Understanding the Government Shutdown 

Aaliyah Singleton Staff Writer

The U.S. government has shut down. Why? All because President Obama cares, literally.

To put it simply, political fights in Washington over the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, have led to a standoff between House Republicans and Senate Democrats. Despite being an issue that has polarized the country to the point that it has shut down our government, many Americans are still unclear as to what the Affordable Care Act is and what it will mean for their families.

To clarify, although it has been deemed a Government Shutdown, the United States currently has a working government. The problem is that it’s not working as effectively as it should be. The U.S. Constitution states in part, that one of the responsibilities of Congress is to pass bills that continue to fund the federal government, however, if Congress chooses not to do so then the government is sized down tremendously. Services that preserve law and order such as prison security and police forces still remain in tact, but other government departments do not fare as well.

According to the Huffington Post, approximately 800,000 workers deemed “nonessential” were furloughed due to the shutdown, meaning they cannot report to work, and therefore cannot get paid. For those still working, they are only there to complete basic functions of that department and for the most part, are still not compensated for their work. Government institutions, including all National parks, memorial sites and national museums have however, shut down completely.

Many people wonder both how and why we have reached a point of government shut down. Simply put, the answer to those questions is Obamacare. Though the Affordable Care Act did not directly cause this shutdown, fights in Washington have focused on this one issue ever since Barack Obama took the stage as a potential presidential candidate in 2008.

Since then, members of the Republican Party have been staunchly against this “presidential mandate,” while Democrats have stressed the benefits of enacting the law and scoffed at the idea of it being a mandate of any sort. They argue instead that it is a form of civic responsibility, as the law allows for more than 30 million poor and uninsured Americans to get insurance.

According to the government’s official Affordable Care Act website, the Affordable Care Act will create a Health Insurance Marketplace, a new way for individuals, families, and small businesses to get health coverage. It will also require insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing health conditions, and provide free preventive care. The law will hold insurance companies accountable for rate increases, and make it illegal for health insurance companies to arbitrarily cancel someone’s health insurance just because they get sick.

All in all, it sounds like a pretty good deal, as it will give every American man and woman the opportunity to buy affordable healthcare. This in the long term will help our nation save money on healthcare costs and give people the treatment they need, no matter their financial situation.

While Republicans continue to resist the force that is the Affordable Care Act, arguing that it fits into President Obama’s “Big Government” Model, those on Main Street continue to suffer, particularly the millions of poor who will be left uninsured. Interestingly enough, a recent CNBC poll found that Americans are more likely to disapprove of Obamacare (37 percent) than the Affordable Care Act (22 percent), even though they are the exact same, the only difference being the name. This could be in part that despite the widespread popularity of its provisions, Republicans have shaped the argument so that Obamacare is really a mandate rather than a substantial health care reform.

Given that there is so much animosity shown towards Obamacare, many of those who need it most are not only ignorant of it, but resistant to its enactment as well. At the end of the day, their resistance to such is a part of what continues to put radical Tea Party Republicans in Congress, the same group that continues to hold our government in a metaphorical noose.

One of the sole purposes of the Affordable Care Act is to provide health insurance for the poor and uninsured, with over 68 percent of the country’s poor living in the 26 states that have opted out of the Medicaid expansion this serves as a serious issue to the fulfillment and success of the new law. It also is important to note that many of these Republican controlled states are located in the Deep South, an area where acute health issues and economic disadvantage seem to thrive. For the African-American population in particular, this issue is even more complicated as 6 out of every 10 Black Americans live in Southern states. Given the array of health issues that have plagued the Black community within the past few decades including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer, African-Americans need to be aware of the impact all this fighting in Washington is having on their community.