Agora Debate: Which Party Should You Vote for in 2014?

It’s a rivalry as rabid as Red Sox-Yankees (we know who won that one this year) Celtics-Lakers, Ohio State-Michigan, and the McCoys and Hatfields: Republicans vs. Democrats in American politics.

As the contentious season in Washington rolls on, with a beleaguered President Barack Obama on the ropes over the failed start of his prized health care program and his admission he didn’t know the U.S. was spying on its allies, the Democrats took a beating.

But not as bad as the Republicans seemed to – or did they? – with their failed bid to shut down Obamacare by shutting down the U.S. government over a budget debacle.

All of which leads to this week’s burning Agora question: who will get your vote in the 2014 Congressional elections?

Batting first from the left side is noted historian-anarchist poet Dan Georgakas, but he’s facing right-handed fireballer and TNH Executive Editor Constantinos E. Scaros, a Presidential scholar and GOP stalwart.

Their head-to-head comes a couple of weeks after TNH readers were asked who’s to blame for the government shutdown.

Georgakas blames the Republicans, but doesn’t let President Obama off the hook either. Scaros cannot believe how the Congressional Democrats have somehow slipped under the radar.

Do you agree with Georgakas? With Scaros? Or do you have a different opinion altogether? Take a look, and then join in the debate!

We hope you enjoy them, and we look forward to your taking part in the discussion as well – by contributing letters to the editor in response, and/or commenting on our website:www.thenationalherald.com

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GEORGAKAS:

Dino, let’s talk about the recent federal shutdown. It will lower economic growth for the fourth quarter by 1%, cost us 120,000 new jobs, and increase unemployment. Worldwide, our government was derided for being dysfunctional. More specifically, President Obama was not able to attend a critical economic summit in Asia, leaving China to dominate the proceedings. Who is responsible for this fiasco? I believe the blame is shared by the Republican Party, the Obama administration, and the American public.

 

Those immediately responsible are diehard reactionaries in the Republican Party who oppose the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). Not having the votes to overturn that legislation, they decided to deprive the government of funds needed to meet already-approved operating costs. Had this political hostage-taking succeeded, Congressional caucuses would have been encouraged to use the same tactic on future presidents to advance views for which they could not win Congressional approval.

This power play was facilitated by John Boehner, the Speaker of the House. He could have put the budget to a vote in September and it would have passed with the same coalition of Democrats and Republicans that eventually voted for it.

Boehner delayed the vote to appease the reactionary Tea Party wing of his party. The Senate Republicans and powerful donors to the Republicans were not able to get the speaker to take action until the shutdown and pending need to raise the debt limit threatened the full faith and credit of the United States.

Obama could not negotiate with a gun pointed at the head of the economy. Talk about compromise by the reactionaries was just a ruse to get at least some of what they wanted. The position of the Obama administration, however, was compromised by its bungling of the launch of the health insurance exchanges, a central element of his program that was to become operational on Oct. 1. Millions of dollars had been spent to create electronic sites for the exchanges and there had been 3.5 years to get it right.

The botched opening of the exchanges gave some credibility to those who maintain Obamacare is impractical.

The new system also is enmeshed in bureaucratic red tape. Potential users must choose between four main options, each with a different subsidy and dozens of variations offered by a host of insurers. Further complicating choice is that some plans only cover a limited region of a given state.

Despite these and other problems, had the exchanges been viable and popular they would have gone on line at a time when the reactionaries had shut down the government over the issue of health care.

Voters also might have better understood that they have been paying a hidden tax when the uninsured use costly emergency room services to handle their health problems.

The shortcomings of Obamacare underscore our need for a simple single-payer plan like that of other advanced nations. That Obama took that option off the table from the start is inexcusable.

The best that can be said for his program is that it is slightly better than what we have presently. Also relevant is that the Republican alternative is to reduce Medicare benefits and other health services. The country would be left with the worsening of an already-troubled health care system.

The public needs to step up to the plate. Next year all House seats and one-third of the Senate will be contested. Will those who have played Russian roulette with the American economy be returned to office? Or will they finally be put in the garbage can?

SCAROS:

Dan, you have presented a logical, rational, and considerably evenhanded analysis about who’s to blame for the government shutdown. Like many other Americans, however, quite inexplicably, you left out one important culprit: the Congressional Democrats.

Anyone with even a trace of critical thinking skills knows that the Republican Party dog, wagged by its Tea Party tail, is primarily responsible for this mess.

And, as you correctly point out, President Obama is to blame as well. For all the talk about what a great compromiser he has been and how the Republicans are recklessly stubborn, let us not forget that Obama’s starting point had raised the stakes dramatically. Anti-Obama animus on the Republicans’ part aside, it is no wonder that they were hesitant to compromise from what they – and many centrists and nonpartisans – considered a rather extreme position.

Remember, the intended result – to provide access to affordable healthcare to millions of Americans who currently have to do without it – was a noble one, indeed. But it was the means by which to achieve that goal – essentially, an overhaul of a significant segment of the economy and the infrastructure of public and private sectors alike – which many people found alarming. Certainly it was not a “plot to destroy America” as many of the Internet loons purported, but even the best-intentioned ideas can be radical. Suppose, for instance, that someone says to you, “I’ve got a way to save you lots of money every month, and it will change how your entire household operates: the way your food is cooked, the way you keep other food fresh, the way your home is heated, the way you receive electricity, the source of your water supply, and the way you receive cable, Internet, and telephone signal.” Pretty risky to overhaul all at once, wouldn’t you say?

Obama disappointed me greatly in that, during the debates with John McCain in 2008, he promised to make energy independence his top priority. Instead, he paid the most attention to healthcare, and he delegated too much of the task to Congress. He might as well have told Congress: “I really, really care about this issue, probably more than most of you do, but I want you to be the ones to handle it.” Understandably, he didn’t want to face the same backlash that Bill Clinton encountered when he basically handed “Hillarycare” to Congress and essentially asked them to rubber-stamp it. In hindisight, maybe that route would have been better, as President Clinton’s political damage was peanuts compared to Obama’s, and it’s not even over with yet. A shame though it is, Obama might very well go down in history as a poorly-performing president, if he is assessed for one thing and one thing only: the Affordable Care Act, especially if it is largely if not wholly dismantled.

But why not blame Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Congressional Democrats, too, Dan? Were they not the ones that authored Obamacare in the first place? How are they not even an option upon which to lay blame? If you’ll allow me one last analogy: that would be like saying: “which was the worst-tasting part of that banana split? 1) the ice cream, or 2) the syrup?” What about the banana? Why is not that at least an option to choose? Are bananas inherently incapable of tasting bad?

To your point about the American public, I wholeheartedly agree. They continue to give members of Congress in both major parties dismal approval ratings, yet they will not step outside the box to vote for true change – by electing third party candidates that offer great solutions. And that’s because Americans are scared to death of change, especially in politics. If our Founding Fathers had been that timid, they would have gone to their graves not as free Americans, but as subjects of King George III.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?