Gregory Paul: Obamacare and the Latest Center-Left Panic – and Where is Romney?
At the same time that the right, whether it is trying to or not, manages to sabotage the center and left, the center and left is yet again proving that it is very capable of shooting itself in its feet by panicking when matters temporarily get tough.
When Romneycare got started in Massachusetts the web site was an operational disaster, and partly because of that virtually no one signed up in the first months. New websites not working is close to normal, because running the untested system in the real world is the only way to find and then eliminate the hidden bugs -- it also occurred at the beginning of the Medicare Plan D prescription drug program Bush 2 enacted, and a defective online private system is currently been giving applicants to 500 universities fits – if academe can’t get a website straight, why expect the Feds to pull off what would actually be something of a digital miracle. And of course few are going to immediately sign up for much less pay the initial premiums for health insurance when there is no need to do so for some months, and there is a lot of comparison shopping to do. Everyone knows this, so why the big ruckus? And why this time?
Specifically, when Bush2care and Romneycare were having their initial troubles hardly any fuss and bother was raised (as Rachel Maddow has particularly pointed out). That’s because they were bipartisan efforts initiated by conservative-centrist Republicans, and the liberal-centrist Democrats thought were good ideas. Without one side attacking the other to create an easy story, the too often lazy and opportunistic news and commentary media went along and did not raise a stink. Which was a good thing since both programs got the unavoidable kinks worked out and are operating well. Massachusetts is the only state that for years has had all but 3% of the population covered by sound medical insurance, and cost rises have slowed. It helped that as problems popped up the state legislature enacted bipartisan tweaks to correct the unpredicted errors.
Fact is that running a national health care program is not a big deal. Every other 1st world nation has universal health coverage that costs far less per person and as a percentage of the national economy, eliminates personal bankruptcies due to medical bills, and delivers lower adult and especially adult mortality rates, better general physical health, and less mental illness. The USA can’t do this?
The right loves to talk about small business entrepreneurs. But how are folks supposed to drop their jobs with good and affordable health coverage and risk going self-employed when doing so means losing affordable insurance in most cases? This does not occur in any other western country, and the ACA goes a long way to solve this problem. So why is most of the right against facilitating small business entrepreneurship?
The reason that so much of the nation is hysterically freaking out about the largely inevitable problems with the initial stages of the Affordable Care Act that will bring America closer to the 1st world norm, is because the GOP has abandoned being the party of Lincoln who saved central rule, in favor of being the 21st century reactionary neoConfederacy that dreams of nullifying the Federal government even as they are electorally doomed to national minority status by long term demographics. So the hard right is doing all it can to destroy the evil of socialist Obamacare that is a larger scale version of the Romneycare that was a Republican idea for maximizing the participation of the insurance industry. That’s reckless enough, but making it worse is a national news media and punditry that is largely egging on the difficulty of running a modern nation by yet again swallowing and echoing the dysfunctional hard right wing line without looking at the historical context, and then using the past examples to calm the public. Yet again a media that fears being tarred with the liberal label is de facto allying with the right, and in doing so ginning up their ratings. So it is not just FoxNews and right wing talk radio that is the problem, so are too many at the center and on the left.
As per the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank who pretty much concludes that Obama is a crippled lame duck because of the Obamacare debacle just weeks after its initiation. That’s responsible punditry? Or take the NPR game show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, hosted by the normally arch-liberal Peter Sagal. At the beginning of a show he gleefully exploited the comedic aspect of the problems with the ACA, sounding like Dennis Miller in the process. It ironically took southern comedy panelist Roy Blunt Jr. to calmly note the similar early problems with Romneycare. Why to go Roy.
Even Obama has been too panicked and/or dispirited to handle the situation to his best advantage. In his awkward press conference of apologies, he should have calmly started out with the story of Romneycare and how it worked out in the end, and how the Republicans are now so bent on destroying the government that they are trashing their own idea. Never the most adroit politician (and what is his staff doing?), Obama is forgetting that the best policy is – unless guilty of a really grievous failure – to confidently go on the offensive and rally the base while confounding the enemies.
