I could.

"So in this budget fight, they're not fighting over the budget?" he asked. "Correct, they already agree on spending levels," I said. "And this is about health care benefits?" he asked. "Pretty much," I replied. "And what does Obamacare have to do with the budget process?" he asked. "Nothing, really," I said.

"So why do House Republicans want to take away health care benefits so badly?" he finally concluded, incredulous.

It was, of course, a good question, which is hard for any fair-minded person to understand, whether you're an adult or a high-school student. I explained that from Republicans' perspective, they have no choice -- the Affordable Care Act is "killing jobs" so they believe they must fight to take benefits away, even if it hurts families, and even if it means shutting down the government.

The problem -- well, one of them anyway -- is that Republicans don't appear to have any idea what they're talking about.

[M]ajor provisions of the law have yet to take effect, meaning many of the assertions about how the law is slashing hours or encouraging part-time employment are not backed by statistical evidence, economists from across the political spectrum said. "The script is still being written," said Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. "I don't see any evidence Obamacare is impacting the job market."N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economist who worked in President George W. Bush's administration, agreed. Asked how much the Affordable Care Act had affected the economy so far, he said, "Probably not a whole lot."

Zandi, a former economic advisor to the McCain/Palin campaign, struggles to understand Republican talking points about the law undermining the economy. "I'm not really sure what they're looking at when they say that," he said. "I'm perplexed."

Perhaps I can help clarify. Republicans are lying because it suits their ideological goals.

As this relates to the government shutdown, consider a simple tale of the tape:

  • The House and Senate already agree on spending levels.
  • The Senate passed a spending bill that enjoys bipartisan support in the House.
  • If the House passed the Senate bill, the shutdown would be over.
  • House Republican leaders won't allow a vote on the Senate bill because they say an unrelated law, the Affordable Care Act, is hurting the economy.
  • The Affordable Care Act, as has been proven many times, is not hurting the economy.

The Republican shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 were awful, but they weren't nearly as ridiculous.