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Is killing Obamacare worth this?

A couple or three dozen Congresspeople – and the House Speaker – have shut down the federal government because they object to PPACA.  And the shutdown may well extend to a refusal to raise the debt ceiling.  The economic impact is significant:

  • The economy is losing $300 million a day.
  • A three-week shutdown will decrease GDP by almost 1%, this in an economy that has struggled to keep growth at 2%.
  • 2 million federal workers’ paychecks are delayed; 800,000 may never get paid.  They have mortgages, tuition payments, credit card bills to pay.

That’s the economic picture; the effects on individuals are diverse, but the longer this goes on, the more painful it will become.

I’d suggest there’s a longer-term problem, one that will have an unquantifiable but nevertheless profound negative impact on the US; the vilification of federal government employees by politicians and pundits who denigrate those workers and the work they do.

After three years of no raises, continued demonization by strident and powerful talking heads and politicians, after being told they are the problem, the morale of the average government employee has got to be pretty low.  These are the people who put out fires, keep airplanes from hitting each other, ensure our food is safe, pay our parent’s Social Security and Medicare bills, lock up bad guys, prevent Iran from funneling money to their nuclear program.

Sure, some are pretty unproductive, but most work hard, are proud of what they do, and do it well.  

I can’t see how the ongoing “they are the enemy” meme helps our country.  Sure, it makes for great theater, but who would want to take a job where you’re constantly told you are lazy, overpaid, feckless, and a leech?

I may be biased as I have quite a bit of experience with federal workers; my Dad was in the CIA and its predecessor organization for 25 years; my Mom worked for the Agency – and managed fingerprint files for the FBI during WW II. Both were very proud of the work they did, did it very well, and made a difference. My aunt was responsible for all Navy payroll for a decade; and woe to anyone who screwed up any of “her boys'” paychecks.  Other family members are in federal law enforcement, and I cannot begin to describe the sacrifice we have paid for that commitment.

It angers and saddens me to see and hear the derisive, uninformed, and flat out wrong comments by the Bachmans and Issas of the world.  But more importantly, it shows that they really don’t understand, or perhaps don’t care, that their grand-standing will do lasting, and real damage to our country.  

If we can’t attract hard-working, intelligent, competent people to work in public service, we’re screwed.

And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

13 thoughts on “Is killing Obamacare worth this?”

  1. Joe: A great reminder of the federal employees we all know and love. My neice’s husband is a federal employee. He considers himself lucky since he is still able to report to work…his paycheck will be on hold, however. My mom worked for the VA before getting married and my aunt worked for Social Security. They were hard workers and proud of the work they did.

    I think you’ve hit on something…. how many of those who follow your blog have (or had) family members who worked for the Federal Government?

  2. Thank you to your family for their service to our country Joe. I have the greatest respect for people who willingly take positions with the government which on the whole pay much less than the private sector.

    Now, I’d like to be a voice for my friend Joy who works for the Social Security Administration and has for more than 2 decades. She and her colleagues are the face of the Federal Government in their office. They are the ones who help folks apply for Social Security cards, apply for Social Security benefits and process those applications. They are not decision makers, they are the ones who make it possible for folks who don’t want to use the online application process to have someone walk them through the application so it’s completed correctly. They are the people who call you to tell you when your application has been accepted and what to expect. She and her colleagues are considered ‘essential’ employees because they are required to keep their office open and they continue to take applications. Yet, Congress doesn’t feel they are ‘essential’ enough to warrant a paycheck. So they are required to work for NOTHING in the hopes that someday Congress may decide to pay them. My friend has a recently disabled husband and is the family’s only source of income. The SSA gave each of their employees who are mandated to continue working letters to send to their creditors saying they expect this will be a temporary shutdown and they expect all back pay will eventually be given to the employees, so the creditors should just be patient and not cause further harm to these employees. I’m not sure how the big bank that was bailed out will respond when she can’t pay her mortgage next month, or how the grocery stores will feel when she asks them to take a copy of that letter rather than payment for food for her family. Or perhaps the utility companies, her credit card companies and everyone else will just allow her and her family to pay nothing while the millionaires in Congress continue to put ideology before the American people.

