The U.S. government is partially shut down. The debt ceiling may be breached, and the Obama administration threatens to default on the nation’s creditors. Washington’s standoff enters its third week, after the government shut down privately managed parks, war memorials, and even tried to corral the sea off Florida to make the shutdown visibly painful.
The federal government outsourced construction of a multi-million dollar website to a Canadian firm on a no-bid contract — and that website, Healthcare.gov, doesn’t even work.
Workers across the United States are losing their jobs or having their full-time jobs downgraded to part-time so their employers can avoid expensive new government mandates. Big Labor is deeply worried that the traditional 40-hour work week is being destroyed.
Sticker shock is setting in, as millions of Americans either lose their health insurance or find that they’re being charged as much as 300% more than they previously had to pay, and now face massive co-pays and deductibles.
How did we get here? Is it really all Ted Cruz’s fault?
It’s tempting for journalists to play the both-sides-did-it blame game, but in the case of Obamacare, only one side really is to blame.
America had a problem that had been amped to a crisis: About 10 to 15% of us lacked health insurance. That many of those who did not have insurance were healthy young Americans who did not need insurance hardly ever entered the debate. That many uninsured are illegal aliens who should not be here at all is almost never mentioned.
We got where we are now because Democrats have wanted to impose a national health care system since the Truman administration. The American people resisted. But the Democrats persisted.
The issue bubbled along for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s states found various ways to deal with the health insurance issue. Some, like Massachusetts under Gov. Mitt Romney, imposed a system of mandates to force their residents who had not bought insurance to buy it, or pay fines.
Other states, like Texas, decided to tackle health care problems individually by creating high-risk insurance pools to help their residents who had pre-existing conditions obtain insurance. Some of them enacted tort reform to limit doctor liability. Every frivolous lawsuit drives up the price of being a doctor or owning a medical practice or developing new drugs and technology. That cost gets passed on to consumers.
High-risk pools aren’t perfect. Neither is imposing mandates. States were working out their own solutions. But they couldn’t work out some solutions, such as allowing insurance plans to be sold across state lines. They needed federal laws passed to allow that. Studies have found, and it makes economic sense, that allowing more competition by allowing plans to be sold across state lines would bring insurance prices down, making it more affordable, without government mandates or price controls. Those healthy young Americans who had the right not to buy insurance before Obamacare might even find it affordable enough to buy it, just in case they needed it.
In 1993, then First Lady Hillary Clinton devised a national plan similar to Obamacare. After many secretive meetings and a heated political debate, HillaryCare died in Congress. The American people still didn’t trust government to impose a single national health care system that would work.
Years go by and Sen. Barack Obama mulls a run for president. His main opponent was Sen. Hillary Clinton, far and away the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Obama needed an issue to run on, and in a hasty moment in January 2007, decided to include a check-the-box one-liner in a speech that his advisers Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau offered him: Promise to pass a “universal health care reform” in his first term. That line went straight into his TelePrompter.
What Obama meant by “universal health care reform” was never explored deeply by the media. He had told an audience in 2006 that he wants a government-run (called “single-payer”) health care system imposed on the entire nation. Americans have consistently rejected such a system. That comment never came up during the campaign. It was among many radical statements Obama had made that the media helped him deep-six.
Obama defeats Clinton and then defeats Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. The improbable health-care one-liner would now become just about the only policy promise that President Obama would doggedly pursue. He even broke promises — “if you like your health care, you can keep your health care” — to fulfill this promise.
In 2010, Congress was entirely controlled by Democrats. They knew their total control would not last forever. Despite the fact that the economy was still sputtering from the 2008 economic meltdown, they prioritized passing their “universal health care law” over all other issues including jobs.
During the presidential campaign, Obama had promised to have all the health care debate on C-SPAN. He broke that promise.
Rather than pursue bi-partisan solutions to attract widespread support and devise a solution that would insure more Americans and bring costs down, the Democrats wrote their bill in secret. They secured votes by making deals among themselves in back rooms. They bought the votes of red state Democrats like Mary Landrieu. They held their crucial votes at midnight and on holiday weekends, when most Americans were not paying attention.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean admitted that the Democrats avoided tort reform because they feared taking on one of their own constituencies, trial lawyers.
Democrats did not even read the Obamacare bill before passing it without a single Republican vote. Obama signed it into law, despite the fact that a majority of Americans opposed it.
If you publicly opposed Obamacare and joined a Tea Party to try to stop it, Democrats called you “racist.”
Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told America that Democrats had to pass the bill so that Americans could find out what was in it.
The legislation was so controversial that, at one point, the Democrats contemplated pushing it through the House using a bizarre tactic that would have allowed them to simply deem it passed. That became known as “deem and pass,” and soon “Demon Pass.”
Democrats eventually had to abandon the tactic, and bought enough votes to get the bill through the House.
Let’s tick through some of the affronts to democracy that spawned Obamacare.
- A majority of Americans opposed it.
- No Republicans voted for it.
- Democrats built it in secret.
- Democrats did not read it before making it the law of the land.
- Democrats bought votes in back-room deals to get it through Congress.
- Democrats claimed it was not a new tax and would not add to the deficit.
- Democrats exempted some of their friends from Obamacare, and Congress exempted itself from it.
- Obamacare includes the un-elected Independent Payment Advisory Board (aka “death panel”) that will end up rationing care.
- It forces Americans to pay for abortions and abortifacient drugs, in violation of their religious beliefs, and sidestepping the long-standing ban on federal funding of abortions.
Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate specifically to provide the 41st vote needed to stop Obamacare. Democrats lost the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 due in large part to their tactics in pushing Obamacare. But at every step of the way, Obama and his party have insisted and imposed Obamacare on the nation.
At the present time, President Obama refuses to negotiate over any aspect of Obamacare. It is he, not the Republicans, who is keeping the government partially shut down. He claims that because Obamacare is the law of the land, it is no longer negotiable. But by that logic, America would still be living under Prohibition, and Obama would stop trying to change gun laws. Congress passes laws, and Congress can also repeal or modify laws.
More than three years and a bizarre Supreme Court decision later — SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal wing, ruling the Obamacare individual mandate a “tax” when even the Obama administration denied that it is a tax — Obamacare is law. It’s also an embarrassing flop that takes away your right to decide whether to buy insurance, and what insurance to buy. It is driving insurance skyward because it forces insurance companies to cover high-risk people and does not allow them to charge more for that coverage. Math dictates that they must spread the cost or go bankrupt. Obamacare is taking away choice, as insurers are forced to shoehorn their plans into Obamacare’s “Bronze,” “Silver” and “Gold” mandates. Americans who still elect not to buy insurance will face the Internal Revenue Service, which has been deputized as the national health care enforcement agency.
All of this, so that the less than 15% of Americans who lacked health insurance, for a complex array of reasons, could either buy insurance or be forced to buy it under threat from the IRS.