If, hypothetically, a right-wing plant had actually been elected in 2008, and his assignment was to destroy the legitimacy of the public sector and to undermine the public’s support for healthcare reform, this “Manchurian candidate” could have done no better than strong-arming through the passage of a bill designed by the Reaganesque Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, that of “Obamacare” or Romneycare or the Affordable Care Act.
Were Congressional Democrats conned or were they just stupid? How about the rest of us?
NORMAN SOLOMON writing in “The Obamacare Disaster and the Poison of Party Loyalty” Common Dreams (November 18, 2013):
The problems with Obamacare involve far more than simply bad website coding. They’re bound up in the enormous complexity of the law’s design, wrapped around a huge corporate steeplechase for maximizing profits. As a Maine physician, Philip Caper, wrote this fall, the ACA “is far too complicated and therefore too expensive to manage, full of holes, will be applied unevenly and unfairly, be full of unintended consequences, and be easily exploited by those looking to make a quick buck.” The ACA is so complicated because it has been so relentlessly written for the benefit of—and largely written by—insurance companies.
Along the way, the “individual mandate” cornerstone of the ACA—required by government yet actually enriching the private insurance industry—is a tremendous political boost to demagogic GOP leaders. I’m not engaging in hindsight here. Like many others, I saw this coming before the ACA became law, writing in March 2010: “On a political level, the mandate provision is a massive gift to the Republican Party, all set to keep on giving to the right wing for many years. With a highly intrusive requirement that personal funds and government subsidies be paid to private corporations, the law would further empower right-wing populists who want to pose as foes of government ‘elites’ bent on enriching Wall Street.”
Obamacare is a mess largely because it builds a revamped healthcare system around the retrenched and extended power of insurance companies—setting back prospects for real healthcare reform for a decade or more. Egged on by corporate media and corporate politicians, much of the public will blame higher premiums on government intervention and not on the greedy insurance companies which, along with Big Pharma, helped write the law in the Obama White House and on Capitol Hill.
It should now be painfully obvious that Obamacare’s little helpers, dutifully reciting White House talking points in 2009 and early 2010, were helping right-wing bogus populism to gather steam. Claiming that the Obama presidency would sink without signing into law its “landmark” healthcare bill, many a progressive worked to throw the president a rope; while ostensibly attached to a political life preserver, the rope was actually fastened to a huge deadweight anvil.
In the process, the political choreography included a chorus of statements by Congressional Progressive Caucus members before ultimate passage of the Affordable Care Act. Having previously removed the words “single payer” and “Medicare for all” from their oratorical vocabulary while retaining the laudatory language—and after later excising the words “public option” in a similar way—those legislators still pretended that passage of the ACA would be an unalloyed positive triumph. Like the president, they resolutely oversold Obamacare and made believe it would bring about an excellent healthcare system.
With such disingenuous sales pitches four years ago, President Obama and his Democratic acolytes did a lot to create the current political mess engulfing Obamacare—exaggerating its virtues while pulling out the stops to normalize denial about its real drawbacks. That was a bad approach in 2009. It remains a bad approach today.