| Wake Up America! Congressional “Mad Dogs” render the powerful powerless!

Congressional “Mad Dogs” Render the Powerful PowerlessRALPH NADERCounterpunch.

SHUTDOWN – blared the Washington Post headline. None of the powers-that-be could stop a small faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives from shutting down many federal government operations starting on October 1.

Suddenly the powerful Business Roundtable and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are powerless, along with two hundred corporate trade associations, who see Uncle Sam as their big customer. Suddenly, the Republican dominated National Governors Association, together with Mitt Romney, the Party’s presidential nominee in 2013, are powerless. Also powerless so far are the allegedly sovereign people, who want uninterrupted safety inspections, enforcement of labor and environmental laws, children’s nutrition and educational programs (like Head Start), student loan processing, veterans benefits, detection of epidemics, access to national parks, and inspections of nuclear power plants.

All of the above want the federal government to stay open. Most of them do not want to see 800,000 federal workers (out of two million) furloughed. It doesn’t matter to House Republicans. About thirty-five to forty obscure, foot-stomping Republicans have scared the easily frightened House Speaker, John Boehner, and his curled-lip deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor, into doing what no foreign enemy since the British burned Washington in 1812 has been able to do. This cohort, representing the most cruel, ignorant, narcissistic Republicans in the Party’s history, has closed down much of the national government.

Usually lapdogs for big business or business lobbies back in their one-party dominated Congressional Districts, this small echo chamber in the House, assisted by some of their ilk in the Senate, have become “mad dogs.” These “mad dogs” do not obey their owners, they embarrass them and make our tepid economic recovery shudder. They shake foreign allies’ confidence in the super-power, whose lawless military Empire budgets are mostly untouched by the shutdown.

To make matters more calamitous, these “mad dogs” are also attempting to block the increase in the nation’s debt ceiling later this month that is necessary to pay for bills already incurred. Just the rhetoric by these ideologically inebriated Republicans is giving the stock marketers and the big business barons nightmares.

The ostensible reason for these “mad dogs” frothing at the mouth is Obamacare, or what is euphemistically called the Affordable Care Act, which does little to control the drug, hospital and insurance industry’s prices. These congressional canines bark daily that the American people are against “big government” Obamacare. They fail to point out that a solid segment in the polls consists of Americans who oppose Obamacare because they want full Medicare for all, or what is called single-payer – a far more efficient, accessible, and simple system with better outcomes and opportunities for disease and injury prevention. Under single-payer, everybody is in, nobody is out, with free choice of doctor and hospital. (Visit www.singlepayeraction.org)

Why is this Republican faction – a minority in its own Party – so extortionately against Obamacare that they would shut the government down? The answer is simple: Obama. They do not like him. Moreover, these Congressional “mad dogs”, well paid and insured by taxpayers, prefer the present ‘pay-or-die’ gouging marketplace that, according to a peer-reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers, takes the lives of 800 Americans each week who cannot afford health insurance to be diagnosed and treated in a timely manner (http://www.pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf).

The question remains: Why have all these power brokers suddenly become powerless, including all the business lobbies? One explanation is that hyped-up Tea Party activists can threaten primaries against moderate Republicans. In addition these “mad dogs” are in a feeding frenzy and cannot see any reality beyond their pack.

Most puzzling are the allegedly sovereign people, including federal employees, their families and the millions of workers around the country who extend or rely on federal operations. True, there are a few scattered protests around the country. In France, were the Parliament to shut down the government, the French would likely sack the Parliament. In Washington, D.C., the press reported an “eerie silence,” before and after midnight struck on September 30. And they might have added – around the country.

How can this not embolden the “mad dogs” further?

It is one thing for America to be a nation of sheep, controlled by the multinational corporate supremacists who have no allegiance to our country other than to control it and ship jobs and industries to repressive regimes abroad. It is quite another matter altogether to be sheep led by “mad dogs” from uncompetitive Districts, whose sheepish voters brought them to Congress where they are exercising their slash and burn plundering.

Who is in charge here? Our Constitution opens with the words “We the People,” not “We the Congress” or “We the Corporations.” That is why people are deemed sovereign.

That sovereignty is in our hands only if we exercise it and challenge our wayward politicians. Time again for that oft-repeated but ignored cliché: Wake up America! (Easy first step – the Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121 or find your member of Congress’s email address at contactingthecongress.org.) Tell Congress they are putting their own jobs at risk by allowing the shutdown to continue.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

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| Spiralling debt: US begins shutdown amid budget row!

US begins shutdown amid budget row ~ BBC.

The US government has begun a partial shutdown after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.

