Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How much will Obamacare really cost the Democrats?

On August 6th, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This was a landmark piece of legislation; it was sorely needed to address severe inequities in the country's voting processes. To this day, Democratic leaders trumpet this law as one of their great successes, owing to the fact that the man who signed it into law was a Democrat, himself. And in that regard, the Act has become something of a tool used to curry favor among minority voters, the basis of a now-familiar strawman: "vote Democrat because the Republicans want to take away your right to vote." And this is perhaps an entirely predictable thing, given what Johnson supposedly said sometime after signing the Act into law (in a signing ceremony, flanked by the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King):
I'll have those niggers voting Democrat for the next two hundred years.
That's Lyndon Baines Johnson, champion of minority interests. To be fair, the quote is only attributed to him, but it does sound like something he would have said in my opinion. And whether or not he said it, there is--I think--little doubt that he and other Democrats (then and now) knew this would be a great political weapon. And that it is, even though the majority of opposition to this Act came from Democrats (71 Democrats in Congress opposed it, 21 Republicans did), even though the legislation was introduced by a Democrat and a Republican (Senators Mansfield and Dirksen). Such is the course of history, of panegyrists and propagandists, of critical moments and critical pieces of legislation and critical government actions.

Now we have before the altar of history Obamacare. Is it another huge moment for the Democrats, one they can use over and over again to prove their concern for those in need, those millions upon millions who suffered without healthcare before Obamacare? I'm sure they hope this will be the case, but things aren't looking good in this regard.

We're still almost a year out from the most critical implementations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but many are already feeling the pain being cause by this law. Taxes have now gone up on medical devices, investments, and medicare for some. But this can all be sloughed off to making the rich pay their fair share, so there's little backlash as of yet. 2014 will be a different story, as many not-so-rich people are going to find that their health insurance costs have increased dramatically, while the benefits of such insurance have actually decreased. Moreover, younger people will find themselves in a situation where they must pay, one way or the other, for things they do not want and do not need.

If that's not enough, the CBO now believes Obamacare will not actually expand coverage as was promised. Instead, it may actually cause people to be dropped from plans. And it will cost more (something everyone but the CBO and the Administration has known for a while now) than had been projected, substantially more. And it is a mess, regardless; the CBO doesn't think this dog will be ready to hunt anytime soon. In total, things look bleak:
Taken together, this is a report that shows how already, Obamacare is failing to match the hopes of its creators in many respects. Expect this trend to continue in future years. This is going to be a lot of political fractiousness and market disruption over a policy which may ultimately end up nudging the insured percentage up only slightly.
On top of all of this, Obamacare remains a divisive thing; polls on it's popularity have never indicated overwhelming support and rarely indicated majority support.

For decades now--thanks mostly to civil rights and social issues--Democrats have enjoyed a clear advantage among younger voters. Even with a weak economy that has severely afflicted this demographic, even with crushing student debt that is the result of Democratic policies, Democrats maintained their support from younger voters (as they did among minority voters). But in the coming years, Obamacare will become an albatross around the necks of the young (and the economy, in general).

South Florida radio personality Jimmy Cefalo summed up quite effectively how this may all play out in the minds of younger voters this morning. They'll say to themselves (I'm paraphrasing Cefalo):
"I voted for gay marriage, I didn't vote for THIS!" or "I voted for abortion rights, I didn't vote for THIS!"
Obamacare may likely become the antithesis of the Voting Rights Act, when it comes to political capital. Democrats in the future will not be pointing back to it as a "great piece of Democratic legislation," they'll be running from it.

Cheers, all.

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