Yes, the GOP Is Obstructing ObamaCare Implementation
Oh, those darn Republicans. Why can't they just sit down, shut up, and go with the flow? Obamacare is the law of the land. What's wrong with the GOP?
There are several theories. Greg Sargent believes that "today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light."
What's a "functional opposition party"? Is that the kind of opposition that opposes bills rhetorically but, when it comes time to vote, rolls over and plays dead? Yes, I would imagine that's how liberals believe an opposition should function.
I tried to find a definition of "post-policy nihilism" online but didn't have any luck. What exactly does he mean? Maybe it's in some progressive encyclopedia or some other reference manual to which I don't have access. Actually, I think Mr. Sargent is making stuff up again, but what do I know? I'm just a hippie-hating RINO. Maybe I am something of a nihilist because I sort of like Nietzsche and think Brecht's The Threepenny Opera is great musical theater. But how that fits into Sargent's "post-policy" jive escapes me.
As for Mr. Chait, he believes that a "hatred for lawmaking has emerged in the Obama years, first as a Republican tactic, and then as an apparently genuine belief system." A "genuine belief system," is it? This would be something akin to a religion, or perhaps kind of like the way that liberals have a "genuine belief system" relating to global warming. In other words, Republicans obstruct government as a matter of faith, not because they have made a judgment based on empirical data, or even life experiences. It's a gross exaggeration, and if Chait believes that, he's even more of a partisan hack than he's let on.
And yes, there are Republicans who hate government and hate Obama, and who would oppose him even if he proposed that Ronald Reagan's birthday be made a national holiday. That's hardly the point. The fact is, there aren't enough government-hating Republicans that could block legislation where Democrats honestly and willingly negotiated in good faith with the GOP. Republicans had zero input on Obamacare. The bill was passed without a single Republican vote, using the worst kind of legislative legerdemain. It was a bill that few who voted for it read, and no one understood. And the fact that unintended consequences of the bill are still being discovered less than three months before the official rollout of state insurance exchanges proves the irresponsibility of those who passed it.
USA Today gets positively snippy in their editorial, saying of Republicans:
Having lost in Congress and in court, they're now using the most cynical of tactics: trying to make the law fail. Never mind the public inconvenience and human misery that will result.
"Human misery"? It is unbecoming for a major publication to employ hyperbole in its political analysis. That term is something a lefty blogger might use, or some rabid Democratic partisan in Congress. If there is to be any "human misery," you should chalk it up to 1) the incomprehensible and haphazard manner the law was written in the first place, and 2) the delay -- purely for for political reasons relating to the 2012 presidential campaign -- in getting the numerous agencies and departments to write the many thousands of pages of regulations regarding Medicare, Medicaid, mandated insurance coverage, and subsidy eligibility, to name just a few areas that government will oversee under Obamacare.
No amount of cooperation by Republicans could have made up for the unconscionable delays in issuing these regulations that insurance companies needed to develop new policies, that states needed to develop the exchanges, and that businesses needed to plan for the future. But President Obama decided that much of the bad news that has come out in the past few months as the regulations have been unveiled -- including the spikes in insurance premiums in several states -- needed to be delayed until after he was safely re-elected. Who's causing the "human misery" now?
"Public inconvenience"? Allow me a short guffaw. The GOP believes that overturning one-sixth of the U.S. economy by implementing Obamacare goes far beyond a little "inconvenience." It is a massively destabilizing law that, even if Republicans had cooperated in its rollout, is set up to fail.
The technology doesn't even exist to make the state insurance exchanges work in the way that the law intends. And the dirty little secret is that the administration has known this fact for months.
From the National Journal:
In an ideal world, the exchange websites need to be able to talk to several federal agencies—IRS to verify an applicant's income and employment status, the Department of Homeland Security to determine her citizenship, and the state government to see if she qualifies for Medicaid, to name a few—all in real time, so a person could fill out a form and purchase insurance in one sitting.
Each of those departments has its own computer system and its own means of tracking information. Creating a "data hub" to share them has been a challenge, as a recent Government Accountability Office report highlighted. It is increasingly clear that the kind of Amazon.com, one-stop shopping that was once described – and that Obama himself referenced in a speech on Monday -- will not be available in most parts of the country.
One health professional summed up the massively complex system thusly:
"It's the joyous, simultaneous, nonlinear equation from hell," said Kip Piper, a former top official at HHS and OMB who is now a consultant in close contact with IT vendors. Piper said it's no surprise that the administration has given up on certain functions given the technological complexity needed and the short time-frame.
The constitutionality of dropping requirements or delaying mandates (see this article for more fudging on the law's requirements by the administration) may be in question, but there is no argument that they are doing it because they are desperate. Their desperation is not a result of any interference by Republicans. The administration is running around with its hair on fire because of decisions they made all by themselves. They had three years to bring this program online and will fail because of their own incompetence and imprudence.
It is amazing that the president is still lying about how the exchanges will work at this late date. Indeed, most of the major promises the president made about Obamacare in his joint session of Congress speech on September 9, 2009, have fallen by the wayside. Millions of Americans won't be able to keep their insurance if they want to. The idea that Obamacare will make insurance more affordable is a bad joke. The program's cost has already nearly doubled from its original price tag.
The narrative the Democratic partisans mentioned above are trying to push is that all of these problems are the result of GOP obstructionism. If they had only done everything the president wanted, given the administration every dime they needed, and enthusiastically pitched in to inform the American public about the coming changes, everything would be peaches and cream and Obamacare would be a hit.
It's nonsense, of course. Obamacare doesn't need GOP obstructionism to be a disaster in both the near and long term. The exchanges may eventually become workable, although the time frame might be measured in years rather than months. Medicaid expansion won't be too bad at first, but given the program's ill health, you wonder how long it will be before signs of collapse set in.
Even hikes in insurance premiums may level off eventually, although that is by no means certain. In short, even with GOP obstructionism, the program will probably muddle through.
But Republicans aren't obstructing this law because it will become one more entitlement that's going to add to the deficit, or because they hate Obama. They are obstructing the implementation of a law that fundamentally alters the relationship between the government and the governed -- alters that equation in ways that are at odds with the purposes and intent of the Founders. We embrace first principles because they supply an anchor to our past that allows us to maintain fundamental ideas of freedom and liberty in any age, under any government run by any party. Obamacare runs counter to some of those notions of liberty because it takes so many decisions about one's personal and private life away from the individual and places it with the collective.
The obstruction charge relating to such a law should be embraced by the party, not denied.