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Your health care is subsidized, too

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The federal government is shut down, except for most of the federal government that isn’t. Most people are not non-essential federal employees who won’t get a paycheck, and so are not panicked. Most of what the federal government does, hand out money, is not affected. Social Security deposits still show up on bank statements and the doctor will still see you. I did get an email press release saying the Agricultural Research Service seminar on “bee disease resistance and colony health” in Davis, Calif., has been cancelled. Serious stuff for apiarians, but the rest of us should be OK.

What is troubling is not the current state of government services, but the tactics of politicians, who resort to extortion to stop the government from paying for more health care, when the government already pays for most of it. Extortion is a tactic using disaster and calamity for leverage. It requires a threat, that terrible, horrible, agonizing consequences will ensue if you do not follow instructions. Extortionists don’t succeed when they are bluffing. They have to be willing to follow through, lest future threats not be taken seriously. So when House Republicans in effect say, “This is nice little country you have here. Be a shame if anything happened to it,” it is time to worry. The Republicans make a demand difficult to impossible for their opponents to meet — defund Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Their first threat, that they would shut down the government, was no bluff. The second, that unless we cooperate the debt ceiling will not be raised and the United States will default and financial markets around the world will be wrecked, is vastly more serious. That happens in three weeks.

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