The Stalemate – American Political Terrorism

The current political stalemate between a U.S. House of Representatives dominated and, in effect, terrorized by the far right and the U.S. Senate and the President is a clear indication, at least to me, that the ultra-conservative elements in U.S. politics have more in common with the Taliban than with Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton. The far right opposes the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and has decided that, since it has been unable to prevail through the normal legislative process, it will do whatever it takes, no matter what the cost to the country and the world economy, to destroy the ACA.

In taking this stance, the far right has abandoned any pretense at principles in the pursuit of what they conveniently call principle, but which is a stand on a single issue, and nothing more, because the only principle behind opposing the ACA is to establish that access to healthcare is determined solely by economic status and  resources. Not only are the ultra-conservatives willing to destroy the economic well-being of both the nation and the world economic system to establish this “principle,” but they’re effectively bent on subverting the underlying basis of the Constitution [which they cite continually and erroneously] if they don’t get their way, despite the fact that they are in the minority. In effect, they’re demanding rule by the minority effectively outside the accepted and legal structure of our system. That makes compromise by the President and the Democrats impossible without establishing the fact that any law can be negated by a minority of members of Congress who are willing to risk destroying the system if they don’t get their way. 

In that sense, they’ve established that they’re not politicians, but political terrorists, because their actions place their “principle,” one that is not accepted by the majority through established process, above the common well-being, and they are willing to create great suffering to get their way. That’s not politics, but terrorism

The House Majority leader, John Boehner, claims that he doesn’t have enough Republican votes to pass a continuing resolution, at least not one that doesn’t defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, and the President suggested that Boehner bring up such a “clean” resolution and see.  Boehner, so far, has refused, saying that what the President demands is unconditional surrender, while the President has pointed out that giving in to the demands of a minority that cannot muster the votes to obtain what they want through the normal legislative process is blackmail, and he isn’t about to be blackmailed.

If the President gives in to the far right, it will establish the precedent that political terrorism overrides the will of the majority.  If he doesn’t, he risks great economic catastrophe on a world-wide basis and long-term higher costs for everything in the United States. 

This stalemate isn’t about federal spending.  It’s not even about Obamacare.  It’s about political terrorism and the entire future of the United States.   

20 thoughts on “The Stalemate – American Political Terrorism”

  1. Steve Newton says:

    I was with you most of the way–except for this:

    the only principle behind opposing the ACA is to establish that access to healthcare is determined solely by economic status and resources.

    I happen to believe that there are a great many deadly flaws in the ACA that go far beyond the idea of opening up healthcare regardless of economic status and resources. Nor am I talking about the ridiculous far right talking points.

    How about these for some cogent examples?

    1. The ACA funding is based on an original estimate of savings in long-term care models that were discredited nearly 18 months ago by the GAO and those provisions were quietly dropped without any serious look at how to pay for this several years out.

    2. The ACA enshrines one of the worst abuses in medical billing in allowing hospitals to be compensated at such a higher rate (sometimes as much as four to five times higher) that physicians in offices or clinics that the physicians simply cannot compete. In Delaware, all four major cardiology practices have had to sell out to hospital chains because they could no longer afford to run and maintain the equipment for stress tests, because the ACA compensates them at BELOW the cost of using the machinery, while compensating the hospitals well above it.

    3. The ACA provides for virtual insurance company monopolies in the so-called exchanges. In West Virginia, for example, you may only choose between plans offered by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. In PA, DE and IN, Highmark alone controls 75% or better of the plans available to choose. In other states the monopoly belongs to Aetna or Coventry. The insurance companies have literally been allowed to divide the territories between them and kill any real competition.

    I could go on, but I think my point is clear. There are relevant reasons for opposing the implementation of ACA as written, reasons that have nothing to do with the current insanity of the GOP Tea Party minority in Congress. Unfortunately, they have achieved not only an act of what you characterize as “political terrorism,” but they have also made it damn near impossible to present a rational criticism of this law without being tarred by the same brush, as you did in your general comment.

