When things go really badly at the hands of a professional, but a law hasn't been broken, you can sue. Doctors and lawyers can be fired or sued for malpractice, teachers and nurses for incompetence. But what do you do when your representatives in Congress are not only ineffective, but doing harm to you, your neighbors, and your country?
I'm talking about West Virginia Representatives Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley as well as most of their Republican colleagues.
They refused to negotiate with the Senate on the budget, so to keep the government operating they have to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR). But by attaching unacceptable, unprecedented conditions to the CR they partially shut down the U.S. government, costing the country billions of dollars, putting people out of work, denying approved benefits to children and families, closing parks, and so on.
This isn't the first time Republicans have done outright damage to our economy through their strategy to fight the agenda of the president and the Democrats rather than negotiate agreements. In 2011 they filibustered the American Jobs Act, refusing to allow spending on critical infrastructure projects, which would have put millions of Americans back to work, instead sending us into what many called a double dip recession. They brought us so close to defaulting on our debts by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling in 2012 that the United States lost its triple-A credit rating. The deal which finally got Republicans to agree to pay the nation's bills for another year, known as the sequester, is an across-the-board cut of government spending considered so repulsive to both parties that they were sure a budget agreement could be reached before it went into effect.
But were Republicans willing to compromise on taxes and revenues to achieve a budget deal? No. So they are responsible for forcing the sequester, which has slowed the pace of the recovery since January.
Essentially, since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka, the stimulus, Republicans have pursued an unrelenting strategy of austerity in the face of a recession rivaled only by the Great Depression in its breadth and depth. The Congressional Budget Office (the most widely accepted non-partisan authority) estimates the stimulus saved more than two million jobs, boosting the economy by 3.5 percent.
Lest you forgive Republican austerity by suggesting that it sounds like a good idea to tighten your belt in hard times, you should know that the most widely accepted economic theory, known as Keynesian, advises governments to do the opposite to create growth. As noted Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University said recently (and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman of Princeton echoes), "There is no instance of a large economy getting to growth through austerity. Austerity leadsthe economy to perform more poorly. It leads to more unemployment, lower wages, more inequality."
So how can we hold Shelley Moore Capito, David McKinley and other Republicans in the House and Senate accountable for the damage they have done and continue to do to the economy, by which I mean us, the American people?
The economy is an abstract concept, but it's not just about business, industry, banks and Wall Street. It's about our money — money flowing to us from jobs in the private sector and in government, money collected in taxes and coming back to us through government spending on the military, elderly, infirm, poor and through all the important programs of the federal government: the Center for Disease Control, the FDA, the FBI, the NSA, National Parks, WIC, Head Start, and yes, the Affordable Care Act, which is finally going to take effect fully in January.
Millions and millions of Americans who couldn't get health insurance either because they couldn't afford it, because their jobs didn't provide it, because they had some illness or were in an age group or category of people who might be prone to an illness, so they were denied coverage, or because they'd reached some cap of benefits in their insurance, will finally be eligible to receive Medicaid or subsidies to make their health insurance affordable.
This is what West Virginia Republican representatives Shelly Moore Capito, David McKinley and their Republican colleagues shut down our government to prevent, and why we must finally hold them accountable for the damage they have done to us and the economy. Be outraged. Be angry, but be persuasive. Get out and talk to your friends and neighbors, and do what you can to undo the lies they hear on Fox News and talk radio. Let's fire Capito and McKinley and elect a better, more responsible, pro-growth, anti-austerity government in 2014!