WASHINGTON, DC – Driving around the nation’s capital during the first day of a government shutdown, I wondered if radical Republicans are mean-spirited or just plain stupid.
The answer became clear, however, after watching federal workers on Tuesday slowly file out of a downtown government building: Republicans simply don’t care.
They don’t care about protecting the poor. They don’t care about 800,000 government employees who were forced out of work. They don’t care about single mothers who are struggling to care for their babies. And they certainly don’t care about school-age kids who can’t visit the National Zoo or the Smithsonian Museums because Republicans have essentially called for a moratorium on learning.
The hatred toward President Barack Obama reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill Tuesday – a hatred that has been festering since Obama took office in 2009.
Arrogant Republicans shut down the federal government for the first time in 17 years specifically to derail Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But despite their many roadblocks, Obamacare moved forward Tuesday as Americans started buying health insurance through a new federally-run healthcare service at reduced costs.
In fact, Obama said, the majority of people without insurance are now able to find a health care plan for under $100 a month – which in some cases could be cheaper than a cell phone bill.
“This Republican shutdown did not have to happen,” Obama said Tuesday from the White House. “But I want every American to understand why it did happen. They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.”
Anton J. Gunn, Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spent Tuesday morning answering dozens of questions from anxious black Americans who wanted immediate information about Obamacare. Questions were streaming in faster than Gunn could respond to them.
Gunn is helping the Obama administration explain the Affordable Care Act to black folks all across the country. It’s a good idea since black Americans make up nearly 20 percent of 48 million people in this country who are living without health insurance coverage, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
“People need this information,” Gunn told me as he prepared for his third radio interview Tuesday morning. “It’s very important.”
For African Americans, Obama advisers say, the new health law will address inequities and will increase access to quality, affordable health coverage, invest in prevention and wellness, and give individuals and families more control over their care.
African Americans suffer more disproportionately from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes than the general population and offering affordable health care can help eradicate longstanding health disparities.
So what was the point of shutting down the government? To spite Obama at every opportunity – even it means denying 48 million uninsured Americans access to affordable health care. And here’s a question for Tea Party Republicans: If they are so concerned about balancing the federal budget, then why shut down the government which will cost an estimated $1 billion a week?
It makes absolutely no fiscal sense, but desperate people make desperate decisions. It’s still all about politics – and it’s still about Republicans clinging to the past.
“One faction of one party, in one house of Congress, in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election,” Obama said.
Think about it: Republicans are so filled with hate that they even threw their own constituents under the bus just to keep Obama from rolling out his Affordable Care Act. It’s cold-hearted, deliberate, and a reckless disregard for poor Americans.
And meanwhile, as Republicans continue to hold America hostage, Obama talked about the financial hardships facing government workers.
“I think it’s important that everybody understand the federal government is America’s largest employer,” Obama said about Tuesday’s government shutdown. “Hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay — and several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.”
But House Republicans aren’t worried because they get paid on time no matter how long the government shutdown lasts.
And that’s too bad.