As the dust cleared after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called off the Tea Party dogs Oct. 16, questions remain about what triggered the GOP’s government shutdown and threat to default the government. Conventional thinking holds that the Tea Party believes, as former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said in today’s Wall Street Journal, that Obamacare will destroy the U.S. economy. While not one reputable economist agrees with DeMint’s assessment, the Tea Party claims Obamacare is an abysmal failure. DeMint claims it’s raising insurance rates around the country and shuttering otherwise solvent businesses. Whopping claims to be sure but nonetheless prevailing GOP propaganda. When Sen. Jim Tester (R-Mt.) suggested that the GOP should give Obamacare more time to wring out the flaws, he was savaged by the Republican right wing media machine.
It pays to look at the purpose of Obamacare: To provide some 40 million uninsured citizens health insurance. When the idea of national health care was bandied about leading up to President Barack Obama’s Obamacare signature March 21, 2010, the Democratic Party preferred a single-payer system. Most Party officials wanted to extend Medicare coverage to the uninsured. When that idea was vetoed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Dec. 14, 2009, the fall back plan was akin to former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s April 12, 2006 health care plan. Romney’s plan simply purchased private health insurance for Massachusetts residents. Obamacare was no different. While its way too early to tell the success of Obamacare after two-weeks, one thing is certain: The insurance industry is engaged in egregious price-fixing and gouging.
Costs of Obamacare are directly related—just like the oil industry—to exactly what the insurance industry thinks it can get away with. While DeMint’s ultraconservative Heritage Foundation rails against Obamacare, the comparably conservative American Assn. of Health Plans wholeheartedly backs Obamacare. Like the American Medical Assn., the AAHP sees the dollar signs with Obamacare. Instead of ranting about Obamacare, DeMint’s energy at the Heritage Foundation should be spent on crafting legislation to stop the insurance industry from price-gouging. Of all the practical benefits of Obamacare, none is greater that eliminating the distinction between individual and group insurance. Obamacare forever bans the insurance industry from preventing individuals because of medical conditions or age from getting insurance: All citizens can now get insurance.
Tea Party objections to Obamacare stem from deep philosophical objections to the government paying for entitlements. If the goal is shrinking the size of the federal government, Obamacare does exactly the opposite. While the White House and its backers have tried to show how the program would pay for itself, the low-ball initial estimates are over $100 billion a year. GOP objections cite current federal budget deficits and growing national debt as proof that the U.S. can’t afford Obamacare without going broke. They mention nothing about the former GOP administration that left the economy in shambles, forcing the Federal Reserve Board and Treasury to print trillions for government bailouts. Today’s “quantitative easing” or bond-buying program costs the Treasury and U.S. taxpayers $85 billion a month. That cost to the national debt has little to do with what the GOP calls the “welfare state.”
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader refers to government subsidies to the banking, oil, defense industries, etc. as “corporate welfare.” Tea Party officials advocated during the 2007-08 financial meltdown letting the U.S. banking and auto industries go bankrupt. It was former President George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s bailout policies that led to mushrooming of the national debt. When Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009, he had no choice but to continue the bailout policies or watch the U.S. economy lapse into Depression. Tea Party folks like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) or Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) want to rewrite history but reputable economists know the truth about budget deficits and the national debt. No one from the GOP gives Obama any credit for watching Wall Street climb to new heights, adding over 5 million jobs and cutting the federal deficit in two.
No one can deny that the timing of Obamacare, during the worst recession since the Great Depression, wasn’t the best. While it’s appropriate to debate the advisability of adding government entitlements during a bad economy, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has warned the GOP against slashing government spending. Imposing the so-called “sequester” of spending cuts and forcing a government shutdown has harmed the U.S. economy. GOP strategists think plunging the nation into recession would help their fortunes in the 2014 midterm elections. Insisting on more budget cuts runs counter to the Fed’s advice and slows down economic growth. Instead of blaming everything on Obamacare or the “welfare state,” the GOP would be more productive holding the insurance industry accountable exploiting the toxic political atmosphere for inexusable price-gouging.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.