Obamacare has nothing to do with the government shutdown

People blame Democrats and the United States Senate for the government shutdown.  People blame Republicans and the House of Representatives.  People blame President Barack Obama.  A few people blame all or some combination of the above.  Perhaps the only consistent detail is that the argument of “defunding” or “stopping” Obamacare is the cause of the shutdown.

The rallying cry of defunding or stopping is only that:  a rallying cry.  It is not possible to defund Obamacare with a Continuing Resolution to fund government or even if Congress would be able to pass a new budget.

The Reason

A significant portion of the means of funding Obamacare is written into the bill which passed into law.  Title IX of THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT HEALTH-RELATED PORTIONS OF THE HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2010, pages 793 to 832, has those provisions.

Briefer breakdowns can be found in this report from the American College of Physicians and “Health-Related Revenue Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” by Janemarie Mulvey from the Congressional Research Service.

Much of the funding falls within Mandatory spending which is not affected by the shutdown or within the Constitutional power of Congress to halt once initiated.  Some of the discretionary funding parts which Congress can halt have previously been appropriately to the Health and Human Services Department and spent.

The Law is still there

Those aspects which Congress can stop via defunding have no impact on the law.  As one reads Title IX, the implementation of several taxes to fund various provisions is clearly evident.  Regardless of one’s feelings about these taxes which are among the greatest tax law changes for the IRS to implement in at least 20 years, those laws remain on the books.  Defunding does not change the law; it only makes it more difficult for respective agencies to enforce the law.  Some in Congress have put forth the opinion that nobody would be liable for these taxes on the basis that the IRS and government would not have money to enforce the law.

In other words, payments of those taxes remain as the laws on the books and not paying those taxes one owes is like playing Russian roulette.  Some people will avoid the taxes and any repercussions, but it is at your own risk because you or someone else will be caught breaking the law as it currently rests in the books.

Members of Congress can’t know this?  You are making up this BS.

As many know, the House of Representatives has held numerous votes to repeal Obamacare.  Keep in mind that repeal is changing the law while defund which is the aim today does not change the law.  One of these repeal attempts took place in the 112th Congress with H.R. 6079.

Speaker John Boehner requested that the Congressional Budget Office estimate the direct spending and revenue effects of H.R. 6079.  Their reply can be found here:

Of course estimates such as this one must be based on assumptions because of infinite variables.  Still, these are learned assumptions based upon the numbers which are present and not upon emotion or partisanship.  According to the CBO, the enactment of H.R. 6079 would have increased the Federal budget deficit by $109 billion between 2013 and 2022.  Increased spending and revenue reductions account for the inflation of the deficit.  That is an oversimplification on my part, and I encourage you to look at the complete report submitted to the Speaker.

H.R. 6079 did not become law, so anything about it is BS.  You’re just trying to confuse repealing with defunding.

Here is defunding

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma on 25 July 2013 requested that the Congressional Research Service conduct a study on the “Potential Effects of a Government Shutdown on Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).”  On 29 July 2013, the CRS responded.  Their response can be found here:

Please look on page 5 under the Question and Answer Heading.

(1) What would happen to ACA implementation in the event of a lapse in appropriations funding, resulting in a government shutdown?

It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown for two reasons. The first is that the federal government will be able to rely on sources of funding other than annual discretionary appropriations to support implementation activities, including multiple-year and no-year discretionary funds still available for obligation as well as mandatory funds.” The second reason, which is covered in more detail in the answers to several of the other questions, is that agencies may continue to perform certain types of activities that fall under exceptions to the Anti deficiency Act, which generally prohibits continued operations in the absence of appropriations.

Again, my taking only a snippet from the report is another oversimplification, and I encourage you to look at the entire report.

Who Shut down the Government and Why?

People have different opinions.  Many of my friends and colleagues have asked about an opinion piece written by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution entitled, “Who Shut Down the Government?” which can be found in many places.  I’m linking only one source for reader’s convenience.

I agree with Mr. Sowell on many aspects of this piece.

He writes:

“As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which means that Congressmen there have a right to decide whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity.”

That is correct.  I, however,  take something more from that observation.  All of the wasted dollars, inefficiency, and debt which some people love to blame on the President are responsibilities of the House of Representatives.  The Members of the House refuses to address these issues because they are apparently too lazy, too stupid, or unwilling to accept their responsibilities. Ostensibly, special interest money, personal profits, and reelections mean more to them than their Constitutional duties, and many people allow them to shirk those duties because of loyalty to party or dislike or hate of the President.

