Today in New Delhi, India
Dec 10, 2018-Monday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Sorry for the inconvenience

Democrats and Republicans stay apart on debt and keep on quibbling over cheques and balances. Perhaps such gridlock is only as American as apple pie. Anirudh Bhattacharyya writes.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2013 09:24 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Federal employees,Obama administration,national parks

Sometimes PIE isn’t easy. Andrew Byrd, a lecturer in the linguistics programme at the University of Kentucky could attest to that as he attempts to recreate the spoken proto-Indo-European language, based on 300 years of scholarship.

Given that PIE is millennia ancient, you could excuse it for being incomprehensible to the masses. But it has competition, in far more recent bureaucratese.

Among the offerings from governmental jargonland comes this, that it would “include within health insurance plan networks those essential community providers, where available, that serve predominately low-income, medically-underserved individuals, such as healthcare providers defined in Section 340B(a)(4) of the Public Health Service Act and providers described in Section 1927(c)(1)(D)(i)(IV) of the Social Security Act as set forth by Section 221 of Public Law 111–8, except that nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed to require any health plan to provide coverage for any specific medical procedure.”

That’s one of the more lucid excerpts from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, shorthanded to Obamacare. At over 900 pages, it’s as long as Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and as dense, if you tried to read that in the original Russian.

Since it was first proposed, Obamacare has attracted plenty of language, some of it unprintable. While it’s a start in bringing America’s system in line with that in other advanced countries, in terms of universalising healthcare, it’s also riddled with loopholes for lobbyists that create more exceptions than rules.

As it was launched on Monday, its parent website initially showed visitors this message: “The System is down at the moment.”

Which also applied to Washington as a Republican-led attempt to defund that healthcare legislation led to a government shutdown. There was tangible fear in the American capital: What if no one noticed? As late night host Jimmy Kimmel explained, this was bad “because we need to keep the government working so they can continue to not do things on our behalf”.

The Obama administration crackled with crisis as 800,000 non-essential Federal employees faced furloughs and reminded Americans that there were 800,000 non-essential Federal employees, though some must have mourned the non-functioning of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee or The Marine Mammal Commission. Congress itself, which created the closures, is considered essential.

The shutdown also meant places like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks were closed to tourists.

However, there may be little truth to rumours that when Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to Washington in October, terrorist training camps and other assorted safe havens in his country will be designated American national parks or written into annexures to Obamacare so they can be shut down and defunded.

That may actually be the most reasonable solution to snuffing out those jihadi hothouses.

After all, when the Indian Prime Minister was invited for a state dinner at the White House in 2009, India and the US asserted that “resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities.”

Four years later, after a meeting between Manmohan Singh and Barack Obama, their joint statement riffed that they “reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, and disrupting terrorist networks including al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

Perhaps the Obama administration’s policy wonks had gone into shutdown mode a week earlier, therefore necessitating regurgitation of objectives. Either way, it was pap.

Meanwhile, the showdown in DC will get rebooted later this month. With the White House seeking the US debt ceiling to be increased over its $16.7 trillion mark, such talks will not be cheap.

Democrats and Republicans stay apart on debt and keep on quibbling over cheques and balances. Perhaps such gridlock is only as American as apple pie.

(Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years.)
The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Oct 04, 2013 20:07 IST