Friday, September 6, 2013

Why Republicans are having hysterics about Obamacare

Do you wonder why Republicans are still having hysterics about 'Obamacare'? Indeed, after a huge loss in last November's election, they're not just continuing to fight against the new law, they're threatening to shut down our government and/or default on America's debts, unless they get their own way.

But Republicans have good reasons - political reasons - to be scared to death of Obamacare, which a few recent articles have made abundantly clear.

First, let me remind you that 'Obamacare' was originally the Republican health care plan. It was developed by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, as the free-market, insurance company-friendly alternative to the single-payer health care plans of other developed nations.

Mitt Romney, of course, pushed through a state version of the plan in Massachusetts, and he was widely praised for that. But it wasn't just him. This plan - mandates and all - was supported by Republicans right up until the moment that the Democrats agreed to 'compromise' (as Democratic compromises tend to go) by agreeing with the Republicans lock, stock, and barrel.

Almost instantly, it became 'socialism' to the GOP. Why? Well, the Republicans had vowed, before Barack Obama even took office, to do nothing which might help the country while he was president.

'Obamacare' became a political football because Republicans were terrified that, after the deeply unpopular George W. Bush had crashed our economy in the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, that Obama might become another Franklin D. Roosevelt by pulling us out of it again.

Right from the start, polls showed that Americans - even Republicans - widely supported most of the provisions in the bill. It was only when these things were labeled 'Obamacare' that the response changed.

Indeed, more Republicans than Democrats have signed up for one popular provision in the bill:
Obamacare may have become a partisan issue, but more Republicans than Democrats have signed up for one of its most popular provisions, according to a survey published Wednesday.

The survey also pokes holes in the idea that most 20-somethings act like “Young Invincibles” who believe they don’t need health insurance. ...

They found that by last March, 63 percent of young adults identifying as Republicans had enrolled in a parent’s health plan in the last 12 months, compared to 45 percent of those who considered themselves Democrats. About 26 percent of the 1,800 adults surveyed said they were Republicans, 28 percent said they were Democrats and the rest either said they were independent, some other party, or did not say. ...

Overall, 15 million 19-to-25-year-olds, or about half of all Americans this age, are on their parents’ health plan, the report says.

The individual mandate - which was an integral part of the plan even when it was still the Republican health care plan - is much less popular, of course, just as taxes are less popular than the provisions they pay for. But try asking people if they think insurance companies should still be able to cancel your policy if you get sick!

And what do polls show about the plan even when it is labeled 'Obamacare'?
A majority of Americans still oppose the nation's new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey.

But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don't support the measure because it doesn't go far enough.

According to the poll, 43% of the public says it supports the health care law, a figure that's mostly unchanged in CNN polling since the measure was passed in 2010 by a Congress then controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law, also relatively unchanged since 2010.

The survey indicates that 35% oppose the health care law because it's too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn't liberal enough.

You hear a lot of Republicans touting that first line, but none of them mention the fact that only 35% of Americans oppose 'Obamacare' because it's too liberal. Many of us - like me - would have preferred a plan more like those in nearly every other developed nation.

This is, after all, a right-wing health care plan. (Still, it's a whole lot better than nothing, I'd say.)

But it's not just the 35% support which has Republican politicians increasingly hysterical. Younger Americans are the most widely supportive of 'Obamacare,' while the oldest Americans - who already enjoy their own government-run health care (which they nearly unanimously love) - are the most opposed.

How do you think that sounds to Republican politicians? They're already losing younger Americans, while their most fervent supporters are dying off. (Let's face it, it's a lot easier to scare old people.) Do you wonder why they're getting hysterical?

But there's more:
The main takeaway from an exhaustive new study of premiums on the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces: They’re generally going to be lower than expected, undercutting the persistent claims of “rate shock” by conservatives.

Marketplaces premiums are coming in below initial estimates, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in a new report released Thursday.

The expected monthly premium for a 40-year-old adult purchasing a silver-level plan (the baseline, which covers 70 percent of costs) on a marketplace had been $320, according to previous projections from the Congressional Budget Office. But in 15 of the 18 regions studied by Kaiser, the average premium will be below that — thus the study’s conclusion that the prices are going to be lower than anticipated.

“While premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected,” the authors wrote. [Note: Those are premiums before any government rebate, too.]

The study does not compare marketplace premiums with current prices in the individual insurance market. Instead, that conclusion is based on how released prices are comparing to previous projections for coverage costs under Obamacare. It follows a report last week by RAND, which suggested that claims of premium increases had been overstated.

If Kaiser’s estimates bear out, it could be a big blow to one of the main conservative talking points against the Affordable Care Act: rate shock. Everybody from House Republicans to think tank types like the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy and the Heritage Foundation have been warning that consumers would see skyrocketing prices under the law.

