Congress, it seems, is hurdling towards a government shutdown on the first day of October. I think it’s inevitable at this point.
Let’s go over a couple of events that have occurred over the past week.
First of all, who’s hungry? According to the House GOP, no one. Or at least if you are, you’re just a lazy mooch. In a page ripped straight from some Ayn Rand fantasy, last Thursday the House voted to cut some $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (food stamps). Never mind that 76% of the households that receive this benefit have living with them at least one child, an elderly person, or someone with a disability. Roughly 50 million Americans rely on this program to supplement their nutrition.
Finally, the GOP has mustered the courage to stand up to those who have been holding back our society for decades — old people. The greatest generation, seeing us through trying times such as World War II, has gotten soft on us.
The debate did produce two shining stars. Brandishing a bottle of vodka and a jar of caviar, which instantly made her awesome, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) took to the floor of the House calling out members of congress for taking fat per diems while on congressional trips abroad, while at the same time blasting the SNAP program back home. Watch her speech here:
While this was going on, it was revealed that Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Nosenseofironyville) and his family benefited from government farm subsidies, you know, the ultimate food stamp. You may remember Huelskamp. He railed against disaster relief for families hurt by Hurricane Sandy. He saw this as a frivolous waste of tax dollars. From 1995 to 2011, Huelskamp’s brother and father’s farms received close to $3 million in federal farm subsidies. Farm subsidies are meant to do a number of things, from, yes, supplementing the income of a farmer to controlling the supply of a commodity.
What does the gutting of food stamps have to do with the shutdown? The party intent on watching anyone go hungry could very well shrug off the entire nation suffering. Tea Party Republicans have painted Speaker Boehner into a corner over the shutdown, insisting upon it lest he be voted out of the speaker’s chair.
Two aides in the House, both Democrats, told me they welcome a shutdown. For different reasons. First, the more practical of the two suggested that a shutdown, though disastrous in effect, would give Boehner the cover needed to get his rambunctious party in line to later increase the debt ceiling. Essentially saying to them, “The public hates us, even more so now, so work with me here to do this or we are all out of a job.” To not increase the debt ceiling would be far more disastrous than any short-lived shutdown.
The second of the two aides suggested that yes, we should see their temper tantrum and raise them a shutdown so that Americans everywhere can be reminded that taxes do in fact equal services, once these services are no longer available. Let everyone see how fundamental (libraries, museums, meals-on-wheels, post offices, airport security, veterans’ affairs, food inspections, etc.) they can be. Pity we have to be reminded.
But with this brand of republicanism, one bent on cruel policies towards the less fortunate, will they even care?