The Republican-led House of Representatives insisted on delaying President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform – dubbed Obamacare – as a condition for passing a bill.

More than 800,000 federal employees face unpaid leave with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over.

It is the first shutdown in 17 years and the dollar fell early on Tuesday.

What does shutdown mean for two million federal employees, agencies and tourist destinations?

Goldman Sachs estimates a three-week shutdown could shave as much as 0.9% from US GDP this quarter.


“The Republican leadership looks and feels trapped – they made demands that they knew wouldn’t be met rather than be accused of weakness and betrayal by their own hardliners”

image of Mark MardellMark Mardell North America editor

The White House‘s budget office began notifying federal agencies to begin an “orderly shutdown” as the midnight deadline approached.

Shortly after midnight, President Obama tweeted: “They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.”

House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he hoped the Senate would agree to a bipartisan committee known as a conference “so we can resolve this for the American people”.

“The House has voted to keep the government open but we also want basic fairness for all Americans under Obamacare,” he said.

The Senate is to meet again at 09:30 (13:30 GMT) on Tuesday.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington says the divide in US politics has grown so bitter that government itself cannot function.

Who is affected?

Who will be affected

  • State department will be able to operate for limited time
  • Department of defence will continue military operations
  • Department of education will still distribute $22bn (£13.6bn) to public schools, but staffing is expected to be severely hit
  • Department of energy – 12,700 staff expected to be sent home, with 1,113 remaining to oversee nuclear arsenal
  • Department of health and human services expected to send home more than half of staff
  • The Federal Reserve, dept of homeland security, and justice dept will see little or no disruption
  • US Postal Services continue as normal
  • Smithsonian institutions, museums, zoos and many national parks will close

Democrats were never likely to make concessions on healthcare reform – Mr Obama’s signature achievement and a central issue in last year’s presidential election, our correspondent says.


Timeline: US budget crisis

  • 20 September: House votes to scrap funding for Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”)
  • 30 September: Congress passes two budget bills coupled to Obamacare, both rejected by Senate
  • 1 October: Key provisions of Obamacare come into force despite shutdown
  • 17 October: Deadline for extending government borrowing limit, or debt ceiling

But Republicans have made demands that they knew would not be met rather than be accused of weakness and betrayal by their own hardliners, he adds.

On Monday afternoon, the Democratic-led Senate voted 54-46 against a bill from House Republicans that would have funded the government only if President Obama’s healthcare law was delayed for a year.

Major portions of the healthcare law, which passed in 2010 and has been validated by the US Supreme Court, are due to take effect on Tuesday regardless of whether there is a shutdown.

President Obama went on national television to criticise Republicans for trying to refight the last election.

Engineers with the US Navy talk to the BBC about what they will do during a shutdown: Make skis

A shutdown would have “a very real economic impact on real people, right away,” he said, adding it would “throw a wrench” into the US recovery.

“The idea of putting the American people’s hard-earned progress at risk is the height of irresponsibility, and it doesn’t have to happen.”


“For all the talk of the rise and rise of China, the US remains the biggest and most important economy in the world.”

image of Robert Peston
Robert Peston Business editor

After the Senate vote, the chamber’s Democratic majority leader blamed Republicans for the imminent halt to all non-essential government operations.

“It will be a Republican government shutdown, pure and simple,” said Harry Reid, referring to the Republicans as “bullies”.

Mr Obama has signed legislation ensuring that military personnel would be paid. The defence department had advised employees that uniformed members of the military would continue on normal duty, but that large numbers of civilian workers would be told to stay home.

Under the shutdown, national parks and Washington’s Smithsonian museums will close, pension and veterans’ benefit cheques will be delayed, and visa and passport applications will go unprocessed.

John Boehner: “I hope the Senate accept our offer”

Programmes deemed essential, such as air traffic control and food inspections, will continue.

The US government has not undergone a shutdown since 1995-96, when services were suspended for a record 21 days.

Republicans demanded then-President Bill Clinton agree to their version of a balanced budget.

As lawmakers grappled with the latest shutdown, the 17 October deadline for extending the government’s borrowing limit looms even larger.

Democrat Jim McGovern to Republicans: “You own this”

On that date, the US government will reach the limit at which it can borrow money to pay its bills, the so-called debt ceiling.

House Republicans have also demanded a series of policy concessions – including on the president’s health law and on financial and environmental regulations – in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“I’m thoroughly disgusted with our politicians,” Ken Griffith from Kentucky told the Associated Press news agency.

“They’re acting like a bunch of three year old children. It’s who can hold their breath the longest.”