News / USA

Obama: GOP Holding Americans, Economy Hostage in 'Ideological' Shutdown

US Government Shuts Down; Most Government Workers Sent Homei
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October 01, 2013 8:06 PM
The US government shut down at midnight Monday, after Congress failed to pass a bill to keep the government running. The standoff revolves around a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the President's signature health care reform law, with Republicans first proposing to defund it and then delay it in return for temporarily funding the government. Except for those considered "essential," federal workers in the United States are not on the job and many agencies are closed or partially closed. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti shows us the scene in Washington.

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti

With the federal government partially shut down amid vociferous debate in Congress over the health care reform law, President Barack Obama said Republicans are holding Americans and the U.S. economy hostage for ideological reasons.  

The first full day of shutdown coincided with the launch of new online exchanges that millions of uninsured Americans can use to purchase plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans want the health care law to be defunded or parts of it delayed. They have linked these demands to legislation that would fund government operations.

How The Shutdown is Affecting Services

  • About 800,000 federal workers furloughed
  • The military's 1.4 million active-duty personnel remain on duty, their paychecks delayed
  • NASA is furloughing almost all its employees
  • Air traffic controllers and screeners staying on the job
  • Federal courts continue to operate
  • Mail deliveries continue since U.S. Postal Service is not funded by tax dollars
  • Most Homeland Security employees continue to work
  • Most veterans' services continue because they are funded in advance
  • National Parks and Smithsonian museums closing
In the Oval Office, Obama met with citizens who have purchased or plan to buy insurance. Afterwards, they went with him to the Rose Garden where he accused Republicans of holding the government and the economy hostage.

"Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act," he said. "They have shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.  In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job."

Under Obamacare, companies cannot deny coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, or impose lifetime coverage limits.

Starting in 2014, most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine, and have until March to sign up for insurance plans.  

The White House delayed online enrollment for small businesses until November, and postponed by a year a requirement for large employers to offer insurance to employees or pay a fine.

Obama acknowledged glitches in the rollout of the health care sign up process, including slowness of online exchanges, as millions of people accessed web sites.

Saying the longer the government shutdown continues the worse the effects for a recovering economy, he said he remains open to negotiation about ways to improve the health care law, but not open to dismantling it.

"I will work with anybody who has got a serious idea to make the Affordable Care Act work better, I have said that repeatedly, but as long as I am president I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans," he said.

But political stalemate continued on Capitol Hill. After the Senate rejected a House request for negotiations on the matter, Republican Speaker John Boehner expressed disappointment.

"My goodness, they will not even sit down and have a discussion about this," he said.

In addition to the nationwide impacts, the White House is hit by the government shutdown. More than 1,000 staff members are on unpaid leave, as are some 800,000 federal workers.

President Obama is due to depart Saturday on a week-long trip to Asia where he is scheduled to attend the APEC economic summit and other meetings.

Addressing speculation that Obama may be forced to cancel the trip to remain in Washington to deal with the government shutdown, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama still plans to make the trip.
 

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by: D.C. Lies from: D.C.
October 01, 2013 9:31 AM
Thus, when it comes right down to it, whether or not the shutdown takes place, it will remain business as usual in terms of the government’s unceasing pursuit of greater powers and control. These issues are not going away. They are the backbone of an increasingly aggressive authoritarian government, formed by an unholy alliance between the mega-corporations with little concern for the Constitution and elected officials and bureaucrats incapable or unwilling to represent the best interests of their constituents. So where do we go from here? If public opposition, outright challenges, and a government shutdown don’t stop or even slow down the police state, what’s to be done? Do what you must to survive. Go to work, take care of your family, pay off your debts. But when you’re not doing those things, which allow you to get by day-to-day, consider the future.

Pay attention to the political structure that is being created in the shadows, the economic system that is chaining us down with debt, and the feudal, fascist society borne out of the marriage of government and big business. Avoid the propaganda mills posing as news sources. Express your outrage, loudly and tirelessly, to the government’s incursions on our freedoms. Yet act locally—taking issue with any and every encroachment on your rights, no matter how minor, whether it’s a ban on goat cheese or installations of red light cameras at intersections and on school buses—because reclaiming our rights from the ground up, starting locally and trickling up, remains our only hope. Resistance may seem futile, it will be hard, and there will inevitably be a price to pay for resisting the emerging tyranny, but to the extent that you are able, RESIST.

In Response

by: Markt
October 01, 2013 11:03 AM
that reminds me of a quote by Frederick Douglas, a free black man living in the north during the Civil War. When asked, years after the Civil War had ended and his tireless actions toward social awareness of the slavery issue was over, what he was going to do now...his reply, "Agitate, agitate!"


by: Frank from: D.C.
October 01, 2013 9:30 AM
Schoolhouse to jailhouse track. The paradigm of abject compliance to the state will continue to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior. School districts will continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court. Just recently, in Virginia, two seventh graders were suspended for the rest of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in their own yard before school.

Privatized Prisons. States will continue to outsource prisons to private corporations, resulting in a cash cow whereby mega-corporations imprison Americans in private prisons in order to make a profit. In exchange for corporations buying and managing public prisons across the country at a supposed savings to the states, the states have to agree to maintain a 90% occupancy rate in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years. Just recently, California entered into a 5-year contract to have Geo Group house their inmates to the tune of $30 million annually.

Endless wars. America’s expanding military empire will continue to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense. In fact, given that Al-Qaeda’s capability to penetrate the American homeland is nil, the chances of dying in a terrorist attack are miniscule.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 01, 2013 10:44 AM
Is this an acceptable filibuster? Straight to the point, all those have shutdown, or are they going to continue before, during and after the shutdown?


by: Insider from: D.C.
October 01, 2013 9:25 AM
Like clockwork, we’ve ticked back to the annual government shutdown scare that invariably dominates news headlines and sends stocks seesawing for a few scant weeks until, at the very last moment, the nation is miraculously pulled from the brink of disaster. It’s always an entertaining show, with both Republicans and Democrats doing their best to one-up each other with heartbreaking anecdotes about the millions who will suffer in the event of a government shutdown and showy bravado over the need for greater fiscal stewardship, while conveniently failing to rein in two of the biggest drains on our budget—namely, the military and surveillance industrial complexes.

Indeed, while a government shutdown will inevitably impact everything from Head Start, and key welfare services to national museums and IRS audits, the one area not impacted in the least will be the police/surveillance state and its various militarized agencies, spying programs and personnel. Incredibly, although more than 800,000 government workers could find themselves without paychecks or with reduced (or for members of the military, delayed) paychecks, President Obama and Congress will still get paid on time.

Take a look at the programs and policies that will not be affected by a government shutdown, and you’ll get a clearer sense of the government’s priorities—priorities which, as I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, have little to do with serving taxpayers and everything to do with maintaining power and control, while being sold to the public under the guise of national security.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 01, 2013 10:58 AM
Now you agree that president Obama's intransigence in these matters is born out of megalomania rather than patriotism. If he really loved the people, why did he not start making for compromises before the shutdown? Can you estimate the number of people this will directly impact their lives negative? What is the essence of a healthcare that first exhausts the people, who will it take care of when all the people are no longer there to benefit from Obamacare? If he loved the people, he would have done this in a way that the people would see that his good intentions were defeated by the house, not to kill the people because they must have medical insurance. Food and medication which one comes first? It's food that brings health not medicine. It's the pride to have a legacy in his name that's driving Obamacare like a truck without a driver, or better still, truck driven by a drunken driver.

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