Pressure mounts against GOP-led shutdown

Rain and wind were not enough to stop another of the almost daily demonstrations in Washington yesterday as hundreds braved the elements to rally against the Republican shutdown of the country.

Workers, their unions and lawmakers joined hands Oct. 10 outside the Capitol to demand that Republican House Speaker John Boehner allow a vote on legislation to open the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Americans are suffering without the services of 800,000 federal workers furloughed so far. Families of veterans are going without the money to bury their dead, small business owners are going without loans they need to stay in existence, children have been kicked out of Head Start, mothers are being denied the food for their children through the Women, Infants and Child (WIC) nutrition program – all so Republicans can show their opposition to affordable health care.

As if the shutdown were not enough of a threat to the fragile economy the GOP is still threatening not to raise the debt limit this month, something that must be done in order to pay bills Congress has already incurred. Most economists have warned that the results of such inaction by Congress would be catastrophic to the world economy.

And now the Republicans are trying to send signals that they are reasonable – that they might let up on their fight against affordable health care.

President Obama and House Republicans could not reach an agreement on a six-week extension of the country’s borrowing authority when they met Oct. 10 but the Republicans made offers that indicate, health care aside, that they haven’t given up on their quest to roll back the standard of living for the vast majority of Americans.

The reality for Republicans, of course, is that they need to at least appear to be making concessions. The latest national polls show the GOP hitting rock bottom. The new NBC News/Wall Street journal poll shows a majority of Americans are blaming the shutdown/debt ceiling mess on Republicans.

By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than the president. Even worse for the GOP, just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the tea party.

Fearful of how this could translate into midterm election defeats for them, Republicans seem to be splitting off in different directions even as they remain united on big cuts in social services.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has emerged out of the post national election shadows to portray himself now as a “moderate,” unaligned with the extremely radical tea partiers.

Unfortunately, Ryan, perhaps more than the “radical” tea partiers, has already won a big part of the budget battle. Even if the shutdown is ended today the budget that will be in place is not much different in size from the $850 billion “Ryan budget” he first proposed before he ran for the vice presidency. Contrary to what the right wing has been saying, Democrats have compromised an awful lot. They have moved from their original $1.2 trillion proposed budget in 2010, to the point where not only will the government reopen at Ryan’s budget levels but with a sequester in place on top of that.

Not being satisfied even with this horrendous state of affairs, however, the Republicans are pushing to squeeze the American people even more.

On top of all of the above the re-emerged, “reasonable” Paul Ryan and people who are describing themselves as Republican “moderates” are calling for means testing Medicare so that people with any kind of income will have to pay more and they are calling for cuts to Social Security. We are supposed to be grateful, I suppose, that they are holding off on the old Ryan plan to voucherize Medicare altogether.

Some in the media are hailing Ryan’s “reasonableness” and willingness to back off from the harsher vision he put forward during the presidential campaign. They say that there are other conservatives too who agree with him and that they too are willing to pry themselves loose from the hold of the tea party extremists.

Don’t expect the people to be fooled. Any appearance of “reasonableness” on the part of Ryan or any of the other Republicans is much better explained by the massive rejection of their agenda by voters in the last presidential election and by the public’s continued rejection of the GOP vision. They reject that vision in the almost daily demonstrations happening across the country and they voice their objection in opinion polls that rate the GOP at rock bottom.

In this photo taken last week Oct. 4, Marcelo del Canto, a budget analyst for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, speaks out against the federal government shutdown during a rally with union workers and Congressmen near the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Both del Canto and his federally employed wife been furloughed, and worry about making the next mortgage payment on a house they bought in March. (AP /Jose Luis Magana)




John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.