    1. Whether the ACA is a bad law or even fatally flawed, and it is certainly flawed, political terrorism isn’t the way to go. Second, I agree with much of what you say about the ACA, but not doing anything about the existing system is effectively a vote for the economic status quo, and that status quo is in fact a system that prioritizes health care on the basis of economic resources. Therefore… standing up against the ACA without offering any other even halfway practical proposals to address the healthcare imbalance in this country is in fact making a principle out of economic discrimination in health care — and that has nothing to do with the flaws in the ACA.

  2. Cindy says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more and the fact that they can get this far with their “tantrum” is frustrating and sickening!

    1. Sowell, as usual, omits key points, as do the Democrats in this case. It’s not that the U.S. doesn’t have enough money to service the existing debt; it’s that such monies are limited by the debt ceiling enacted by Congress and that because past appropriations exceeded revenues, even if Congress immediately balanced the present spending and outlays, the debt would increase for a time beyond the current statutory debt limit. Thus, in the current situation, the Treasury is precluded from paying any obligations that exceed the debt limit. In addition, without an overall appropriations bill or a continuing resolution, there is no authority — and no allowable funds — to continue many government operations. In fact, there is some legal question about funding any government operation under the rubric of “essential” functions, but that’s a question no one is about to address, either.

  3. Robert The Addled says:

    While I concur that the details of the ACA are in question – I agree with the general gist of the post.

    Additionally, some of the recent public statements by the “public face” of the extreme conservatives (Cruz) smack of paranoid crackpot conspiracy mongering. – Namely blaming his declining poll numbers (multiple national independent polls) on “Obama’s agents” (or words to that effect – I can’t find the MSNBC story right now).

  4. Frank says:

    I really don’t like Obamacare (ACA) because of the flaws it certainly does have and because of another, less popular view, and that involves your statement that “… access to healthcare is determined solely by economic status and resources.” I can agree with you, depending on the interpretation of the word “solely.” I do think that in a perfect world there would be unlimited access to health care “as needed,” but we don’t live in that perfect world. And, whereas I do believe that access to healthcare needs to be more universal, I don’t believe that means that I, as a taxpayer, owe folks who act to abuse themselves with smoking, excessive drinking, obesity and other “health risk” behavior the best possible healthcare on my dime. Access, yes, but not fee paid. Also, as much as I would like to see everyone healthy, non-citizens, whether they are resident or transient, should also have access, but not necessarily free care.

    With respect to the issue of the House voting for a bill that funds everything but ACA, if that were a legitimate action, regardless of the majority view, what if a group of Representatives decided to pass a bill that did not fund vaccinations, because they were Christian Scientists; or did not fund the military (at all) because they were Amish (my apologies if the Amish are not pacifistic to that extent, if so, fill in another suitable religion)? My point is that it would seem to me the point of a representative democracy was to allow the citizens to decide such things, not decide that the citizens made a mistake (which I think they did) and change it through procedural shenanigans.

    And, lastly, the whole issue of this being “terrorism” is somewhat concerning. It is inappropriate, deserving of, in my view, being voted out of office…even though I believe ACA as currently written is a mistake…but I can’t go for “terrorism.” About 45 years ago I seem to remember a cause that brought folks out on the street, when Nixon had be elected and was clearly not going to remove the County from the Vietnam War quickly…but, he had been elected. A very large group of “us” were desperately against that war and protested, at times unlawfully, against it. Eventually that view became the majority view, but it wasn’t at first. I don’t view that as terrorism. I would reserve that term for acts much worse that what is going on now. The House, and to an extent the entire Congress, needs to be voted out. Terrorist need to be either jailed or killed. I don’t see us there, yet.

  5. I used the term “political terrorism,” and that is appropriate, because it is a misuse of the political system to threaten economic chaos and destruction to get one’s way when one could not do so through the appropriate political processes.

