Three primarily political reasons drove the Obama concession yesterday to allow insurance companies to continue to cover customers whose plans don’t meet ObamaCare standards. And none really had anything to do with doing what was right for the citizenry. He wasn’t really doing anyone any favors except Democrats. He was, as usual, focused solely on limiting political damage.
One reason that drove the concession was the usual – an attempt to start shifting the blame. As Megan McArdle points out:
This may be a near-perfect specimen of that Washington perennial: the nonsolution solution. Insurers are already warning that they can’t simply allow people to stay on their old plans, firstly because all plans have to be approved by state insurers who haven’t signed onto this, and secondly because getting their computer systems to reissue the canceled policies is a hefty programming task that may not be possible to complete by the end of the year. But that’s not the administration’s problem, is it? They can say, “Hey, we changed the rule — if your insurer went ahead and canceled your policy anyway, that’s not our fault!”
Blame shifting is as natural to this administration as breathing is to the rest of us. While they take more heat, they can now pass some of it off to insurers who were simply following the law as the Democrats and the administration had written it. Now they’re the bad guys. As you might imagine, the insurance industry is furious. And insurance regulators? Well, they’re left wondering what is what.
Reason number two for the concession was Congressional Democrat panic. Karl Rove has some thoughts on that:
Mr. Obama’s assertion in the NBC interview that “the majority of folks” whose coverage is canceled will “be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper” is also likely to be false. The higher premiums that result from ObamaCare’s bells-and-whistles coverage mandates may be offset for some by subsidies, but most people will pay more.
This problem will get worse and poses a dilemma for Mr. Obama and Democrats. A March analysis by Healthpocket.com estimated that less than 2% of individual plans comply with ObamaCare’s mandates. A Nov. 7 study by McClatchy Newspapers suggests as many as 52 million people, including many covered by their employers, could lose their plan.
As the 2014 election approaches, these people will be (a) losing coverage or have lost it already, (b) shopping for new policies, (c) suffering sticker shock over higher premiums and deductibles and (d) wondering why Mr. Obama called their previous policy with doctors they liked “subpar.” Then, next September and October, they’ll be told about premium increases for 2015.
Democrats know this, and that is why they’re pushing so hard for a delay in these cancellations. They’re really not so much interested in a “fix” as they are in enough time to avoid the consequences of the law in 2014. So they’re very willing to grab this totally short-term political “solution” by kicking the can down the road in order to weather the 2014 midterms. By the time this rears its ugly head again in full, they’re hoping the elections will be over.
Again, this isn’t about people losing coverage. This is about Democrats losing office.
And finally the third reason was a real need to get out in front of the Upton bill in the House. Kimberley Strassel covers that:
The primary purpose of the White House “fix” was to get out ahead of the planned Friday vote on Michigan Republican Fred Upton’s “Keep Your Health Plan Act.” The stage was set for dozens of Democrats to join with the GOP for passage—potentially creating a veto-proof majority, and putting enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to follow suit.
The White House couldn’t risk such a bipartisan rebuke. Moreover, the Upton bill—while it lacks those GOP joy words of “delay” or “repeal”—poses a threat, since it would allow insurers to continue providing non-ObamaCare policies to any American who wants one. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s version of the bill would in fact (unconstitutionally) order insurers to offer the plans in perpetuity. Both bills undermine the law’s central goal of forcing healthy people into costly ObamaCare exchange plans that subsidize the sick.
The president’s “fix” is designed to limit such grandfathering, but that’s why it is of dubious political help to Democrats. Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s announcement, several Democratic senators, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan —whose poll numbers have plummeted in advance of her 2014 re-election bid—announced that they remain in favor of Landrieu-style legislation.
But it’s not going to happen. Obama has already said he’d veto the Upton legislation. There’s a message there for Mary Landrieu as well.
This was all about Barack Obama, as usual. It is a result of raw political calculation – his only seeming area of competence. He’s now managed a political solution which serves him about as well as any solution can in the mess he and his administration have made of this atrocious law. He’s found someone else to shift the blame too, he’s quieted Democrats, at least for the moment and he’s politically pre-empted a GOP move that would have seriously damaged his signature legislation and dumped his leadership and credibility ratings even lower.
For him, this is about as good as it gets.
Gallup, fresh of noting that President Obama’s trustworthiness and decisiveness have been found wanting, says the Affordable Care Act, which has never been popular, is now even more unpopular:
Americans’ views of the 2010 healthcare law have worsened in recent weeks, with 40% approving and 55% disapproving of it. For most of the past year, Americans have been divided on the law, usually tilting slightly toward disapproval. The now 15-percentage-point gap between disapproval and approval is the largest Gallup has measured in the past year.
