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GOP Writes Its Own Obamacare Narrative… And Its Final Chapter

Boehner“Repent now! For the end is near!”

The typical street corner fire and brimstone preacher promises a swift and utter demise, global in scale, absolute in ending. Meanwhile, the GOP’s demise has been more subtle, akin to the slow decay and crumbling of an abandoned building, promising only an empty, hollowed out skeleton on the skyline for years to come.

But nothing displays the epic downfall more than this number: 28%. That is the GOP’s approval rating according to Gallup; it is the lowest approval number polled of the two party system that Gallup has ever recorded.

Sure, you could argue that the decline started last decade: endless unfunded wars, encroachment on personal freedoms, bureaucratic changes to the education system, dismantling of the safety net, and welfare to the rich and powerful. Or you could point to the obstruction and chaos that the Tea Party has caused since 2010 through radical, selfish individualism and being utterly tone deaf on economic issues. But really the tumble over the precipice came when the GOP decided to write their own fictional account of Obamacare.

It’s time to topple their house of cards with a reality check.

1. John Boehner’s appeal to “fairness” and “equality”

John Boehner has repeatedly tried the populist approach by appealing to “fairness” and “equality”. Basically, he is claiming that Congress is exempted from Obamacare, thus trying to create some rift between the bourgeois government and the proletariat middle-class. But it’s just smoke and mirrors. Here’s why.

According to The Daily Banter,

In an effort to flim-flam the Democrats, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) proposed an amendment that would force members of Congress and congressional staffers to abandon the existing Federal Employee Benefit Health Plan and, instead, to sign up for Obamacare in the health insurance marketplaces (aka. “exchanges”) just like ordinary Americans. Again, the point was to illustrate the shoddy and undesirable nature of Obamacare, and, subsequently, how the Democrats would balk at the notion, thus undermining their own pitch for how great the law will be.

But the Democrats called Grassley’s bluff and accepted the amendment.

So now members of Congress and staffers will have to attain health insurance through the newly established marketplaces. Here’s the problem. Like most employers, public or private, the government has always paid around 75 percent of the cost of the monthly premiums for its employees as a fairly typical salary benefit.

But now that members of Congress and their aides are being inevitably bumped over to the exchanges, they’ll lose that benefit, which would amount to a significant pay cut — especially brutal for low-wage staffers.

However, over the summer, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) corrected the problem by creating a rule that allowed the government to continue to cover 75 percent of the new Obamacare marketplace insurance premiums. As an employer, naturally it’s the prerogative of the government to do this, just as it would be the prerogative of Trader Joe’s or Walmart to offer the same benefit.

But the OPM’s rule has been twisted and bastardized by Republicans into “an exemption from Obamacare” for Congress.

2. The threat of job loss

Nothing brings a new law to a screeching halt quicker than the threat of job loss. And to be fair, we should always ask how a new law might potentially change the job market. But when the science shows that Obamacare is as likely to be a “job killer” as you are likely to be the victim of a “clown killer” then it is time to shut up and listen.

Frank Lysy, PhD in Economics, states, “the rise in the share of employment in Massachusetts in overall US employment following the implementation of the Massachusetts Health Reform in 2007 is therefore consistent with the view that such reforms are not job-killers. Following the implementation of the health reform, job growth in Massachusetts was relatively faster (or job cuts were relatively slower, during the peak of the downturn) than elsewhere in the US, with this lasting for several years. While too much should not be read into this finding and assume that it implies health reform will spur a sharp increase in jobs, it is certainly not consistent with the assertion made by the Republicans that such health reform will necessarily be a dramatic killer of jobs.” (Full article here.)

Of course the example is based on one state. One state that basically implemented Obamacare before Obamacare came into being. However, the bottom line is that there is no data to show the effects of Obamacare on the job market yet — which even the most gullible voter should be able to figure out given that the mandate was literally just implemented. Not to mention, the mandate that requires businesses of a certain size to provide coverage doesn’t even take effect until 2015. Talk about jumping the gun!