    1. greygoat says:

      A high school education in the political system and a general lack of interest mean that I have no idea what I am talking about but…

      How can it be a “misuse of the political system” when the system allows it?

      1. The short answer is that the system is a tool for governing, and any tool can be misused.

        The longer answer is that the system allows for stupidity. In a representative democratic republic, this is necessary. One hopes that it is avoided, but if you want to maintain any semblance of democracy, you can’t forbid stupidity, only punish it. The House indeed has the right to insist on a position that neither the President nor the Senate will accept. Under the system, if there’s no agreement by Thursday, the U.S. will start to default on its debts. Using parliamentary rules to effectively insist on blocking the implementation of a law passed by the majority, in order to uphold a position held by the minority, and threatening to take down the economy to enforce that minority position, is “misuse” of the system, since it was designed to operate on majority consensus. This is, of course, only possible because the majority has for too long insisted on running massive deficits, which in effect means that the situation could be described as long-term stupidity allowing short-term stupidity and narrow political self-interest to attempt massive blackmail, of, if you will, misuse of the system by both sides.

  6. Nick says:

    I think this quote sums up what it feels like Down Under…

    “It is not an overstatement to say that the destiny of the entire human race depends on what is going on in America today. This is a staggering reality to the rest of the world; they must feel like passengers in a supersonic jet liner who are forced to watch helplessly while a passel of drunks, hypes, freaks and madmen fight for the control of the pilot’s seat”

    – Eldridge Cleaver in his book Soul on Ice, published in 1968.

  7. Ed says:

    Totally disagree with you here, on basically everything. 1) Switch from MSNBC to Fox News (MSNBC is pure hatred and vitriol)
    2) To suggest that a minority party can be obstructionist when a democracy requires a majority is a self-defeating argument.
    3) The ACA was “shoved through” if you go back and take another look at how it was done. If You recall the Senate was almost evenly split and Scott Brown campaigned (and won) on his promise to vote against the ACA. He never had the opportunity though because Reid and Pelosi maneuvered the bill into law. The entire process was disgraceful. The bill was flawed, the law is flawed, and we all know it. Are there good parts to it? Sure. But I suspect the bad will far outweigh the good.
    4) The spending has to get under control. We’re borrowing $4 Billion out of the $10 Billion we spend every day. The sequester was a paltry percentage of the overall budget, the Democrats agreed to it, and they’ve been trying to wiggle out of it ever since. They’ve also made the cuts as painful as possible to the American people, much like they are now. Lets not forget these people have taken an oath to serve the people and uphold the Constitution.
    5) Which brings us to the next point: The TP has done exactly what their constituents elected them to do. They weren’t elected to caucus with Reid and Pelosi and parrot the daily liberal talking points. They were elected to enact fiscal reforms by their conservative constituents.
    6) I resent the “terrorist” label being applied to someone that has a different ideology.
    7) The democrats could agree any time to the TP/Republican bills and we could get the government back to work. Notice, they’re not, they haven’t, and they won’t. If they worked half as hard at getting some bills through committee as they work at press releases and bad mouthing their colleagues we would be making progress.
    8) Just because Obamacare is the law doesn’t make it a good law. Prohibition anyone?
    Final point: Think over who owns whom in DC and ask yourself if it’s a bunch of freshmen congressmen who are beholden to special interests and lobbies, or maybe the people out front saying this can’t get done have other masters they serve. Ask yourself which of these men and women in both houses is doing what they were elected to do.

    1. While I don’t like the Tea Party ideology, that has nothing to do with my labeling them political terrorists. Their approach and attitudes are those of terrorists. We’ll destroy the economy if we don’t get our way. Destroying something to save it is the mark of the fanatic. As for Prohibition… it was a lousy law, but it was repealed by due process and not by holding the entire country hostage economically. Your argument boils down to the idea that the “rightness” of your cause justifies any means. In the past, both political parties, when they had majorities, used the methods Pelosi and company did to pass legislation. It may not have been ideal, but it didn’t hold the economy hostage, and that’s the bottom line.