Republicans are good at scaring people. But what happens if the sky doesn't, after all their hype, fall? If they don't stop Obamacare before it's implemented, many Americans will likely realize how Republicans lied to them.

Then there's this:
Perhaps nobody was more responsible for making Obamacare a partisan bill than Mitch McConnell. During the grueling debate that began in 2009, the Senate minority leader worked harder than anyone else to ensure no Republican voted for health care reform.

It wasn’t just moderates like Maine’s Olympia Snowe, who voted for the bill in committee, who wanted to play ball with the new president. It was conservatives like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who endorsed the dreaded individual mandate that June, and Utah’s Bob Bennett, who cosponsored a bill that year with an individual mandate. The White House and top Democrats spent months trying to win GOP votes, offering senators all sorts of enticements, but failed to overcome McConnell’s whip operation. That solidified the unanimous GOP opposition in the House, where the party had been reduced to a largely irrelevant — and deeply conservative — rump. ...

The strategy worked wonders in 2010 when the conservative uproar against Obamacare — fueled by McConnell’s scorched-earth strategy — gave Republicans huge victories in Congress. But things change, and the political calculus is altered.

The law was upheld by the Supreme Court and validated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. The public has grown tired of continual budget crisis brinkmanship. McConnell still fights the fight. Obamacare, he told his constituents a few weeks ago, is the “single worst piece of legislation passed in the last 50 years in the country.” But ever the pragmatist, he knows an all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act to the exclusion of all other political considerations would be a political disaster for his party. And so, in a brutal irony reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein,” the monster McConnell created has turned against him and is threatening to end his political life.

The Kentuckian is now fending off a strong conservative challenger for re-election in 2014 — his first since Obamacare became law. The candidate, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, is calling on McConnell to back up his fiery rhetoric against Obamacare by threatening to shut down the government at the end of this month unless Democrats agree to defund it. ...

It’s far from clear conservatives will be able to defeat the well-funded incumbent. But if they succeed, McConnell will, in a way, have given life to the creature that brought about his own demise. Obamacare could have been a controversial but bipartisan expansion of the safety net, like Medicare and Social Security — the law was, after all, modeled on conservative ideas constructed by the Heritage Foundation and first implemented by Mitt Romney. The right-wing furor would have been less severe, the GOP less motivated to paint the law as an existential threat to freedom, and the party likelier to make its peace with it. But the GOP leader’s big gamble to co-opt the nascent tea party movement precluded that scenario. And as a result, the health care law has become an existential threat to his career.

Even by adopting a Republican plan, Democrats couldn't get a single Republican vote. That's because this was always about politics (and - let's be honest - about racism, too).

At the worst of the economic collapse, when the economy looked to have no bottom, before Barack Obama had even been sworn into office, Republicans vowed they'd do nothing to help our first black president. They were going to put politics above country, and that's exactly what they did.

In the short-term, they benefited from that (although America did not). But what will happen in the long-term?

This reminds me of the Republican 'Southern strategy,' years ago. When the Democratic Party decided to do the right thing in supporting civil rights, despite what it would do to them politically, the Republicans decided to do the wrong thing, the cynical thing, the political thing.

With that notorious Southern strategy, they deliberately wooed white racists. And it was hugely successful. They took the entire South from the Democrats. All those old Dixiecrats became Republicans, and the resulting political power let the new Dixiecrat/Republican Party dominate nationally for decades.

They used that power to drag America to the far-right, culminating in George W. Bush and the solid control of all three branches of the federal government. But in the long-run, putting all of America's crazies into one political party has turned the whole party crazy.

The GOP lost African American and Hispanic voters, of course. But they also lost the Northeast (except for Wall Street), which had been a long-time stronghold. Moderates have left the party in droves, and that's meant that the far-right fanatics, the racists, the fundamentalists, the... loons have just gained even more power.

The Dixiecrats, the John Birchers, the Tea Party types - those are now the Republican base. Republican leaders thought to use those people for their own political advantage, but now those people control the party. That's turning off everyone else - and especially young people.

Republicans had hysterics about 'Obamacare' because they thought hysterics would be good for them politically. After all, how easy would it be to scare white Americans about a black president? But now, hysterics has become a political necessity, both in the short term and the long term.

In the short term, if they're not sufficiently hysterical, they'll face a primary challenge in the GOP itself. After all, when extremists gain power, you just can't be too extreme.

But in the long term, young people are abandoning the GOP. And if they can't sabotage Obamacare now, that's likely to turn into a flood, as people discover that Chicken Little was wrong. Yeah, they might hang on to old racists, but there are fewer of those every year.

So it's really not too surprising that Republican politicians are having hysterics, is it?

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