3. The cost did not just double

No, the cost of Obamacare did not just double. Apparently, reading comprehension in the GOP is no longer highly valued. Unfortunately, the same may be true of the general public.

Here is what Talking Points Memo has to say:

So where are conservatives getting the idea that the cost of the law doubled? When it passed in 2010, CBO said its 10-year outlays would be about $940 billion. But because the law isn’t set to be fully implemented until 2014, when the coverage expansion takes effect, that initial estimate included several years in which the law cost very little. Now that it’s 2012, CBO’s 10-year outlook captures more years during which the law will be in full effect. The law’s price tag appears higher, but its costs in no way doubled.

Conservatives, however, want to use the effect of this sliding window to make it appear as if the health care law is a budget-buster. But this latest CBO report focuses exclusively on the law’s spending provisions, and ignores its savings — the taxes and spending cuts, that also mostly take effect in 2014.

Indeed, CBO still holds that the law reduces the deficit by billions of dollars over 10 years. That’s just not in this report.

Full stop. Hyperbole is one way to put it. What comes out of a bull’s anus is another. But yet again, with Fox News as a main driver, the GOP is blatantly misconstruing the CBO’s report. Conveniently leaving out the fact that the CBO’s long term outlook shows a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction due to Obamacare. Ouch!

And this is where we are left, at the crux of the GOP’s problems. For so long they have relied on “the sky is falling” tactics and exaggerations. They’ve spent the last four decades protecting the rich and using other people’s children in war games, and have completely shut down to the fact that America is struggling. Real wages for the working and middle class are in long term decline, the wealth gap between rich and poor has grown into a chasm, and the greatness of globalization only seems to lead to a steady loss of American manufacturing and engineering jobs.

But with all the problems at hand, the only thing they can think of doing is writing a false narrative about Obamacare.

Obamacare really isn’t all that new

But more importantly, they’re ignoring the fact that Obamacare isn’t shocking and it isn’t new. And it certainly isn’t any different than the many forms of privatized socialism that we all already enjoy.

When you get in a car accident, the actual damages usually cost more than what you pay out of pocket. So who pays the rest? The other drivers who are also insured by the same company. Their monthly premiums go towards paying for your accident. Sounds “socialist” to me.

What about a person who builds a house near a river, or on the beautiful, albeit unstable, mountainside? Oh, right. The other policy holders swoop in to the rescue during an act of God, whether they realize it or not. Mark another example of privatized socialism down.

What about privatized socialism outside of the insurance realm? Sure, we have that too. Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club. The member who shops there once a year to get a new piece of furniture is subsidizing the once-a-week bulk paper towel shopper. What about utility co-ops? Members buy in and become de facto owners, but excess capacity is often sold for profit and then those profits are redistributed to the members. In theory the entire stock market is an example of privatized socialism, but I digress. And the list goes on…

So, Obamacare is hardly new. And for the ardent capitalist, you can rest assured that private health insurers will continue to make obscene profits and that new doctors and nurses will be in high demand by private hospitals and clinics seeking to serve millions of new patients. Indeed, Obamacare is hardly even radical when compared to the origination of true social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

In truth, Obamacare is what the GOP used to be about. An individual mandate is all about personal responsibility. The GOP used to love that rhetoric. When someone who declines health insurance gets pneumonia or gets in a car accident and receives emergency treatment, guess who ends up paying? Everyone else with insurance. So why does the GOP want to strip out the personal responsibility in order to fund the government?

It’s because the GOP would rather create an anti-Obama narrative, their own narrative, a narrative of misinformation, hyperbole, and lies. And in so doing, they might have just written their final chapter.

 

KIENAN MICK is a resident of the beautiful, lake filled Twin Cities. He has a degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota, and an MS in Applied Economics from the University of North Dakota. In his spare time, he enjoys amateur photography, nature hikes, and bird watching. His interests lie in “alternative” economic systems where the public, unions, and co-ops take a greater stake in our economy.
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