  3. Well, we all know who is to blame for the anti-government sentiment in the GOP…”Well, there you go again!”

  4. Thank you for the continuing updates which are helpful in getting to the nuts and bolts of how this is going to effect the economy in the long run.

    1. For the purposes of full disclosure I am registered unenrolled but I lean conservative.

      I simply don’t understand why we continue to let our elected officials, talking heads, pundits, bloggers (sometimes you Joe) divide us.

      Blame for the shut down belongs to both parties, the House and Senate leaders, and a divisive President who absolutely refuses to lead.

      In the 80’s Reagan and Tip O’neil worked together to pass legislation that led the country out of recession and years of prosperity. It is interesting and insightful to read what these to great leaders had to say about each other, and the respect they held for each other, in their later years.

      In the 90’s Clinton and the GOP Congress worked together to pass some truly great legislation and managed to have a budget surplus for 4 straight years! (I would point out – only after a government shut-down)

      We can get there again but only by allowing ourselves to admit that someone who has a different opinion from us is not stupid or evil, etc. We can get there again by seeing the faults within our chosen political parties and affiliations and we can get there again by demanding more from our elected officials.

      1. Mike – thanks for the comment.
        The blame for the shutdown does NOT rest with the President; this is completely a failure on the part of the Speaker and the House’ ultra-right wing – about three dozen Representatives. They are holding us – you and me and everyone else – hostage because they don’t like a law that was passed, signed, and OK’ed by the Supreme Court. This is tyranny, the rule of the majority by the minority.

        As to divisive bloggers, I simply don’t agree with your statement re my role in that divisiveness. I’m completely fine with different opinions, as I’ve noted here numerous times. What I am NOT fine with is opinions founded on nothing more than other opinions. You want honesty and open-mindedness? Me too. That implies a reliance on fact-based dialogue, not the mindless lying garbage coming out of Cruz et al.

        Calling a spade a spade is just as important as being respectful of others. If people don’t like what I say, then a) don’t read it or b) come up with a reasoned argument and I’m more than happy to engage.

        1. Joe, you couldn’t be more correct. The idea that the GOTP ‘deserves’ some sort of ‘compromise’ on something that is already law is outrageous at worst and disingenuous at best.

        2. Oh well, I tried. I’m sorry that you can’t see anything through those blue colored glasses.

          Here’s a quote I hope you will consider. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John Kennedy

          Lastly, (and I’m sorry I just can’t let your comment go) a brief history lesson. What’s happening now is not “tyranny” (unless you think James Madison and the 39 other fine folks that signed the constitution were tyrants). What’s happening right now is what they intended to happen when different branches of the government can’t come to an agreement. It’s happened lots of times before (this is he 18th time since the 70’s -12 times under Tip O’neill-D alone) and it will happen again.

          1. Mike: Thanks for the great quote. That’s the bottom line. I think of my self as an American first, then by my party affiliation. Unfortunately, there are too many to put party affiliation first.

          2. Mike – thanks again for the comment.

            Re my statement regarding tyranny of the minority – as a long time student of James Madison, I am quite sure he would have objected to a couple dozen congresspeople and a speaker holding the rest of the nation’s elected officials hostage over an ever-changing list of demands, one that has rapidly devolved from defunding Obamacare to repealing the medical device tax to “getting something”.

            That devolution reflects the churlish behavior of the Cruz wing; it’s all about them, and not about their role and responsibilities.

            Back to the original point in my post. Is killing Obamacare worth the collateral damage? Clearly not, for if it was, the Cruz wing would not have caved on that strategy so quickly.

  5. When you separate fact from fiction and ideology from reasoned argument, you are confronted by the prospect of mutual agreement. Madison’s vision for our government, when all is said and done, was based on the “mutuality of interests” and “multiplicity of motivations”. That should not be confused with neutralizing the “tyrannical instincts” of the human condition.

    In today’s terms, the “originalism” of Justice Scalia and the Tea Party suffers from self-imposed insulation from the dynamics of the polity because of the unwillingness or inability to cope with “conditions” that do not comport with preconceived notions.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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