‘Free speech for me but not for thee’

The government shutdown and Democrats’ hypocrisy.

Imagine a scenario in which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, as well as the presidency. In their haste to preempt the arrival of a newly elected senator they pen a bill that almost none of the legislators read. It is a massive tax cut with all sorts of measures that Democrats believe will hurt the middle class and the economy. The bill passes, but years later, before it is implemented, Democrats, who still believe that this tax cut will be economically harmful, ask for a one year delay in implementation. They pass a measure to keep the government funded with but one caveat—that there be a delay in the implementation for one year. Republicans refuse and the government shuts down, saying that Democrats are “holding the country hostage” and “acting like spoiled children because they didn’t get what they wanted.”

Our current government shutdown is the same, but flipped. Substitute Democrats with Republicans and the tax cut with Obamacare, and you have our current scenario. Yet I don’t believe that the vast majority of readers would actually have called the Democrats spoiled children. Left-leaning individuals certainly would have insisted that Democrats fight against a piece of legislation they felt would hurt the economy. But that is not how our system seems to work. Instead, dissent from Republicans is considered an act of unreasonable hostility and is condemned by liberals and the majority of uninformed “independents.”

Now there exists, as has existed for decades, a liberal view of “for me but not for thee.” President Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling as a senator. Today, when Republicans claim that we should use the debt ceiling to evaluate spending policies they are labeled “terrorists.” Senator Obama and his Democratic colleagues viciously fought against filibuster reform when Republicans controlled the Senate. But earlier this year Democrats derided Republican filibuster attempts and tried to reform the filibuster to prevent future attempts to stall legislation opposed by Republicans. Wendy Davis of Texas launched a “brave,” “historical” filibuster and was lauded in the press while Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were lampooned and derided for theirs in the U.S. Senate. A president who refuses to even sit down and negotiate is assigned absolutely no blame while the shutdown is deemed “the Republican shutdown.”

The current liberal climate is saturated with the mantra of “for me but not for thee.” When it came to the current legislation, many turned a blind eye to who would pay for the steep increases in premiums and the layoffs that would result to trim a company’s workforce. As reported recently in one San Jose Mercury News piece, “Cindy Vinson, of San Jose, Calif., will reportedly pay $1,800 more each year for an individual policy. Additionally, Tom Waschura, of Portola Valley, Calif., will pay nearly $10,000 more for insurance to cover his family of four.” The takeaway line, however, comes from Vinson, who remarks, “Of course, I want people to have healthcare, I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

Of course Vinson didn’t mind supporting a feel-good law to help those she thought needed help, so long as she wasn’t the one footing the bill. From taxes to political rhetoric to the healthcare legislation, there exists the classic liberal mantra of “for me but not for thee.”

Make no mistake, Republicans believe Obamacare will hurt the middle class. Premiums will skyrocket (in some cases already almost 300 percent), companies will dump employees onto the government plans, and businesses will cut employees to part time hours or fire them completely in order to avoid taking a massive hit.

Despite the fact that these drawbacks were predictable, union support for Obamacare was nearly universal. Why would unions (whose members would be adversely affected by the ACA) support such a measure?

Because they expected waivers. “Waivers for me but not for thee.” Now, unions have realized that Obamacare represents a big problem for their membership and they have started to speak out. But it is too little, too late — their members are seeing not only fewer options for their coverage but also increased premiums and decreased employment. So much for hoping for special exemptions.

And so we continue with the shutdown in its second week. Democrats are still whining about the system of democracy we have, all the while refusing to negotiate. Worse, our country is stuck in a cycle where many expect consequences not to affect them, or expect special treatment. Only when people actually get hit does it sink in — “for me but not for thee” only works so long. It’s time to wake up.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

This article is terrible. All supposition with no substance.

The metaphor in the first paragraph means absolutely nothing. Yes, if the situation were exactly the opposite, then it would be the Democrats being childish and ridiculous. But that's not what's going on. ACA passed. The Supreme Court upheld it. You say the Democrats are "refusing to negotiate", but in reality the Republicans aren't offering any reasonable options.

Colbert's metaphor was much better. Let's say we're playing a board game, it's my turn, and I can see that I'm going to lose so I refuse to take my turn. You want me to take my turn and finish the game, so I offer to negotiate--I'll take my turn, in return for you forfeiting the game.

Cornelius over 10 years ago

1: 1

ref: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/429570/october-07-2013/government-shutdown-s-one-week-anniversary

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Does Adam Edelman not know where he currently lives? MA has had Romneycare, the basis of Obamacare, for many years now and the sky hasn't fallen over.

Zach Scout over 10 years ago

So the main crux of your article seems to be "Democratic politicians are politicians." That is correct; they are. However, Republican politicians are also politicians. They also engage in hypocritical actions when it benefits them, politically. They complained that Wendy Davis' filibuster was "mob rule," and back when facing Dem filibusters of federal judges in 2005, they complained incessantly about allowing an up-or-down vote and threatened the nuclear option to change Senate rules, the same as Reid. The main issue is that, in this circumstance and the actions surrounding them that you describe, what is separating the two parties is the fact that Dems have not threatened to destroy the country's economy via defaulting on American debt to achieve their political goals, which is stupid and crazy.

Zach Scout over 10 years ago

Plenty of legislation was signed into law with little-to-no Democratic support in the first six years of Bush's presidency; and yet, they never did that. This is because they know, fundamentally, that that would be a dumb reason to shut down the government and, in particular, threaten default. I'm fairly certain that a lot of people (and, let's face it, Fox News) would've been calling for Democrats' heads if that had happened

If a party threatens either of these actions whenever a continuing resolution is needed or the debt ceiling must be raised, when does it stop? The House Republicans' original set of demands for raising the debt ceiling was basically the Republican party platform, despite the fact that, in the last election, they lost the White House, slipped even farther from a Senate majority, and would've lost the House if its representation was proportional to the total number of votes counted. Despite this, House Republicans are stipulating that their party platform is more-or-less implemented in order for the country to avoid defaulting. Does this sound like a well-functioning democracy to you?

All of this is tangential to Obamacare itself. It sucks but it's still better than the even-more abysmal status quo. Is it going to force employers to spend more money on health care for employees? Yes, yes it will. Congratulations, you've correctly identified the issues with employment-based health care in this country. This is why I support a single-payer system.

However, I agree, Democrats are politicians. So are Republicans ("filibusters/deficit spending/debt ceiling hikes for me but not thee"). But Democrats haven't made avoiding financial destruction contingent on their political agenda.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Oh, cool, another Republicans vs. Democrats debate. And a comments section citing Stephen Colbert and complaining how "the other party" is so evil and mean!

Very original.

Cervantes over 10 years ago

Dear Anonymous 6: There is nothing new under the sun -- not even what you yourself said. So how shall we proceed? Or should silence reign?

Anonymous over 10 years ago

7 -- It reveals a lot that you think that the alternative to not talking about banal R vs. D politics is to be silent. My point was that such debates are not constructive, and haven't been for a long time now. The Republican party and the Democrats are two wings of the same party. If you really want to change things instead of just managing existing systems, you need to get people to think outside of shoddy and comforting narratives of party politics.

Again, this idea isn't new. It is only my opinion that this is the way to truly change things. Spouting Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert platitudes and thinking about policies in R vs. D frameworks will not. The least an MIT student can do is think outside the box about such problems. This column and most comments here don't indicate such an effort was made.