Should The Tea Party Minority Rule?

By Barbra Streisand.

As we now enter the third week of the unnecessary government shutdown, Americans should remember the words of GOP Representative Martin Stutzman, "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is." This statement reflects a cultural resentment in the land over a changing America. Maybe if the President calls and says he respects the Congressman and the Speaker, the country could move forward.

As the October 1 New York Times front-page story pointed out, this shutdown was conceived in meetings sponsored by the billionaire Koch Brothers and former Reagan Administration Attorney General Edwin Meese. The purpose was to defund the duly authorized Affordable Care Act by holding the rest of the government hostage. Talking points were prepared for members of Congress and tens of millions of dollars were spent on propaganda trying to convince Americans that the health care law was going to ruin America and end their health care options.

President Obama has provided access to health care through private insurers that will both help our economy and millions of Americans. It should be noted that the ACA was based on an idea from the conservative Heritage Foundation. The 2012 GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney signed similar legislation in Massachusetts as Governor. Our country is one of the few major industrial nations in the world that did not provide access to health care for its own people. Many have a simple, single payer system.

The opening days of the ACA showed significant demand for health care access. Perhaps the greatest Republican fear is that their rhetoric about the ACA, including government "death panels," will be quickly proven false. When explained properly, the provisions of the ACA are quite popular. Americans will soon understand that the law provides both needed benefits, and reduces medical costs and the deficit in the long run. This is the forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

There is no excuse for the obstinacy of Speaker Boehner insisting on renegotiating a law passed by Congress and deemed constitutional by the GOP-led Supreme Court. There should be an immediate vote in Congress to re-open the government of, by and for the people. Let the people see the Tea Party Republicans vote.

This government shutdown has had immediate effects. It has delayed the death benefits for survivors and associated funeral costs of the soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. This is just the most outrageous outcome of the GOP's actions. Embarrassed Republicans quickly tried to pass an ad hoc fix. They pretend the World War II Memorial should be open and ignore that imported seafood is not being inspected. This shutdown is also costing the American people real money -- over a billion dollars so far. The stock market has reacted by shredding over 600 points, as uncertainty mounts and Americans are thrown out of work.

Reacting to polls, the Republicans switched gears and decided that Obamacare was not the issue but federal spending was. A budget sequester is already in effect cutting federal spending in arbitrary ways. The deficit has already been cut in half. Our children are now being denied placement in Head Start programs, and vital other government services, like medical research, have been curtailed. The Senate also accepted the Republican total budget number, but this was not enough. The GOP decided to fool with the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening to exceed the debt ceiling.

Apparently there were enough moderate Republicans left in Congress to pass the Senate bill to end the shutdown and pass an immediate debt ceiling extension, but SPEAKER BOEHNER, fearful of the Tea Party and its billionaire backers, WILL NOT ALLOW A VOTE. The GOP position is, "Give us what we want or we will promote economic chaos." They ultimately want to overturn the results of the last election.

In this country, our elections are supposed to mean something for policy outcomes. In 2012, the President was easily reelected with 332 electoral votes, the Democrats picked up two more seats in the Senate and received over 1.1 million more votes for Congressional seats than the Republicans. The Republicans were able to retain control of the House of Representatives because GOP-led state legislatures redrew Congressional lines after the reapportionment and redistricting following the 2010 census. According to the latest AP-GfK POLL, the approval rating of the Congress is 5%, the lowest figure ever recorded.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted one of the real aims of the Tea Party conservatives is to undermine the faith of the American people that the federal government can solve national problems. Given all the voter restrictions Republicans have instituted on the state level, they hope fewer and fewer Americans are civically engaged and vote. This should particularly concern American women as it took nearly 150 years of struggle to have this "right".

I hope enough Americans draw the opposite conclusion and hold those Republicans responsible for this orchestrated and manufactured crisis fully accountable in 2014.

Comments for this Statement

Here's a radical idea. Smiling

If you assume most of the problems with Congress (defined here as both the Senate and House of Representatives) stem from the desire to get elected or re-elected, thus requiring politicians to cater to special interests that can foot the bill to get them elected (Healthcare and Pharaceuticals are the Biggest Lobby in DC!!) then how about we make some changes:

