Facing Tyranny, the GOP Had No Choice
President Obama, as much as House Republicans, shut down the government. He is not willing to compromise on just about any issue, leaving the GOP with no other options.
In 2008, Obama won 53 percent of the popular vote and commanding Democratic majorities in congress.
Faced with an economic crisis and carrying a mandate to accomplish universal access to health insurance, Obama was justified to take bold actions. However, as the leader of a democracy, he had the obligation to weigh the views of the 47 percent who voted for Senator McCain and forge consensus where possible.
Yet, over Republican objections, the president abused a fund established to aid troubled banks to bail out GM and Chrysler. To reward autoworkers for campaign support, he confiscated private property by awarding 55 percent of the stock to the union health care trust instead of Chrysler’s creditors as U.S. bankruptcy law requires.
He rewarded Wall Street bankers who supported his campaign with new lending regulations that help them acquire regional banks. Now, more than half of the nation’s deposits are concentrated among a handful of Manhattan casinos, middle class Americans can’t get decent rates on savings, and small businesses can’t get adequate credit.
Obama imposed other regulations in manufacturing and energy production that reward his constituents, punishing his opponents and slowing growth in an economy increasingly challenged to create enough well-paying jobs.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, every major piece of social legislation was accomplished by seeking a bi-partisan consensus.
Instead, Democratic leaders Pelosi and Reid wholly excluded Republicans from deliberations and created an unpopular system that compels businesses to purchase health insurance for employees, and individuals lacking employer polices to purchase plans through government-run exchanges.
Through town meetings, polls, and a senate election in Massachusetts, Americans expressed opposition. Yet, Democratic leaders packaged the final legislation into a budget reconciliation bill, avoiding the need to win any GOP votes in the Senate—an unprecedented maneuver for such a major piece of legislation.
The individual mandate also raised serious constitutional challenges, but Obama proceeded to warn Chief Justice Roberts not to mess with his law at the 2012 State of the Union Address. Caving to pressure, Roberts wrote a decision whose legal reasoning few ideologically neutral legal scholars could approve.
Micromanaging one-sixth of the U.S. economy is providing a nightmare. Facing huge rate increases and burdensome regulations, businesses are dropping insurance coverage Obama promised ordinary Americans they would be able to keep.
In 2010, Republicans won control of the House on a platform to curb spending and repeal ACA. Obama’s 2012 reelection was hardly a mandate to implement the law without substantial changes, because Republicans again won the House on promises to repeal the law.
Congressional Republicans behaved badly—demanding wholesale repeal of the law when they simply don’t have the votes in the Senate and Obama is still president. However, in the more recent effort to craft a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, they have indicated significant willingness to deliver what Americans expect—compromise.
Asking the president to postpone the individual mandate one year, as he has done for the employer mandate, and requiring the Congress to obtain their health insurance on the same terms the ACA requires for ordinary Americans are quite reasonable. The president’s refusal to accept any changes in the ACA and special treatment for politicians is tyranny.
Terms Republicans have laid down for raising the debt ceiling—more development of offshore oil, rethinking financial reform and changes to other regulatory policies—are broadly consistent with the public sentiment for a focus on jobs creation.
If the debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, the United States need not default on its debt as the president threatens. The Treasury continues to collect taxes, and the president will simply have to prioritize what bills he pays, what services he suspends, and place interest payments ahead of other items.
Realizing presidents shape the public dialogue in crises, he is pressuring House Republicans to deny their obligations to constituents lest he put on them the blame for a government shutdown and perhaps a default.
Peter Morici, an economist and professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, is a widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter.