Imagine you're a third-grade teacher, and the school announces that all the classrooms are going to be repainted, and the kids will get to choose the colors. You let your students each make a case for the color they'd like for their classroom, and it comes down to a choice between blue and green. The two sides give cute little speeches to the class about their favorite colors, and then you take a vote. There are 20 kids in the class; 12 choose blue and 8 choose green. Blue it is.
But then the kids who wanted green insist that the color has to be green. They go to the principal's office and make their case that blue sucks and green rules. The principal tells them that the class chose blue, so the walls are going to be blue. Then the pro-green kids return and say that since there was a new kid who joined the class since the vote, we have to have the vote again. Another vote is held; it's still blue. Then the pro-green kids announce that because anyone can see that blue is sucky, they're going to write in green magic marker on any wall that gets painted blue. Then they announce that if the walls get painted blue, they're going to break the windows in the classroom, smash the chairs, and fling the contents of everybody's cubby on the floor.
When they're told they can't do that, they say, "OK, tell you what: we'll refrain from breaking the windows and trashing the class, but only if you give us pro-green kids cupcakes every day, excuse us from homework for the rest of the year, and let us choose all the games we play at recess. It's either that, or we start smashing." Would you respond to these children, "Well, what if we just give you the cupcakes?" Of course not. You'd say, "Listen, you psychotic little turds. The goddamn walls are going to be blue. YOU LOST. Now suck it up."
Okay, so if you were a third-grade teacher you wouldn't actually say that. But you'd think it. And that's where we are today. Republicans argued against the Affordable Care Act when it was moving through Congress. A vote was held, and they lost. Then they went to the Supreme Court and asked for the law to be overturned. They lost. Then they tried to defeat the president who passed the law and replace him with a guy who promised to repeal it. They lost. Now they're saying that if they don't get what they want, they're going to trash the place.
And now we come to the part about the cupcakes and homework. The latest idea from Republicans is that in exchange for not trashing the American economy with a debt default, just defunding the Affordable Care Act isn't enough. What they want as the price for standing down is the entire Republican wish list. Get a load of this:
According to a document obtained by CQ Roll Call, that "wish list" contains 20 "additional options" for the debt limit bill, on top of four principles in the "Core Package" — a one year debt limit increase for a one year delay of Obamacare, the agreement of tax reform instructions and the Keystone pipeline.
The 20 additional options, according to the document, are:
1. Offshore Energy Production
2. Energy Production on Federal Lands
3. Pipeline Permitting Reform
4. Coal Ash
5. Prohibit EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gases
6. REINS Act
7. Regulatory Process Reforms (APA)
8. Consent Decree Reform
9. Regulatory Flexibility Improvements
10. Block Net Neutrality Regulations
Non-Health Care Reforms:
1. Federal Employee Retirement Reform, which Republicans estimate will save $20 to $84 billion.
2. Eliminate Dodd-Frank Bailout Fund, which they estimate will save $23 billion.
3. Eliminate Mandatory Funding for CFPB, with estimated savings of $5 billion.
4. Require SSN to Receive Child Tax Credit, with estimated savings of $7 billion.
5. Eliminate Social Service Block Grant, with estimated savings of $17 billion.
Health Care Reforms:
1. Increase Medicare Means Testing, which Republicans estimate will save $56 billion.
2. Reduce Medicaid Provider Tax Gimmick, which Republicans estimate will save $11 billion.
3. Medical Liability Reform, with estimated savings of $49 billion.
4. Disproportionate Share Hospitals, with estimated savings of $4 billion.
5. Eliminate Public Health Slush Fund
I'm sure that if you asked them the logical question—Are you people insane?—they'd respond that this is an opening position for negotiations, and we can go from there. Sure, maybe we won't get everything on the list, but maybe we could bargain it down to, say, delaying the ACA for a year, handcuffing the EPA, the Keystone XL pipeline, and cutting money for public health. In other words, we might be willing to not smash the windows if you give us the cupcakes.
There are some basic notions that undergird the operation of a democracy. When there's an election, the candidate who gets more votes is the one who takes office. When a bill is passed through Congress and signed by the president, it's now the law. And when you lose, you don't get to demand that your agenda be enacted, for no reason other than that you'd prefer it that way. If you want a bunch of policy changes, you have to win an election, then pass that agenda through the legislative process. That's how it works. Baseball players who strike out don't get to just demand that they be given a triple or else they're going to set fire to the stadium. And third graders don't get cupcakes for threatening to break windows and chairs.