(1) LETS HAVE ONLY ONE TERM OF 6 YEARS FOR EVERYBODY. There is no reason someone should be "in congress" for 30+ years, no matter how 'good' they seem to be. "Good" likely being a reflection of the observer's conservative to liberal leanings. We really don't need a House of Lords (aka the Senate) and a House of Commons (aka the House of Representatives).
(2). REDUCE CONGRESS FROM 535 INDIVIDUALS TO 25. 25 people with staff can be more effective than 535+. T
(3). INITIATE A UNICAMERAL CONGRESS (1 not 2 houses of congress)
Have the 'Congress' represent not population density, nor the states, but 5 geographic regions such as the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, SouthWest (add Hawaii) and Northwest (add Alaska). The issues addressed by congress should be for the whole country, not their specific area. This will also reduce the duplication of effort between the Senate and the House etc. Right now we have too many people doing too much repeat work, and traveling in too many 'undisclosed' spheres of influence.
(4) THE VOTE BELONGS TO THE GROUP. No 'leader' can hold up the rest of the congress like Boener did!! Majority could over-rule and allow discussion and/or voting on items/issues.
(5) NO PARTY DESIGNATIONS. Currently, the Republican and Democratic 'parties' are NOT public entities but rather 'private' entities that automatically are given a place on the ballot. That guarntee cause's some of the polarization we see in our national government today, and the need for the 'party' to win!
(6) CONGRESS SHOULD BE LIKE JURY DUTY: 'Serving in congress' should be like serving on Jury Duty. You don't run for it, you get told to go. Grant it, most folks can't afford to give up their jobs to serve 6 years in Congress, but we could make it worth it for them financially for the rest of their lives.
(7) NO CAMPAIGNS (love this one!!) No need for a campaign, because congress is chosen like a jury is chosen. The money spent on campaigns could go to feed hungry children, provide free education to our citizens etc..
(Cool NO LOBBYISTS. No need to have them related to getting re-elected, nor campaigning for a seat in congress.
(9) IF FOLKS DON'T LIKE ITEM 6, then provide 'media channels' that allow candidates to express their views, and the voters can vote for the views they like, not the Party they think they believe in, because at the end of the day, in my years of experience, both parties swing back and forth between the 'good, bad and the downright ugly'.
(10) CITIZEN PARTICIPATION. Don't make Politics a 'Taboo' subject, not discussed in "proper;' company. It amazes me that folks are more concerned that a foot ball stadium get's built rather than get involved in finding out how Health Insurance REALLY works, and the absolute STUPIDITY of having it tied to a persons employer!!

Thanks for reading, if ya got this far... byeeeeee.... Linda.

These people have shown the American people what to expect if they were ever in control of our government. When the people start voting for new congress representatives they will do what Pennsylvania did and clean sweep congress. The people who are in office have destroyed their careers in politics. I suggest they start looking for new jobs now. To get paid while hard working citizens are told not to report to works. They have families to care for and bills to pay. I have no respect of these people. I will never vote for any of them and shall tell as many of my friends to remember this on voting day.

Dear Ms. Streisand,

One of the areas of interest in your site is health care, which Mr. Sanders of Vermont would like to see compromised by pairing universal health care with the Medicare system. Your advocacy for private systems, should the country find itself able to continue to pour monies into curing health problems if fails to prevent, is still quite laudable.

I would like to see you address the fact that Social Security is a trust formed between workers and employers in place since 1936. Medicare began in 1965 but is funded via two trust fund accounts held by the US Treasury through the taxation system of Social Security and income from a) payments into medicare made by beneficiaries and 2) interest earned on social security funds. These systems enable both retirees and the disabled in the USA to retain a basic income as well as locate quality health care for most of our needs. Despite Mr. Sanders opinions on the subject, opening access to the efficiently organized Medicare system to the general public, would guarantee and end to what remains of these vital and irreplaceable programs. Bankrupting it under a deluge of claims from our increasingly ill population (e.g. approximately 44% of Americans will have cancer according to the National Cancer Institute) will end all prospects for our most invested citizens retaining any semblance of independence and longevity.

Health care can't be extended to everyone by ending it for those who've spent a lifetime working for this basic degree of security in old age or in premature illness. Please review these issues and clarify positions on how the goal of universal coverage can be met fairly, for all.

Barbara Rubin

*Applause* This is article is so refreshing, after listening to several news outlets.

Dear Ms. Streisand,
I could not agree more with your comments! Thank you for having the courage to speak your convictions. The current Republican Party base are willing to bring the country down because they fear, as you say, a "changing America." Their cries are reminiscent of the southern conservatives in the 1960's who were afraid of African-Americans voting and having equal power. The recent scene in front of the White House this past weekend with dangerous Senator Cruz and half-term governor Sarah Palin shouting and stoking the base with the Confederate flag in the background made me sick to my stomach.

I also hope that we all get out and vote in 2014 and vote in the Democrats to the majority in both houses of government. It is the only way we will move forward in this country. The Republican Party must reorganize and have a deep self-evaluation. Today their party is a party of dangerous renegades with no common sense.