That 15% gap shows a decided shift in popular opinion to the negative about the law. And say what Democrats might about running on this next election, they know as well as anyone that a 15 percent shift on any one issue is significant. Especially an issue to which they are the sole reason for its existence and therefore the sole party to blame.
The top three reasons given for disapproval were, “Government interference/Forcing people to do things” at 37%, “Increases costs/Makes healthcare less affordable” at 21% and 11% disapproved because they’d lost their insurance.
Of the three reasons, all of which are significant, perhaps the last one is the most significant. These are people who are likely to have nothing good to say about the law or the architects of the law. And because it effects them personally, may take political action (i.e. vote) to satisfy their anger. It may not be the most positive motivation in the world, but it can certainly be devastatingly effective.
The fact that the President is attempting to unilaterally thwart the provisions of his own law to save his and his party’s collective hides, notwithstanding, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Expect the insurance industry to consider lawsuits to kill the requirements. And there will likely be other legal challenges. Of course that will then let the White House do its favorite thing to do and attack and demonize them. But the only reason this predicament exists is a result of the Democratic party’s agenda.
That more negative evaluation may not have as much to do with the content of the law as the implementation of it, in particular how that squares with the president’s earlier characterization of how the law would work.
Some Democratic members of Congress, as well as former President Bill Clinton, are urging the president to support legislation that would rewrite portions of the law to allow Americans to keep their insurance plan if they are being dropped from it, as a way to honor his pledge. At this point, it is not clear whether the president will seriously consider that, or attempt to adjust how the law is administered without rewriting pieces of it.
Additionally, many members of Congress from both parties are asking the administration to extend the deadline by a year for Americans to get health insurance before facing a fine, given the ongoing technical issues with the exchange websites, which are still being fixed. The White House recently extended the deadline by six weeks.
How the administration handles these challenges to the implementation of the law, plus any new ones that emerge in the coming months, could be critical in determining the trajectory of the “disapprove” line in Gallup’s trend chart for the healthcare law.
Obviously this was written before the President’s announcement today. Politically it appears to be panic-city at the White House and among the Democrats. When you have Howard Dean – Howard Dean for heaven sake – questioning the legality of the president’s announcement today, you know there’s trouble in Democrat-land. How long it will last is anyone’s guess at this point, but I think it is safe to say, we’re nowhere near the end of this debacle.
If you’re wondering why, please remember that whenever the Democrats or the White House get in trouble, step one of escaping that trouble is to use the bully pulpit to blame someone else. Oh, and there’s the fact that in the past, attacking the health insurance companies seemed to have worked:
The approach hasn’t sat well with some Democratic allies, who are publicly and privately urging the White House to ramp up its attacks on insurers, arguing that the the tactic shored up support as they struggled to push the bill through Congress. A group of Democratic strategists pressed senior administration officials during a conference call last week.
They’d like a repeat of 2009-10, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called insurers “the villains,” Obama blasted their willingness to “bend the truth or break it,” and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accused them of banking excessive profits.
“When Obamacare got into trouble, we juxtaposed our message against the insurance companies, which are very unpopular,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has advised her 2014 clients, including Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, to go after insurers. “We should be messaging against the insurance companies this time as well. This is not good faith. If there is a snowstorm, the insurance companies are blaming it on Obamacare.”
But there’s a problem. With the horrific rollout of ObamaCare, the White House needs the support of the industry they demonized for so long. They need the “villains”.
This time around, Obama needs the industry to make Obamacare work.
His restrained response over the past week shows just how much the dynamic between Obama and the insurance companies has shifted since the law passed — and how their fates have become intertwined. The health care law expands coverage to millions of Americans by sending them into the private insurance market armed with tax subsidies, forcing the president and his former nemeses into an uneasy partnership that’s only beginning to face strains.
“Their interests are aligned with our interests in terms of wanting to enroll targeted populations,” a senior White House official said Wednesday. “It is not that we will agree with everything now either, but I would say for some time now there has been a collaboration because of that mutual interest.”
The uneasy truce will likely exist until such a time as it is politically expedient for the White House to blame all of ACA’s ills on someone else — namely health insurance providers (trying to blame Republicans seems to have had little traction). But they can’t afford to do that at the moment. However, while a full frontal assault on the industry may not be in the offing, the White House is still inclined to snipe:
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett angered insurers when she posted on Twitter that it was a “fact” that “nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney has been critical of insurance companies during his daily briefings, calling the individual market an under-regulated “Wild West.” But he’s tried to strike a balance, casting insurers as engaged in bad practices before the new health care law brought them into line.
Obama did the same during a health care speech Friday in Boston.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy,” Obama said.
Ah, the life of a failed community organizer and his posse. Help create a monstrosity out of whole cloth and then, when it performs as poorly as critics said it would, find a “villain” and blame them. Except right now you need the villain. Meanwhile your party is raising the volume on its protests about the awful rollout and its effect on their chances for re-election next year.
