As we enter the third week of shutdown, old questions about the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare, ascend from the murky depths of political doublethink and make their way into the public debate. I want to start this debate by stating that this debate is, in all possible ways, OVER. Congress passed the bill. The president approved the bill. And when the ACA found its way before the Supreme Court, it passed muster. Finally, polls consistently show that, although Americans are against “Obamacare” when they hear the nickname, they are for the elements: companies providing health care to full-time employees, people 26 and younger remaining on their parents’ insurance if they don’t have their own, and charging those who don’t have health care a tax in case they do fall ill and society is required to cover the cost of their treatment.
Moving on to the real issue, why is the ACA a sticking point in the budget debate? Well, regardless of the fact that every government body has passed this bill and the American public in general approves of it, the Republicans still refuse to agree to any kind of vote on any kind of budget unless the president agrees to delay funding for the ACA. That, obviously, is not going to happen. This kind of strategy eliminates any chance for fixing the impending financial crisis. The U.S. is expected to hit the debt ceiling — the total limit for the amount of debt we are allowed to have before we go into default, currently just over $15 billion — today (Oct. 17). This would spell economic trouble — that’s an understatement—for the United States and for the countries with which we are economically tied. By the way, that’s all of them.
So what do we do? We could raise the debt ceiling again. It’s been raised 77 times since 1962, it shouldn’t be difficult to raise again. But will that solve our problems? Likely not. If our government does raise the debt ceiling, the only result will be continued squabbling over minuscule changes in the budget while the total debt keeps growing. This leaves two options: Default on our debts or reduce spending and/or increasing taxation until our budget is under control. This brings us directly to the Obamacare problem. Partisanship is never going to fix our budget issue. It is time to forget about Democrats and Republicans (and Libertarians) and to come up with a solution that doesn’t cut the essentials (the ACA), doesn’t destroy the economy (defaulting), and doesn’t perpetuate the cycle (raising the debt ceiling). We can’t call ourselves the best country in the world if we can’t get something done.