Mr. Sowell continues:

“The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare.”

“ObamaCare is indeed “the law of the land,” as its supporters keep saying, and the Supreme Court has upheld its Constitutionality.

But the whole point of having a division of powers within the federal government is that each branch can decide independently what it wants to do or not do, regardless of what the other branches do, when exercising the powers specifically granted to that branch by the Constitution.

The hundreds of thousands of government workers who have been laid off are not idle because the House of Representatives did not vote enough money to pay their salaries or the other expenses of their agencies — unless they are in an agency that would administer ObamaCare.”

As illustrated earlier, defunding of Obamacare does little to affect its implementation at this stage of the game.  Obamacare is still law until new laws are passed which repeal it.  The prudent time window to do that has passed.  In essence the workers laid off, the reduction of services, the sadly often forgotten negative effect on private businesses who rely upon traffic from these Federal attractions or patronage from Federal workers, are a result of partisan politicking and stirring up an emotional frenzy with absolutely nothing other than talk and encouraging divisiveness.

Mr. Sowell continues:

The Senate chose not to vote to authorize that money to be spent, because it did not include money for ObamaCare.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he wants a “clean” bill from the House of Representatives, and some in the media keep repeating the word “clean” like a mantra. But what is unclean about not giving Harry Reid everything he wants?

If Senator Reid and President Obama refuse to accept the money required to run the government, because it leaves out the money they want to run ObamaCare that is their right. But that is also their responsibility.

You cannot blame other people for not giving you everything you want. And it is a fraud to blame them when you refuse to use the money they did vote, even when it is ample to pay for everything else in the government.”

Again, I agree with Mr. Sowell.  The issues I have, however, are that defunding Obamacare at this stage has no real effect on its implementation.  It actually costs the country more money.

Would you sit by quietly knowing that your partner is spending your money without receiving anything in return?

Isn’t it a fraud to not be honest about the additional costs and negligible effect of defunding Obamacare and that people are still liable to the law?

I doubt if Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Nancy Pelosi, or any of the current Louisiana delegation would bail me out of jail.  Perhaps former Louisiana politicians on both sides of the aisle like Richard Baker in the House with the Republicans or J. Bennett Johnson with the Democrats in the Senate would have offered assistance, but not the current crop.  How much help would you get from your Congressman and Senators?

Mr. Sowell concludes with comments on the debt ceiling:

“Perhaps the biggest of the big lies is that the government will not be able to pay what it owes on the national debt, creating a danger of default. Tax money keeps coming into the Treasury during the shutdown, and it vastly exceeds the interest that has to be paid on the national debt.

Even if the debt ceiling is not lifted, that only means that government is not allowed to run up new debt. But that does not mean that it is unable to pay the interest on existing debt.”

On this point I disagree with Mr. Sowell.  Even if his assertions are correct, it neglects the overall impact.

How will the stock markets react to this nearing or broaching of the debt ceiling?

Recent history has provided not too positive reactions and even the downgrade of the US credit rating.

I compare it to wading through a swamp knowing that there are more cottonmouths near and in the water than mosquitoes buzzing in the air.  One wrong step, a missed shot with one’s weapon of choice, turtle sliding off a log, alligator garfish, or even gator itself could result in deadly venom being released in a very painful manner.  Why take that chance unless it is absolutely necessary?

Even if you agree with the new debt aspect, keep in mind that you are only paying the interest on debts previously incurred.  If one continues to only pay interest, will the size of the debt increase or decrease?

What if there is another drop in the credit rating?  What does that do to the amount?

The debt ceiling is an arbitrary thing.  Do we have too much debt?  Yes!!!!!!!  Does that debt ceiling address any of the reasons for that debt?  No!!!!!!!!!!  For more information about the debt ceiling or debt limit please read “The Debt Limit:  A Formal and then a Simple Primer.

Who, What, or Why did the government shut down?

Emotions will stop many from changing their opinions.  Based solely on the Constitution, I do not blame the President.  I interpret the Constitution as assigning Congress the budgetary and spending authorities.  Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party, Libertarians, Independents, Men, Women, Short, Tall, Saints fan or not, people can blame anyone they want.  The blame, however, is not Obamacare.

Regardless of the posturing, whether someone likes or dislikes the law, defunding would have no positive impact as everyone would still be liable to the law.

Why so many Members of Congress refuse to acknowledge that simple fact is anyone’s guess.

Note:

The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate portion and not the entire law.  Any confusion from Mr. Sowell’s quote above results from space limitations in my opinion.

 

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