The Republican-engineered shut down of the federal government makes little sense.
Republicans will not accomplish their main goal in the shutdown of defunding Obamacare, which is no longer included in the plans to reopen the government. The public blames the GOP for the shutdown, which was predictable, and the party’s approval rating is now at historic lows. Even worse for Republicans, Obamacare is now more popular than it was before October 1.
All these things are obvious to most observers. What is not as obvious -- without further analysis -- is the utter irrationality of Republican policy. Yes, irrational, because there never was a chance Obamacare would be defunded.
But also irrational because the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- is the best health care reform a Republican could want. The healthcare reform that is now the law of the land is built on Republican ideas and incorporates earlier Republican plans. Its similarity to the plan adopted in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney -- who inexplicably ran against Obamacare in 2012 -- is striking.
The provisions of the ACA reflect the rightwing drift of the nation. Since the 1980s, with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, Republicans have dominated the national dialogue, pushing it to the right. The GOP has won most of the ideological and policy debates of the last three or four decades, a fact that many in the party -- especially its tea party wing -- refuse to recognize. That refusal means ultraconservatives in the Republican Party won’t -- can’t -- say yes to policies that a few years ago they might have considered conservatively orthodox.
Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008 promising to reform the nation’s broken healthcare system. Few doubt that it was broken. Fifty-million Americans lacked health insurance, forced to go without preventive care and compelled to use the emergency room for primary care. The financial burdens imposed on an already overpriced healthcare system were unsustainable.
And it only would have gotten worse. The number of uninsured would have risen dramatically because of the weakening of labor unions, the loss of traditional blue-collar jobs, and the movement of more and more Americans into the service economy, where pay is hourly and benefits nonexistent.
Only the most callous and shortsighted could argue against reform. How to change the system was the salient question after Obama’s election? When Congress considered various mechanisms to insure the uninsured (and correct other abuses), the most progressive proposal -- the single-payer system -- received short shrift and was not part of the dialogue, while Republicans ideas were incorporated into the bill that eventually became law.
Obamacare is a conservative solution because it uses market mechanisms, working through private insurance companies, to encourage all Americans to buy coverage, either through their employers, privately, or on government-regulated exchanges.
The idea of linking an individual mandate, requiring everyone to buy health insurance, to exchanges reflects long-standing conservative dogma, first proposed by the consevative Heritage Foundation in 1989. Senate Republicans wrote it into a bill in 1993 as a counter to the proposals of the Clinton administration, Newt Gingrich supported it for many years, and it was the basis of the Massachusetts law enacted under Governor Mitt Romney in 2005.
The Republican-inspired structure of Obamacare suggests that what Republicans don’t like about the president’s signature accomplishment is not the “care” part of the law, but the “Obama” part. If it were named Bidencare, or Baucuscare, or perhaps Romneycare, it might have fared better.
But Obamacare it is. Get used to it. It’s the law of the land.