What to do. What to do.
George Will brought up a very good point on ABC’s This Week this Sunday. When discussing Democrats Bob Filner and Anthony Weiner and their current problems, Will uttered the following:
"If these two people, [Mayor Bob] Filner in San Diego and [Anthony] Weiner here, were Republicans, this would be a part of a lot of somber sociology in the media about the Republican war on women."
Who has heard any hint of that? Anyone? Are you seeing it in the media? Given how the left and Democrats try to define the “war on women” would they really not include these two under that definition?
By the way, the panel on This Week got a huge cackle out of Will’s utterance, because, you know, obviously his square peg just doesn’t fit the round hole they have conjured in their minds.
Peggy Noonan makes this statement today:
What happened at the IRS is the government’s essential business. The IRS case deserves and calls out for an independent counsel, fully armed with all that position’s powers. Only then will stables that badly need to be cleaned, be cleaned. Everyone involved in this abuse of power should pay a price, because if they don’t, the politicization of the IRS will continue—forever. If it is not stopped now, it will never stop. And if it isn’t stopped, no one will ever respect or have even minimal faith in the revenue-gathering arm of the U.S. government again.
And it would be shameful and shallow for any Republican operative or operator to make this scandal into a commercial and turn it into a mere partisan arguing point and part of the game. It’s not part of the game. This is not about the usual partisan slugfest. This is about the integrity of our system of government and our ability to trust, which is to say our ability to function.
First paragraph … agree, for the most part. Where I don’t agree is that there is a “minimal faith” in the revenue gathering arm of the US government. There’s been little faith in it since it’s inception. Most people understand that the gun is pointed at them and the prison cell is open and waiting. They don’t pay taxes because of any “faith” or respect for the IRS or government. They do it out of fear.
As for the second paragraph, that’s total horse hockey. Total.
The entire point of the scandal was it targeted “political” organizations. How does one not politicize it? It took place under a Democratic administration and the opponents of that party were the target of the IRS.
And what do we get from Noonan? “Hey, let’s take a knife to a gun fight”.
Noonan’s advice is, by far, the stupidest advice one could give.
Yes, this is about the integrity of the system. And, like it or not, that is directly linked to those who administer and govern.
Ms. Noonan, who is that right now? And how, if they were doing an effective job, would this have been going on for two years. Oh, and speaking of trust, how are you with the whole AP scandal? My guess is you’re wanting some heads over that.
Well, I want some heads of this. And Benghazi. And Fast and Furious.
Instead we get shrinking violets like you advising everyone to back off and not make this “political”.
Because of their false agenda, that’s why. They’re still convinced that, despite 17 years of no warming (as recently admitted by the head of the IPCC), oil is bad and “green” is good and that they’re doing something to save the world. Disregard the fact that green is still unviable. Disregard the fact that everywhere it has or is being pushed, energy costs are skyrocketing. Nevermind the fact that we are sitting on a sea of fossile fuel products that we only need to access. Screw the fact that science can find no discernable warming. Their minds are made up.
That said, there’s also the fiscal side of the house. The debt. The deficit. And the demand by Democrats to raise more revenue.
Unfortunately, because of their agenda, they’re likely to completely screw up a golden opportunity to bring in much more revenue and drive energy prices down, because their agenda is against fossile fuel. And we all know the party agenda comes before what is best for the country.
Enter the administration with a renewed plan to tax oil companies instead of opening access to the vast natural riches we enjoy. The result? Well this chart will help you comprehend the vast differences in the two policy choices (full size here):
So the either/or is “tax ’em or open access”. The difference:
According to a 2011 study by Wood Mackenzie, increased oil and natural gas activity underpro-access policies would generate an additional $800 billion in cumulative revenue for government by 2030. The chart puts into perspective the size of these accumulating revenues – enough to fund entire federal departments at various points along the timeline. By contrast, Wood Mackenize also found that hiking taxes on oil and natural gas companies would, by 2030, result in $223 billion in cumulative lost revenue to government.
It only proves the old saw -“If you want more of it, reward it and if you want less, tax it”. Think about it – money to help run government and pay down the debt (not to mention the thousands, if not millions of jobs created) being passed up in the name of false science and agenda politics.
Meanwhile, we’ll be left in the cold and the dark, thanks to agenda driven policies with no foundation in reality.
Really, no words from me needed:
Chicago safer than anywhere? C-section babies? And that old inconvenient Constitution and stuff. Yes indeed, let’s all go for this more “modern” way of living, okay?
You’d almost think it was a parody but it isn’t. Just a “proud Democrat”.
So much for an informed (and semi-intelligent) electorate (and yeah, some Republicans don’t get off much easier – just ask a few running for office about rape).