      1. Ed says:

        Destroying something to make a point is the mark of a terrorist. Doing something no matter what the cost is the mark of a fanatic. Destroying something to “save” it is the mark of a revolutionary. All good things in moderation, I always say. I think people are getting confused on some of these issues. The economy isn’t going to be destroyed, at least not by the TP. Defaulting on the national debt will certainly have consequences, but I’m not sure if anyone even knows what they will be. In any event, the President hasn’t led, continues to campaign, hold press conferences, and issue meaningless decrees. Sooner or later this had to come to a head. We can’t borrow into perpetuity, and it’s wrong to indenture our children with Federal spending sprees. I’m hopeful that something good might come from all of this. It would be nice if the general public would wake up and take an interest in civics. As for the ACA I agree with you in part that it can be a step forward and it can be helpful to many Americans. It needs to be re-worked and fixed. A much better model to have used would have been the mandatory auto insurance pools most states use. No argument with the preexisting condition coverage. The college kids could have their own coverage (I did when I attended SIU, it was cheap) and don’t need to be on mom and dad’s plan. I also would have preferred a pool for people who find themselves unemployed. Something along the lines of a week for every year worked. I’m against freebies. I’m also against being told I have to buy something. As for the disabled people in our society you should know that I work with the entitlement class on a daily basis, and they’re well-covered. All of their needs are met and most of their wants as well. The real problem is that we give too much and ask too little. I hear arguments about so-and-so who has such-and-such and would kind of an awful person would I be to deny them freebie-this and freebie-that. Don’t I value them as a person? As a human being? That’s exactly why I’m against enslaving someone by making them beholden to the government teat. Everyone has value. We should also allow them their purpose. Busy hands are happy hands. But we don’t. We label them “disabled” and every month on the first at 12:01 AM we dump funds into their accounts and load up their food stamp cards. Would you be happy with that lifestyle? I’ve seen firsthand how the government does things. Start by taking a number and sitting in a crappy plastic chair. Would you trade your housing for government housing? How long did it take when you renewed your driver’s license last time? If government healthcare is so great why isn’t everyone lining up for it? The simple truth here is that we don’t trust our government because it does such a lousy job. This “thing” going on in DC right now makes me think of the Tower of Babel. We all know how that worked out.

        Btw., I’m a big fan of yours. I’ve been reading your books since the first Recluce book came out, which was 25 years ago or so? (I’m getting old). In any event, Thank You Sir, for all of the wonderful books. I’m forever grateful.

        1. Grey says:


          I’m really just not seeing anything in your posts that justifies our government defaulting on its debts. “Defaulting on the national debt will certainly have consequences, but I’m not sure if anyone even knows what they will be.” Really? Actually, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg, Financial Times and pretty much everyone in finance and economics on the left and right (who collectively agree on nothing) seem to think it would be a disaster, with long-term negative consequences for US economic superiority. Your shoulder-shrugging causal acceptance of default just doesn’t seem very well thought out. (Also, if the default is meaningless, then why is it such a great leverage point? Do you see the disconnect there?)

          You seem to be setting up the default as being about spending, but you are forgetting your history – if three weeks ago can be called history. As LEM said, the tea party brought about this shutdown and default in a bid to overturn the ACA/Obamacare. Period. The chatter in the last day or two about ‘addressing the deficit’ is just political cover to allow them a fig leaf to declare victory on some compromise spending cuts and stand down.

          Also, you know the deficit is now lower than when Obama took office and is still heading down, right? Right?

          I’m sorry, but it really looks to me like the tea partiers couldn’t handle losing the election and being unable to achieve their goals through the normal legislative process. This hostage-taking is just spoilsport politics at it’s worst. Crybabies kicking over the gameboard rather than sucking it up and getting more people to vote for them next time.

