The debt ceiling, a government shutdown, Obamacare, more shootings, where does it end? This past week we have once again found ourselves watching another mass shooting in what one could reasonably presume to be a safe place. All the while our elected officials in Washington are positioning themselves for yet another down to the wire fight.
Everyone understands that in order for the government to pay "its" bills, the debt ceiling has to be increased. To put it plainly, the "debt ceiling" determines how much outstanding federal debt the government can incur. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., "the debt ceiling would have to be raised between $730 billion and $1.25 trillion, in order to extend the government's ability to borrow through 2013. This increase would need to be between $1.3 trillion and $2.2 trillion to extend borrowing through 2014, according to projections."
What about balancing the budget, reducing spending, looking for ways to cut costs? These are things that are talked about, but rarely done.
When it comes to national debt and spending, we have abdicated our voice to a Congress who is more concerned with politics than they are with balancing the budget. Congress voted for every appropriation that has been passed, whether or not there was the revenue to pay for it. It is the elected officials in Washington who have created these bills, approved slashing taxes for the wealthy, (thereby cutting revenue), while the spending levels have continued to rise. Congress approved costly stimulus packages in order to mitigate some of the problems caused by the recession. But throughout, each member of Congress had their pet projects and spending priorities that added to the national debt - and now in order to pay "our" bills, we must raise our debt ceiling or credit limit. But alas, it is all a show.
Everyone knows the debt ceiling will be raised once again. The Republicans will blame the Democrats and the Democrats will blame the Republicans, but it will be raised nonetheless and there will not be a government shutdown. Government shutdowns are costly, and we can't afford them.
According to the economists, a government shutdown is predicted to cost up to one hundred million dollars a day. However, the mention of a government shutdown is just another idle threat to get to the real burr in the saddle of the GOP Obamacare!
There have been over 40 attempts to defund or repeal Obamacare; the key word here is "attempts" it ain't happening! It's the law! Like it or not, the Republicans need to find a way to work with the good parts and fix those that aren't so good.
Congress needs to stop beating the same old drum, and take care of business. Even though many Americans may be opposed to Obamacare, we should remember that there are two sides to every story. There are some good things in the act. For instance, a child living at home can remain on their parent's insurance until age 26. Individuals cannot be denied health insurance based on a pre-existing medical condition, and there are health care exchanges where individuals can "shop" for the best deal. How could anyone object to those things? But things are not always as good as they look.
It was recently reported that Home Depot plans to end medical insurance coverage for about 20,000 part-time employees next month as they revamp their benefits to fit the Affordable Health Care Act. UPS, Trader Joes and other employers have also been cutting benefits ahead of next month's roll-out of Obamacare. This is not what was to happen with the implementation of the Act.
According to industry consultant, Robert Laszewski, "Obamacare is predicated on employers maintaining coverage. Its intent was to pick up the relatively few who can't access health insurance because they're self-employed or work for small employers who can't afford it. The big guys were supposed to stay committed."
A recent AMA report stated that, "as a group, they are generally supportive of Obamacare, but are still in a wait and see mode."
Like it or not, for the Republicans to use Obamacare as a bargaining chip to keep the government from shutting down is not a smart move.
So where does all of this leave us. When Congress returned from vacation on Sept. 9 there was a full agenda. Syria was at the top of the list, followed by a Sept. 30 deadline to increase the debt ceiling and prevent a potential government shutdown.
Putin took the wind out of the president's sails when it came to Syria, and Congress seized the opportunity to once again use a threat of defunding Obamacare as their weapon of choice to avoid a government shutdown.
Whether you like the act or not. Whether you believe in a balanced budget or not. In Washington, whether Republican or Democrat, it is time to stop pointing fingers and get to work. The Navy Yard shooting was a tragedy followed by more innocents used as target practice in Chicago. We need to stop accusing and begin to heal as a people and a nation; we need to once again be the beacon on the hill. A nation that stands for what is right, not a nation of bickering ideologues. To quote Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer for the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, when speaking of the recent tragedies in our nation and specifically about the shooting, she said, "This is not who we are."
The time is now to get things right, not bigger or better, stronger or taller, let's just get things right for America and all Americans.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org