“I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law,” President Obama said about the Affordable Care Act at his April 17 news briefing, “but I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on.”
The Republican response? Same as Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s reply when the German army demanded that U.S. forces surrender at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II: “Nuts!”
To be precise, after Obama said we can agree to move on, the National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted, “No, we can’t.”
With 8 million people signed up for Obamacare – and perhaps as many as 14 million covered by the law – repealing Obamacare looks like a lost cause. “This thing is working,” the president announced.
The fact that Obamacare is working should shut down the debate. But that’s not happening. Why not? Six reasons:
Remember when President Bush announced a “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq? That was in January 2007, right after voters repudiated the Iraq War in the 2006 midterm election. Democrats were enraged. Bush was giving voters the finger.
But the 20,000 additional U.S. troops helped suppress the stunning spiral of violence in Iraq. Republicans insisted that the surge worked. Did that get anti-war Democrats to come around and support the war in Iraq? Not hardly. To them, the war was wrong. So the surge couldn’t possibly work. Of course it was temporary. But it lasted long enough for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. When U.S. troops left, the situation deteriorated. During Chuck Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearings for defense secretary, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went crazy trying to force Hagel to admit that the surge worked. The surge suppressed the violence, but it had absolutely no effect on U.S. opposition to the war.
A social welfare program targets benefits by need. Only people who can show they actually need the benefit get it. Under Obamacare, some people who have to purchase health insurance can’t afford it. They have to be subsidized. Those subsidies are being paid for with new taxes and higher premiums on people who can afford it. That’s a transfer of wealth.
Programs targeted by need have always been controversial. How can we be sure people don’t take advantage of the system? That the benefits only go to the “truly needy”? A lot of better-off people don’t like the idea of paying subsidies to those who don’t think health insurance is important or who don’t take care of themselves. “It is viewed more as a social welfare program than a social insurance program,” longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod told the New York Times.
Obama promised several times in 2009, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” It was politically devastating when the Affordable Care Act went into effect last year and people started losing their insurance plans because they didn’t meet Obamacare standards. They believe the president lied to them.
True, only a small number of people with individual policies were affected by the cancellations. But as Rep. David Price, D-N.C., put it: “There was an ability to exploit the unknown, to exploit the fear of people losing something that they have. That wasn’t true with Social Security and Medicare.”
People’s biggest concern about Obamacare has always been that it will take what they already have and like and make it worse.
This month the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation announced that insurance premiums under Obamacare are expected rise by less than 3 percent in 2015 – a smaller increase than expected. If that turns out not to be true, there could be a huge political backlash.
But the key question this year is which party will control the Senate. The Washington Post lists 11 competitive Senate races. Nine of those races are in states carried by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
Bringing out a presidential-level turnout in those states may not do Democrats any good.