  8. Sean says:

    I agree with you fully – and note that the ACA, while flawed, is almost immaterial in the current state of affairs. It could just as easily be social security, off-shore drilling, or any of a number of issues that a small but vocal minority wants changed despite majority views. The argument of the ultra-conservatives (to use the term the Washington Post is starting to use) is equivalent to a school bully telling someone “it’s your fault that I’m going to hit you, because you aren’t giving me your lunch money.”

    Given the events of the past couple days, since you posted, I’m even beginning to think that the objective IS to crash the economy. The day-long delay yesterday to put forth a bill in the House, that almost from the beginning was deemed to be dead on arrival in the Senate, makes no sense otherwise. Either the speaker is completely disengaged from reality or the delay was deliberate.

    I wish there was some means of tracking the money and seeing if, perhaps, there are some fortunes being made in short-selling on the markets.

  9. John Sliva says:

    How can you threatened to destroy something that is already been destroyed. We are already at 15% real unemployment and it has not moved since bush. The established politicians care nothing for the people but only for their own position and power. While the original ACA was a noble goal it was bastardized into something that will fail and lead us into medical anarchy or single payer (I believe their goal all along). The ACA does nothing to reduce the cost of healthcare but simply redistributes the burden to the middle class again. It does nothing for record sharing, standardization of forms, limiting liability of physicians and staff, abuse of/ by the pharmaceutical companies, fraud in the system, etc.. It took some “Popular issues” covering you kids till 26, free birth control, covering pre existing conditions and waved the flag at what a benevolent govt. we have. Among the problems with this how to pay for this and the complete disregard for personal responsibility.

    An example of the complete genius of the federal govt of how to pay for this is the medical device tax. It imposes a 3% tax on any device (including condoms). The company being beholden to their stock holders does not take the hit and passes on the distributor or the end user, most likely at 5% to take into account the administrative costs. The pharmacy / Hospital / Healthcare provider takes this higher costs and adds their profit percentage. The insurance company who now must pay the higher dollars increases the co pay / policy to the individuals. Those on medicare / medicade / Lowest ACA grids do not pay anything so it increases the cost of those programs and needs to increase taxes to cover the cost. As always in the govt. we get hit with the law of unintended circumstances. The sad part is we could have insured the 25 million on existing medicade and left the rest alone, but that would not have made the political splash.

    Back to the real issue, the economy. If we were close to full employment with good jobs paying for better healthcare for the needy would not be an issue. Our policies in this country do not promote a healthy business climate. Our tax rate is too high and our compliance costs too great. Most large companies have moved their manufacturing out of the US and are outsourcing many of their services. Our tax laws allow and in some cases encourage this. Our Lobbyists ensure that the largest corps are favorably treated and politicians well rewarded. If we want things to change we need to make the country a place to work again. Establish our corp rate at 10%, Tariff goods imported into the country to equalize the labor rate and foreign company subsidy factors. Create a climate that encourages companies to manufacture here. Use the tariff money for US R and D and re education of the work force. This all may be unpopular but easily done. As workers are restored to the workplace the tax base will grow to fund medical. You could also allow a tax deduction of 1.5 for ever dollar a company spends on medical costs for employees under 50k.

    Sorry for the rant but ACA is a pet peeve. It is about time someone stood up to the bullies in DC. In the end if we default I will bet other than fox and MSNBC most wont even notice. Maybe we even stop giving away billons on billions to other governments who hate us. Maybe we stub funding partisan military projects we don’t need or worthless green projects that donated to a campaign. We have survived worse, lets hope we all come out the other end better off.

    If you want to really do something worth while start a petition for a national referendum on 3 things in govt.

    1) a 2 term limit to all elected offices (all positions to be 4 years)
    2) A law that prohibits any insider trading by public officials with a mandatory 10 year prison term.
    3) Prohibit any private lobbying. All Lobbying must be before a session of congress or the senate with the press there. Any public official receiving illegal lobby money 5 years in prison, and the lobbyist 5 years in prison.

