Thursday, July 20, 2017
Shortly after he won reelection in 2004, President George W Bush, armed with Republican majorities in the house and the senate, planned to spend the political capital he had gained from his victory by "reforming" Social Security. His plan for privatization proved so unpopular that congress never even debated it. At one point, the more he promoted it publicly, the less people seemed to like it. The Republicans in congress now have made a similar discovery when it comes to repealing Obamacare: people who rely on a government program don't like to see changes in that program, especially when it appears that those changes will hurt them or their family members. It's common sense: people would rather stick with something that seems to mostly work for them, rather than try something that may not work at all.
It may only be seven years old, and it may have had a wobbly beginning, but Obamacare (or as it should be known as in the future, the American Health Care Plan) is starting to reach the same sacred space that Social Security and Medicare have in this country: that is, it's a program that has helped millions of Americans and that most people don't want changed. It's also painted the Republican party into a corner; for years, Republican congress members repeatedly voted to repeal it, knowing full well that then president Obama would veto their repeal, making their vote a purely symbolic one, a simple way to whip up their anti Obama constituents without actually having to do anything. But when Trump somehow won the presidency, they were forced to actually work out a plan that would not only repeal but also replace Obamacare. And then their problems began, the major one being that the Republican economic philosophy of tax cuts for the rich and the defunding of federal government programs is not one that coincides with making health care more widely available for Americans. While millions of citizens are still without healthcare under Obamacare, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reviewed every version of the Republican bill and estimated that it would result in around twenty two to twenty three million more people losing their health care in this country, and in a cruel bit of irony, most of those people live in states that went for Trump. These estimates have rendered the bill's popularity in the country as toxic (it's popularity has reached as low as 17%!), so toxic that even several Republican members of the senate have said they can't vote for it in its current state, and it appears that repeal is dead.
For his part, President Trump has done a poor job of pushing for the bill, discussing it without seeming to really know what's in it, and at one point even calling the House of Representatives version "mean"! Certainly, it does fall short of his lofty promises made on the campaign trail about replacing Obamacare with a system in which everyone would be covered and see their premiums go down (hardly a plan that would have gotten through a Republican congress!). Unfortunately, his new plan of "letting Obamacare fail" can gain some traction, as he has certain powers (like refusing to release federal funds to repay health care companies that cover the poor) that he can employ. Hopefully, one of his advisers will sit him down and point out to him that the American public will not allow a president to continually blame his predecessor for everything that goes wrong in his presidency. If Obamacare fails, voters will know who to look at to blame for its failure. And I doubt they will forget.