Don’t understand the GOP shutdown strategy? Think “gambling addict”

If you can’t figure out why the Republicans keep upping the ante in their ongoing battle to defund health care reform, simply ask yourself why a gambling addict doesn’t walk out after losing the rent money. Because such a move would mean accepting his loss, and facing reality.

Instead, the addict’s thinking is that by betting the car payment too he could win everything back and more.

The Republican party’s first bad bet was sitting out during the health care reform debate.  As is their way of late, the Republicans didn’t try to make Obamacare better, they tried to shut it down every step of the way. (So, actually, we’re dealing with really bad gamblers who have more than a touch of hubris.)

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the authors of the government shutdown to kill Obamacare.

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the authors of the government shutdown to kill Obamacare.

Remember how the health care reform debate started?  That’s right, the Republicans sent their black-helicoptered thugs to shout, and shut, down Democratic town hall meetings in August of 2009.  They didn’t show up to express another point of view, or to make the bill – and our health care system – better.  They went for broke, put all their bets on the most extreme position possible – saying “no” to any reform at all – and ultimately they lost. The Affordable Care Act passed, and while it wasn’t everything we wanted, it was a bit step in the right direction.

So, the Republicans did what any bad gambler would do.  They lost the car, so they decided to bet the house.  (In this case, judging by recent polls, the literal US House.)

Tea party obama hitler guns

The Republicans petulantly shut down the entire federal government so they could defund Obamacare.  If they can’t get what they want, then you can’t get what you want, whether that’s your cancer drug trials at NIH, Head Start, nutrition for women, infants, and children, food safety inspections, or even death benefits for the families of US service members killed in the line of duty.

But of course, like any good bad-gambler, the GOP was able to find just enough money to help themselves, that’s why John Boehner deemed the US House sauna and swimming pool “essential” while cutting off money to the families of dead US troops. That’s not to say that the congressional Republicans aren’t entirely heartless – they did give up towel privileges at their “essential” taxpayer-funded gym.

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Tea Party rally. The Islamic symbol at the bottom right of the poster is a nice touch. Ira Bostic /

As John wrote the other day, the Republican party is now at a whopping 70% disapproval rating for how they’re handling the budget talks.  That’s down 7 points from last week.  In a perverse way though, the more the Republicans Obamacare strategy backfires, the more motivation they have to keep gambling, and upping the ante.

The GOP refuses to “surrender,” but the rent-money’s spent – so what do they do? They gamble with the money set aside for families of our fallen troops, the money used to feed infants and teach preschoolers, and the money used to keep our food safe. They’re betting with the earnings of 800,000 furloughed workers (now around 450,000, as DOD workers were deemed essential), and as if that’s not enough, they’re prepared to bet the entire world economy simply to save face.

The latest GOP threat, to default on the national debt, is no joke.  While the Republicans continue to insist that a default wouldn’t hurt the US or world economy, and in fact wouldn’t even be a “real” default at all, the experts say otherwise.  All the experts – Republican ones included.

Bloomberg News posted a horrific story the other day, titled “A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall.”  It’s difficult to misinterpret where that story’s heading.  Just as difficult as it is to misunderstand where the Republican party is heading.

What’s needed with this people isn’t a negotiation. It’s an intervention.

Or perhaps a SWAT team.


Chris Andoe is an author and seasoned activist. After meeting John Aravosis at a Chicago “” protest in 2000, Chris was inspired to organize his own major demonstrations in St. Louis, which drew national attention. Since then, his activism has revolved around LGBT, affordable housing, and mass transit issues. In 2011 Andoe made headlines taking on the amorphous hacker group Anonymous for publishing nude photos of a Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesperson, saying “Puritanical shame-based tactics have no place in the capital of sexual liberation”, and he extensively covered San Francisco's jarring gentrification, from mass evictions to the nudity ban. Andoe was on the ground in Ferguson at the height of the unrest, recording events as they unfolded. Always in the fray, Andoe’s been interviewed by NPR, CBS, and has been quoted from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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