Government Vacation: Can We Call It What It Is?

   Scary, I know, but I agree with two of the Republican talking points related to the government *vacation*. But before I get into that, let’s be clear about our use of the word *shutdown*. That word implies that there are people who used to work for money, who are not any longer; that the government is somehow not spending taxpayer dollars. This is not true. The workers who get to stay home will eventually be paid for these days of not working, once their agency is told it can once again write checks. If you want to feel sorry for government workers, feel sorry for those that are actually still having to work for their pay, not the ones who are home with their families and hobbies and getting paid and not having to take vacation days to accomplish that. The government is not saving money during this event; it is just deferring payment and getting less in the way of services for what it will be spending anyway.

   Now on to the agreements. The first point constantly being made by Republicans is: “Americans don’t want Obamacare”. I agree. Americans want a single-payer insurance plan, not this compromise that keeps for-profit insurance companies in the game making even more money from us than ever before. Obama campaigned as if he supported single-payer; and remember, it was only during the 2010 Congressional debates that this option was taken off the table by the Administration. How quickly we forget. As long as we have a health care system in which doctors only get paid when you are sick, and insurance companies only make money when you don’t get a doctor’s services, the patients (you and I!) will continue to be denied coverage, see costs rise, and see our health deteriorate. None of these are desirable outcomes; we do we continue to put up with a system that is this broken? We not only need single-payer, we also need to make all medical services, including drug manufacturing, not-for-profit. This is not to say that no one can earn a living in health care; of course, we should all be paid for our work, including the caregiving that happens for *free* every day in this country. But no one should be able to *earn* a profit from someone else’s illness, especially one that could have been prevented if our model was to prevent disease before it happens, not cut it, drug it, and irradiate it once it does.

   Second sound bite: “Obamacare is costing people jobs as companies adapt to its requirements”. I agree. Dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of companies are cutting full-time worker hours to part-time, and in some cases actually closing down some businesses, to avoid the employer-mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. Even the fast-food restaurant a few blocks from my home is cutting back on full-time workers to avoid the added costs of health care. Note what is happening here: health care providers can raise prices for services because it’s even more likely to be covered by insurance, not a non-insured patient; in much the same way that universities can raise tuition because that cost will be paid using debt, not ever-decreasing savings of the parents of their students. Also, companies are getting out of the business of providing health care for their employees, much as they got out of providing retirement benefits, and using the same method: pushing the costs out onto employees without raising their pay. So we have rising costs, rising corporate profits, and lower income for those who increasingly bear their own health care costs; what’s not to like about this if you are a company? And there’s a silver lining to this cloud: as workers’ hours are cut to less than 30 per week that means there are more part-time, minimum wage openings. Thought experiment: Pause for a few seconds after you read this next thought, before reading further: there are more part-time, minimum wage jobs available.

   Now that you have thought about this, if your first thoughts were something like, “Good, some of the long-term unemployed workers with college degrees can at least find a job now”, or “Those unemployed bums, I’ll bet they won’t even try to land those jobs”, then you get to go stand in the corner with the tall, conical hat labeled, “Propaganda Slave”. And don’t come out until you have found your heart, and listened to what it is trying to tell you.

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