Is Obamacare his Katrina? Aside from how well Barack handled his big hurricane, a president must very quickly and correctly respond to a natural disaster, because they come and are then gone politics wise. There is no making future amends. The ACA is an insurance scheme that will be in place for years, allowing lots of time for it to become a political success.
A month ago the Repubs were electoral toast in the 2014 midterms even though they were over a year away. A month later Democrats are electoral toast in the 2014 midterms even though they are almost a year away. Have you “the sky is falling” pundits no discipline? Millions have already benefited from the ACA Most from their kids being able to stay on their parents plans until 26, from the ban on exclusion based on preexisting conditions, and the like. Hundreds of thousands have already signed up for Medicaid that they can now access – that’s because they need it now and can now get it now. Traffic on the websites is very high, indicating the level of interest, those who have signed up for Obamacare in fact way outnumber those who signed up for Romneycare in the same time period on a percentage of the population basis, and in some states enrollment is higher than expected at this point. Many if not the great majority who are getting notifications of cancellation of old policies are going to realize they are better off in the end, as many already have found out. There is growing evidence that the program is slowing the rise in medical expenditures by even more than predicted, with positive implications for the federal budget and the economy. By the spring we could be seeing headlines about how Obamacare is doing pretty good after all, and how all those skeptics are getting red faced -- or should be. Could be an electoral plus for the Dems in 2014. I could be wrong, point is that we will have to wait to get a better idea.
Did Obama lie when he said that everyone could grandfather their policies? Of course he did. Big deal. He had to to get the ACA passed in a narcissistic nation – look what happened to the Clinton plan back when Bill mentioned that some would have to make sacrifices. White House lies tend to be laid aside if they are followed by success. If you want a far more egregious lie that the press is not droning on and on about as they should be, take Republican House Speaker Boehner continues to offer up the off the shelf right wing lie about how the liberals are wrecking the best medical system in the world and pay no attention to our horrific child death rates and economy damaging costs. Is it that we have become so used to the hard right saying the darndest things that we no longer pay it much mind, while Obama finally being caught out is news? Or how about how the great right wing hero Reagan lying about Iran-Contra. And there is FDR lying through his teeth in 39-41 about the last thing he wanted was for the country to get involved in the wars raging in Europe and Asia, when he was doing all he could to get America ready to literally combat hard right militarism.
And that brings us to an important point I have yet to see mentioned. After losing a bitter election to FDR in 1940, the GOP candidate and true patriot Wendell Willkie bent over backward to back his nemesis on supporting the allies and preparing for war, providing critical support for Lend Lease and the draft. So where’s Mitt Romney? To some credit on his part Mitt is at least keeping his mouth shut, rather than joining in the general GOP gloating about ordinary citizens having trouble getting coverage, not that the inventor of Romneycare is in a position to gloat. But if Romney truly cared about the nation more than his disappointment and his scarily reactionary party, he would tell the country that although he opposed extending Romneycare to the country at large, it being the law of the land in view of the Repub defeat in 2012 we should all unite in working to get it operating properly. After all, he could say, Romneycare got a rough and slow start, but it is a fine Republican operation, and there is no reason that the one superpower on the planet cannot do the same from coast to coast. He could meet with the President, and perhaps offer to be a consultant for fixing the system -- which considering how the scheme was modified until it worked in Massachusetts might be a good idea. It’s not like it will ruin his political career, and it is not like he has a lot of other things to do these days.
Not that I am holding my breath on this.
(Whether Romney doing the right thing would be good or bad for the GOP is up for grabs. It might or might not damage Repub prospects in 2014, but it could serve to moderate the party to its long-term benefit. Or perhaps not.)
And why is the news media and punditry not asking Romney why he is not doing a Wendell Willkie?
Seriously, why not? That is one thing I am holding my breath until someone wakes up about it, it being so obvious when you think about it.