Wednesday, 2 October 2013

US government shutdown: a long but hardly honourable tradition

So the Republican Party in Congress, and in particular its Tea Party faction, have pushed the US federal government into shutdown. Such is their hatred of Obama’s limited reforms of the healthcare system, which manages to incur the highest costs in the world while failing provide proper access to care for most of the population.

Obama: suffering exasperations
that were already familiar to Washington
In fact, such is their commitment to preventing comprehensive access to healthcare, that the Tea Party is indifferent to the fate of nearly half a million federal employees, now on forced unpaid leave. What is their right to expect an income compared to the congressional duty to denying care to 15% of their fellow citizens?

Curiously, there’s nothing new in this attempt at starving the government of funds.

The Tea Party’s name is a conscious allusion to the revolutionaries of the 1770s, when the Boston Tea Party was one of the iconic moments in the intensifying resistance to British rule. Among the revolutionaries of that time were many to whom

And the activists back then included many to whom today’s rebels can draw a direct line of descent. Indeed, if the present US constitution was adopted, one of the reasons was to overcome the paralysis that flowed from the inability of the Continental Congress to get States to pay for federal expenditure.

Sound familiar?

Ask any of today’s Tea Party people about the sufferings of the soldiers in the Continental Army of the revolutionary war, and they’d no doubt be unstinting praise of their fortitude and heroism. They might mention the resolve of the army that got it through the terrible conditions of its first winter in Valley Forge, and the debt it owed its general, George Washington, who put up with terrible privations in order to stay with his troops and share their suffering.

What they won’t point out is that the horror of Valley Forge was inflicted by States who refused funding for the Army. Men died, in large numbers, of malnutrition and disease because the very patriots who were quick to back them with words, weren’t prepared to back them with cash.

Sound familiar?

Worse still, many of the farmers in the area where the solders were starving, kept selling produce to the British authorities, because they could offer better rates and pay in a reliable currency.

See? Just like today’s Tea Party. Business first, politics second. And if ordinary people have to pay with their lives or the parsimony of those who claim to back them, well, that’s just the natural order. Like slavery.

In particular, who needs healthcare? The patriots at Valley Forge took their medicine and died – or rather didn’t get any medicine and died – so why should today’s poor expect more?

The classic TV series, Yes, Prime Minister refers at one point to a nation struggling with a military threat to its existence, to which Britain offers , in which a struggling nation is offers ‘every support, short of help.’ Or, to go even further and plunge into paradox, the Tea Party, however rabidly right wing, reminds me of Lenin, who offered to support the British Labour, ‘in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man.’

Yes, that’s the kind of support the American people can expect from the Tea Party.

The only odd thing is that so many of those awaiting on the gallows for their turn to be hanged, keep on offering their genuine support right back. By voting for them.

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