    1. Frank says:

      Amen to #1.

      #2 sounds good, but the definition of “public official” might be a little dicey (elected official, appointed executive, professional staff, clerks, laborers, etc.)

      #3 sounds good, also, but one could make a case for freedom of “access” that, armed with the right scenario, would be compelling.

      ACA, or more generally public healthcare, and certainly the national economy, are very complex problems. I don’t think they can be solved with quick, simple answers, however I think their complexity has been used as a screen for those profiting from the status quo to hide behind. I don’t think we can “fix” these problems with a simple idea, but I do think we can improve the situation by fixing piece after piece. The ACA situation is, in my view, a bad law and a flawed system, but, it is the product of an elected administration that was…elected. As much as it might be more satifying to scream to throw the bum (system) out, I think we need to spend the time between now and the next major election fixing it the best way we can and then see if it is still worth throwing out.

  10. Ed says:

    Love the verbiage: …hostage-taking…spoilsport…Crybabies kicking over the gameboard rather than sucking it up…

    The deficit will continue to fall. We’ve left Iraq and are pulling out of Afghanistan. Two very expensive wars.

    As for defaulting on the nation’s debt, you name news sources but don’t actually make any references to “actual” consequences. It’s all conjecture in any case.

    Uncontrolled spending will eventually lead us down that path, regardless of who holds elected office. -Argentina comes to mind. I live in Illinois and our credit rating has been severely downgraded from massive liabilities and excessive spending with inadequate revenue. I could spend an hour typing what’s wrong here. I could extrapolate the microcosm of my state’s economy to the national economy. At some point there won’t be a magic tax raise on the 5% who already pay 60% of the taxes in this country. You’re all focused on the negatives of a default, but did you really think it through? I already know the answer based on the regurgitated liberal mantra I’ve read above. Imagine for a minute if we had to live within our means. If creating revenue was the focus instead of taxing everything imaginable. How about easing restrictions on businesses? Why does a business have to pay for a license? You all say your pro-jobs but then take an anti-business stance. Where is it you think jobs come from? Aside from LEM’s fine works I urge you to read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. It will change your thinking, or at the very least, give you pause enough to consider that maybe Rachael Maddow and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz don’t really know what they’re talking about.
    It wasn’t that long ago that people were protesting Wall St. I heard a lot of commentary about the evils of corps. and fat cat CEO’s who make too much money. What I didn’t hear was anyone complaining about their 401k making double digit increases in value. I’m not jealous of the CEO making $40 Million a year. That’s what his or her board thinks they’re worth. There’s nothing keeping anyone from getting their MBA and showing us all how it’s done.
    Back to my original point, if the “Unthinkable” happened and we defaulted on our debt you’re all predicting catastrophe and dire consequences. Solution: Borrow more money. Ok. What’s your plan for Medicare and Social Security when they run out of money? Borrow more I’m guessing. How about DOT/HUD? DOD? DOJ? Borrow more $… And on and on. I sure hope you thought this all through and I really hope the liberals have a plan for what to do when raising the debt ceiling won’t work because at some point it won’t matter if we default or not if our credit rating goes in the toilet and borrowing more money isn’t an option. One could argue that the American people would then be the hostages and the spendthrifts are the terrorists. But I don’t need to disparage others to make my point.

  11. Wine Guy says:

    I don’t see much here except a similar argument as is going on in Congress.

    While I have great sympathy for the Republicans, their tactics leave me angry and embarrassed that I once defended their actions.

    Right now, Congress is little better than a pair of 6 year olds having a fight in the restaurant because they haven’t gotten their way. Unfortunately, there is no parent to pick them up and remove them from the establishment.

    I must conclude that true statesmanship (vice gamesmanship) is dead (or at least hiding very, very well).

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