Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2013/ 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5774
The Obamacare whiners
By Rich Lowry
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Henry Waxman made a plea at the end of Wednesday’s House hearing grilling of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The California Democrat and liberal lion asked Republicans to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats to improve Obamacare.
Yes, Henry Waxman, who has made a career of ideological witch hunts and smash-mouth partisanship, wants a cease-fire over Obamacare, or so he says.
Waxman was picking up a common liberal theme: It’s not fair that Republicans continue to oppose the president’s eponymous health care law and pick at its failures, deceits and irrationalities. If only they were more reasonable, Obamacare could be tightened up around the edges with a few technocratic fixes and go on to its glorious destiny.
It’s a little late to get or expect any Republican buy-in, though. That would have required serious compromise back in 2009, when Democrats, at the high tide of their power in the Obama era, saw no reason to make any. They ignored the polls, they ignored Scott Brown’s shocking win in Massachusetts, and they ignored normal parliamentary practices to pass the single most partisan piece of major social legislation in a century.
They insisted on this particular law, at this particular time. They own it. They own every canceled policy, every rate increase, every unintended consequence and every unpopular intended consequence. It is theirs, lock, stock and two smoking barrels.
But they can’t stop whining.
They complain that Republicans aren’t as cooperative as they were when the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan had a rocky start. This is absurd. The Part D website experienced what could be accurately described as “glitches,” rather than the full meltdown of HealthCare.gov. And Democrats supported the basic idea of the prescription drug benefit, even if they wanted a more generous one.
They complain that what they really wanted was single-payer, but had to settle for the unsatisfying second-best of Obamacare. Paul Krugman calls the health care law “a clumsy, ugly structure that more or less deals with a problem, but in an inefficient way.” (And he’s a supporter!) The reason they couldn’t get single-payer, though, is that there weren’t enough Democratic votes for it.
They complain that Republicans are refusing, in the words of Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent, “to have an actual debate about the law’s trade-offs.” This is especially rich given that the president has steadfastly refused to acknowledge some of the most significant trade-offs, namely that some people will lose their current insurance and have to pay more in the exchanges.
Some liberal pundits have tiptoed around Obama’s flat assurance about keeping your insurance if you like it. Sargent politely says it was “narrowly untrue,” while Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic diplomatically says the president shouldn’t have spoken “in such clear-cut terms” and Jonathan Chait subtly says it “currently feels like a lie.”
Other commentators like Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and Bill Maher of HBO frankly say the president lied.
It is a falsity the White House doesn’t want to give up. In a tweet heard around the world, White House aide Valerie Jarrett said it is a FACT that “nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.” Never mind that the entire architecture of the law is based on forcing people in the individual insurance market out of their current plans and onto the exchanges; that is how it’s supposed to work and how it needs to work.
In a characteristically graceless note, in his health care speech in Boston Wednesday President Obama didn’t say anything about how his prior declarations had been misleading, at best. Instead, he tweaked his dishonesty for a different positive spin: “For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.” Not if they are forced — as many of them will be — to buy benefits they don’t need at a price they don’t want to pay.
From the beginning, Obamacare has depended on a political ethic of doing and saying whatever is necessary. The falsehood about people keeping their coverage was essential to selling the legislation. So the president repeated it relentlessly. Now that actually allowing people keep their current coverage would undermine a pillar of the law, the president will resist all efforts to make good on his famous promise. Whatever it takes.
Near the end of his Boston remarks, the president said, “Both parties working together to get the job done, that’s what we need in Washington right now … You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we’d make a lot of progress.”
Is that how we’d make a lot of progress? The president got his law and it’s possible more people will be uninsured in 2014 than if it had never passed. That’s on him, no matter how much he and his supporters want to evade responsibility for their own achievement.
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