As we launch ourselves further into an era of “collective action” as Obama called it in his 2nd Inaugural address, we can be sure that reality won’t stop the left from remaining true believers in its ultimate power and good and demanding it be forced on us all. But what does that really mean?
Let’s hark back to Mancur Olson’s critique of collective action for a moment and point out a little ground truth about it, shall we?
Olson’s critique of collective action is complicated, and it is made less accessible by an ungainly prose style. But the gist is that large numbers of people do not naturally band together to secure common interests. In fact, the larger the group, the less likely it is to act in a truly collective manner.
As Olson explained, the interests that unite large groups are necessarily of the lowest-common-denominator variety. Therefore the concrete benefits of collective action to any individual are usually small compared with the costs — in time, effort and money — of participation. “Free-riding” is a constant threat — as the difficulties of collecting union dues illustrates.
By contrast, small groups are good at collective action. It costs less to organize a few people around a narrow, but intensely felt, shared concern. For each member, the potential benefits of joint action are more likely to outweigh the costs, whether or not success comes at the larger society’s expense.
Now, to me, that’s common sense. The bigger the group the more unlikely it will find common ground than a smaller group. So urging a nation of 300 million to a common effort or collective action? Yeah, not going to happen – at least in the areas Obama is likely to want to make such an effort.
That’s not to say that collective action won’t happen. It happens everyday in DC as Charles Lane points out:
Hence, the housing lobby, the farm lobby and all the special-interest groups that swarm Congress. Hence, too, the conspicuous absence of an effective lobby on behalf of all taxpayers or, for that matter, all poor people.
If there is any “collective action” that will take place in DC, besides those noted, it will be among the politicians who band together (and break apart) depending on what they’re after this week or next. Their constituency? Not that big of a concern to most. Those that reside inside the beltway are more likely on their radar than those who voted to put them in office.
So when Obama called on Americans to once again act “as one nation, and one people,” he was, at best, stating an aspiration.
No he’s not – he’s mouthing platitudes to calm the masses, put the opposition on the defensive and set himself up to get his way. And this is how that will work:
Olson’s assessment of reality, both historical and contemporary, is less lofty but more accurate: “There will be no countries that attain symmetrical organization of all groups with a common interest and thereby attain optimal outcomes through comprehensive bargaining.”
Nope. It will be the group/party that is able to appeal the best to the masses and thereby garner more of a veneer of support for their agenda than can the other party/group, whether or not the ultimate goal of the action is good for the country or the majority or not. Whether it really benefits the country as a whole usually has little bearing on the effort. And the minority? Well, they’re simply left hanging in the wind.
Their call for “collective action” is a cover, a means of draping the usual politics in high sounding rhetoric. The reality of the situation is that what he calls “collective action” is simply a new code phrase for continued class warfare and redistribution of income. The purpose of proposing “collective action” is to enable him and his cronies to label anyone who opposes them and their actions as divisive, unpatriotic and just about any other name they can think of necessary to demonize and dismiss them.
Meanwhile, the “collective” dismantling of this once great country will continue apace.
Remember, this “tax fairness” was something which was going to solve our fiscal problems, if you listened to the left’s claim that is. However, reality is fairly brutal and usually doesn’t much pay attention to rhetoric based in lies and stupidity. Case in point:
Congress is poised to clear the final $50 billion chunk of emergency aid for Superstorm Sandy relief Monday — and in one vote, it will have used up all the new tax money President Obama won by raising rates on the wealthy in the “fiscal cliff” deal.
The “cliff” … well they’re busily engaged in trying to see if they can kick the can nearer the edge and, by the way, make the “cliff” a little higher while they do that by raising the debt limit … again.
Meanwhile, let’s talk about immigration, gun bans and whatever else our “leaders” can think of to distract us from this pending disaster.
Yup, it is on a downward spiral. When actually given a choice (you know, the thing the left claims everyone should have?), many people opt out:
Government figures released Wednesday showed union membership declined from 11.8 percent to 11.3 percent of the workforce, another blow to a labor movement already stretched thin by battles in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states to curb bargaining rights and weaken union clout.
Overall membership fell by about 400,000 workers to 14.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than half the loss, about 234,000, came from government workers, including teachers, firefighters and public administrators.
Funny that. We talk about monopolies, but monopolies don’t work when government doesn’t prop them up, and, as pointed out, when government withdraws its sanction and force, when real choice is allowed, people will opt out.
And, of course, it’s not just the government sector where unions are losing members:
But unions also saw losses in the private sector even as the economy created 1.8 million new jobs in 2012. That membership rate fell from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent, a troubling sign for the future of organized labor, as job growth generally has taken place at nonunion companies.
Unions are an anachronism … they just won’t admit it yet. And, for the next 4 years at least, they’re still going to have political power because of who is in the White House.
But as more and more states become right to work, and the jobless see employers migrating to those states, I think the “market” will take care of itself – if the government will let it.