Thank you.
Doug Brown

Dear Ms. Streisand,

I’ve long admired how politically involved and active you’ve been throughout your career. Because I’m not nearly as knowledgeable or savvy when it comes to politics, I won’t comment on the specific details cited in your post. Instead, I’ll offer a personal reflection.

Those of us who are old enough to remember can remember a time when, for whatever differences existed between the two major US political parties, there was nonetheless a sense that we are one country and, somehow, “all in this together.” Sadly, as the Republican Party has gotten progressively more extreme in its outlook and ideology, it feels more and more like we’re living in, for lack of a better term, “two Americas.”

I was recently asked (via an e-survey) why I support the Democratic Party. I wrote the following: To get inspired about the Democratic Party one needs only to envision a United States that is completely Republican run. In that country the sick, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the undereducated, the elderly, and/or any person of “minority” status would be told, in essence, “Fix it yourself, or die.”

The scope and breadth of your accomplishments in the entertainment industry are, on a multitude of levels, unparalleled. And certainly one measure of a person’s worth is their artistry, as it adds so much value to the world. But there is something that, in my opinion, may be an even more substantive measure in that regard. And that is the degree to which one has lived a life in which they have extended kindness toward others. How easy it would be for you to remain silent, and hide out in luxury. But for all your worldly success, you have remained true to your humble roots (I’m sure many of your fans know that a hot water bottle served you in good stead as a makeshift childhood doll).

Thank you for making your voice heard, Ms. Streisand. For as long as persons such as yourself continue to speak out on behalf of those less fortunate, I will hold to the hope that we can one day once again be one America.

With gratitude and respect,
Ed Franco

This is a concise and fully descriptive analysis of the perplexing issue at should be made available to a wider readership. Some pundits have said that the political leaders of our country act like children. In my retirement, after forty years as an educator with a love for children, I believe that a congress of wise and learned students could and would reach a logical accord more rapidly than the selfish and dubious "leaders" we "hired" to work for us. Thank you for the commentary above.

Well spoken, Ms Streisand!

As a member of your audience from 'across the pond' (UK), I naturally can't pretend to have a full understanding of how the USA Health System works, nor indeed am I totally familiar with the 'politics' of your country. My basic (and it may well be innaccurate!) understanding of President Obama's Affordable Care Act is that some if its ideas may have been modelled on something like the UK National Health Service (??): in a nutshell, this is funded by National Insurance contributions and Income Tax deductions, and which are made 'at source' by everyone who works. Of course, our Health system isn't perfect, and it's not entirely 'free', as we have prescrption charges for drugs, and also have to pay charges for dental treatments (People on benefits get 'help' with these costs by not having to pay prescription charges or dental fees). The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) periodically decides that the costs of some drugs (I believe for some cancers, as well as for people with Alheizemers) - are too expensive for them to be readiy readily available to everyone who needs them, and so presumably the poor souls (with cancer or Alheizmers) have to pay for these necessary and quality-of-life-enhancing drugs, themselves, or 'go without' if they can't afford them. As imperfect as the system is though, our National Health System is probably on a par with the aims of ACA - in the long term health costs are reduced by everyone having access to healthcare, nationally.

However, I'm not trying to give you a 'penny lecture' about UK versus USA health systems, as I'm no expert in either of these fields. Nevertheless, I can appreaciate that the 'detail' of what you have written - is your honest appraisal of the situation (as well as that the particularities will also be more familiar to and so will make more sense to your US readers). What is perhaps most striking (if I may be permitted to say this), is how much 'restraint' you have imposed upon yourself, given the time, effort, and considerable monetary value of your work with and for Cedars-Sinai (as well as others for whom you raise funds), for example. It must be exasperating for you to think that in some respects ordinary people can be 'educated' about (preventative) healthcare, and similarly that the medical profession can be 'further educated' about how to provide healthcare (through proper and appropriare research, etc). But do politicans want to be 'educated' about the best ways to provide healthcare for the USA's citizens? It would seem that some of them do not!

Keep up the good work (as frustrating as it must sometimes be) in bringing these various topics to the notice of a wider audeince.

Thank you, too, as always, for the continuing and lasting pleasure that your music brings to my little life here in the UK.

Sincere regards.

Nicky Dallen.

You are absolutely right, Barbra! How can a meaningless, ridiculously misguided group like the tea party restrict the functioning of a government and ruin millions of lives? Our vote from last year has to mean something. We elected this man--and it shouldn't matter that his skin color is different from that of past presidents. He is our leader! Deal with it, tea party members. After all, we had to deal with a travesty by the name of the Bush Administration for eight long years!