Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Stupid Party strikes again

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 by the slimmest of margins, securing the necessary votes by methods that were (at best) dubious, and without bothering to read the stupid thing. We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said.

The process was so partisan and (arguably) so tainted that there was a backlash and Democrats were swept out of the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections. Speaker Pelosi was reduced to Minority Leader. But, just as it takes both the House and the Senate to pass a bill, it also takes both houses to repeal a bill.

The Republicans did not recapture the Senate. So despite the House Republicans' voting to repeal it nearly every other day since taking over the majority in 2011, the Affordable Care Act, now universally dubbed Obamacare, remained on the books.

Remains on the books.

You have to start at least from there in evaluating the current debacle in Washington.

Actually, you could go back a couple of decades and note that many of the key components of Obamacare have Republican roots, including the now-hated individual mandate. There are a number of Republicans in Congress today who were for individual mandates -- who viewed them as nothing more than a tax, just as Chief Justice Roberts would do much more recently -- before they decided they were unconstitutional abominations. (Repeat after me: The Supreme Court is not final because it's right, but right because it's final.)

Mr. Potter would have loved the Affordable Care Act
And you can see why many Big Business Republicans might have been for Obamacare at one point: It looks like it was designed by a committee of the most cold-hearted, miserly MBAs ever assembled.

Let's see... health insurance for an employee's family generally costs $10,000 to $15,000 a year. And businesses have to hire people to assist with employee claims (when the insurance company inevitably messes up) and negotiate with the insurance company on annual rate increases and benefits provided. Or, under Obamacare, they can pay a tax -- ooooh, a penalty -- of $2,000 an employee and let the workers fend for themselves. Gee, that's a hard one. Hmmm. Save as much (or more) than $10,000 per employee and avoid the hassles of dealing with insurance or pay a negligible penalty? Now, of course, penalties will go up -- so give everyone $6,000 (for example) and send them into the exchanges to fend for themselves.

Obamacare was designed to fail. Do not kid yourself otherwise. Private insurers will benefit in the short term (idiot MBAs again, lured by the fool's gold of government subsidies) but when the dust clears the government will be paying most of the nation's insurance tab, whether through income-based subsidies or as the insurer of last resort.

Many Democrats want this to happen because, they believe, the nation will then demand a more "equitable" single payer system instead.

Meanwhile, many large companies -- Big, Big Business -- have applied to the Obama Administration for waivers for a year or more before assuming the burdens (and -- for them -- the benefits!) of Obamacare, and the Administration has granted most of the requests. Some unions and some states (apparently even some "Blue" states) have requested waivers of certain Obamacare provisions as these apply to them in whole or in part.

But there is one group that has definitely not been granted any sort of waiver: The Little Guy. The currently uninsured. They must plunge into the exchanges (ready or not) and fend for themselves.

Instead of shutting down the federal government, the Republicans might have highlighted the unfairness of this: Giving breaks to Big Business while throttling the Little Guys' necks.

Of course, a lot of Republicans (just like a lot of Democrats, apparently) think that sort of thing is just fine.

So... the Republicans decided to play "chicken" with the Senate and shut down the government.

Except... Obamacare implementation is not affected by the shutdown! It continues, while tourists are turned away from museums in Washington and campers are turned away from our national parks.

All the Republicans had to do was call press conferences to read constituent complaints about Obamacare. There'd be a lot of press conferences. But, no, the Republicans decided to shut down the 'gummint.'

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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