Dear Tea Party: The Gov’t Shutdown is Hurting White People, Too

When the Republican Party was reduced to its bare minimum of support in 2008, as the American people finally rebelled against the Bush/ Rove dismantling of the economy and wasteful adventurism abroad, it was left with representatives from the Southern states. That election revealed that at its core, the GOP is now a party of white southerners, with a few additions from elsewhere when the public isn’t completely disgusted with its record.

The gov’t shutdown engineered by these white southerners looks an awful lot like the resistance their ancestors offered to Reconstruction after Lincoln freed their slaves. It is analogous to the Jim Crow regime they implemented to make sure that the freed slaves did not have any claim on their resources. If African-Americans weren’t going to work for free, then they weren’t going to have an education equal to that of white people, nor access to the same resources, nor free access to the polling booth (limited by poll taxes and ‘literacy’ exams). The ingrates were on their own, and would have to be segregated now that they were no longer owned.

The primary concern of the Tea Party is that the working poor not benefit from Obamacare in getting access to health insurance. (Many of the poor already have access to Medicaid; the Affordable Health Care Act mainly benefits workers who aren’t paid very well and don’t get insurance via their employers). The reason that the Tea Party doesn’t want Obamacare is because they are convinced that it is ultimately a transfer of wealth from the white rich and middle classes to the minorities. This allegation is untrue, since in recent decades 3/4s of the working poor are white. Since the program is a government mandate that individuals buy private health insurance, moreover, it doesn’t actually cost the government much. Indeed, it very possibly will save the state money in various ways.

Of course, the Tea Party is a tool of rich backers such as the Koch brothers, and the billionaires at the center of the conspiracy to destroy the American social safety net probably don’t care much about the white poor, either. But I suspect that the rank and file of the movement is so easy to manipulate on this issue because of racial anxieties. Those anxieties are misplaced.

Not only would denying the working poor access to health insurance hurt the majority of badly paid workers, including white ones, shutting down the government and declining to raise the debt ceiling also harm workers of various ethnicities across the board.

Government-supported scientific research, and companies in Silicon Valley, are being hurt by the government shutdown.

The shutdown hurts veterans.

Then there is that worrying outbreak of salmonella in 17 states at a time when the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only has a third of its employees coming into the office.

The shutdown and worries about a debt default have taken 4% off the US stock market. For older Americans heavily invested in the market through their retirement account, that sum might amount to a lot of money in absolute terms.

Making American science and technology less competitive in world terms, compelling our scientists to emigrate to countries that more reliably support their work, risking the public’s health, and harming investors– none of that helps the Tea Party constituency. How odd that they appear to think that it does. 

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