The Individual Mandate and the Government Shutdown
Let’s get specific. The House spending bill linked continued funding to a one year delay of the individual mandate—the requirement that everyone buy insurance. This is not the same thing as delaying Obamacare, everyone who wanted a policy could still buy one. While there are subsidies for buying insurance, for many of the working poor they don’t cover most of the cost, and the insurance they buy is very high deductible, meaning that they are forced to either pay a fine, or buy insurance that they can’t afford to use.
Straight up the individual mandate is a transfer of money from the working poor and the young and healthy to insurance companies and older sicker individuals. It forces people who can’t afford an extra expense every month (and if you have never lived paycheck to paycheck you should shut your mouth, you have no idea what it’s like) to buy something they can’t afford: to choose between food or rent or insurance.
On the face of it, and leaving aside motives, I cannot see that the Republican bill was a bad thing. Absent a real, robust public option and much stronger subsidies than exist, the individual mandate was always the most odious part of the ACA. This is not to argue that Obamacare does not do some good, it will save some people’s lives and reduce other people’s suffering. But it does so explicitly by hurting some of the most vulnerable people in America: the price of your healthcare, if it’s helping you, is hurting other, vulnerable, people.
I note, also, that employers were given a delay on their mandate, but individuals: poor people, were not given an extension on theirs.
Let us speak, next, to the details of the shutdown: if you do not like that most of the NSA, say, is still operational, but food and airline safety inspectors are furloughed, that is a decision made by the executive. It exactly reflects Obama’s priorities, it is not a decision made by Republicans. You can blame Republicans for the shutdown, you cannot blame them for the specifics of how it is carried out, that is entirely Obama’s decision. Spying on Americans and killing brown people with drones is vastly important to Obama and always has been. Making sure you don’t die of e-coli, apparently not so much.
The individual mandate, from every poll I can find, is the most unpopular part of the ACA, opposed by straight majorities of Americans and definitely opposed by the Republicans who elected the Representatives who voted to delay it. This is not a case of Democracy not working, it is a case of Democracy working. What one House does, another can undo, that is the essence of democratic change.