System Failure

Jewish Light Editorial

As American Jews, we are immensely grateful for how this nation has in so many ways watched over us, protected us, encouraged our involvement and participation at so many levels.

When there have been instances of discrimination, anti-Semitism and generalized hate and violence, the laws of the United States, whether existing or responsive to the problems we’ve suffered, have served as partial antidote and helped us remain a part of the always-growing ethnic and cultural quiltwork.

So at first blush, it would seem we’d have sympathy for a small minority trying to assert itself under the claim of protecting American values. That is the contention of the hardcore element of the Republican Party majority within the House of Represen-tatives. This group of 30-40 legislators is flexing its political muscle to prevent a federal budget or continuing resolution from being adopted in the absence of concessions from President Barack Obama on the Affordable Care Act.

This effort to delay implementation of ACA is only, according to the minority of one house of one branch of government, intended to eliminate the impact of a law that its detractors say is socialistic, unaffordable to the government, and inconsistent with the more compact federal government that they contend is what was intended by our Founding Fathers.


What’s the big deal with that, some may ask. It’s just the way the political system is intended to operate, right? Checks and balances, give and take, push and pushback.

Well, the main thing to point out about that viewpoint is that it’s entirely wrong.

The tactic of holding the entire federal government hostage to undo a lawfully enacted statute, if successful, threatens to reduce the federal apparatus to smoldering ashes.

Hyperbole? Not so much. If the ACA is toppled in consideration for adoption of a budget, or worse, only a continuing resolution of a few weeks or months, consider the consequences of what might be the next law to meet the same fate. It might be Medicare. Or Medicaid. Or Social Security.

And it’s not just laws that pertain to the safety net that could be at risk. What if the Voting Rights Act becomes the next target of extremists? How about the Civil Rights Act? Clean Air Act? Clean Water Act? How about employment laws, or the operation of the Justice Department or the military?

You may snort in derision about these examples, but keep in mind that those who are advocating and holding fast to this draconian tactic are those who have an expressed desire to eviscerate the federal government, to see it reduced to its lowest possible level of funding and service. It is hardly a stretch to envision them reveling in the next application of their tactic to further pare down the government.

The extortionists like to cite polls showing tepid support for Obamacare in support of their position. This is an extremely weak smokescreen — when polls showed that an overwhelming number of Americans wanted assault weapon and ammunition limitations on the heels of recent mass slayings, the folks now advocating the delay or elimination of ACA were hiding behind fallacious interpretations of the Second Amendment. So what the minority is selling on public opinion, we’re not buying.

Moreover, polls are irrelevant to the budget and to the upcoming deliberations on the debt ceiling of the federal government. If we abrogated federal statutes based on polling data, we’d have a system of utter anarchy, in which we passed legislation, then stopped funding it, then started again when the polls turned and so on and so forth.

Finally, polls are not equivalent to enlightened leadership. Those who voted to adopt the ACA initially were taking a brave position on behalf of millions of Americans who are largely disenfranchised economically and politically. As Jews, do we really want our leaders to be all about whether the polling data says something is popular? We wouldn’t have nearly the status of protection and nondiscrimination that we have today.

The ACA, which comprises about 1.3 percent of the upcoming fiscal year budget (and offers potential for vast cost savings in the health care arena) is not really the issue here. This is about changing the way the federal government does business, and about a tiny minority to get away with deciding what existing legislation does and doesn’t get funded. Speaker of the House John Boehner, by refusing a vote on the floor which would almost certainly pass, is empowering and encouraging future efforts at similar sabotage.

Jews have benefitted vastly in this beautiful land of ours because its federal legislators have retained the rule of law and the proper utilization of each branch to create order, protection and justice, particularly when states have fallen off the path of righteousness. We’re hopeful that Americans recognize that reality and insist on the values that have gotten us to this point in our young history.