Conservatives have been fighting ObamaCare in one way or another since 2009. Republicans in Congress lost the battle and Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. The battle didn’t end there. With the law’s key provisions going into effect in slightly more than 90 days, some Republicans still haven’t given up on the fantasy that they can stop it.
The best chance to stop the law was when the Supreme Court heard a challenge to its constitutionality. Because of Chief Justice John Roberts’ bizarre defection from the conservative bloc of the court, most of ObamaCare was upheld on a 5-4 vote. The only other real chance to stop the law from being implemented was the 2012 presidential election. Even though Mitt Romney had championed a similar plan when he was governor of Massachusetts, he campaigned against the law because … well … that’s what conservatives wanted him to do.
Romney was an uninspiring candidate and lost badly. The chief sponsor of ObamaCare was re-elected. The battle was over.
But some conservatives are obsessed with the fantasy that they can stop the law by withholding the funding for it. The U.S. House passed a bill last week that would keep the government operating past the end of September, but Republicans didn’t include money to fund ObamaCare in their bill. The Democratic-controlled Senate obviously won’t pass the bill, so there’s something of a deadlock.
Some Republicans say they’re willing to shut down the government on Oct. 1 if they can’t pass a budget without ObamaCare funding. Although I wish it were possible that something this wonderful — a shutdown — would happen, we all know that government isn’t going to really shut down. Even the most optimistic scenario would see “non-essential” government agencies closed for a few days. (It maddens me that we have “non-essential” parts of government. I think the whole thing is non-essential, but if even the mainstream sees certain parts as non-essential, why are we paying for them?)
If certain Republicans go through with their threat to shut the government down, they’re going to lose. It’s political suicide. Although I’m quite happy to see government — pretty much any parts of it — shut down, most people don’t feel this way. There will be a steady drumbeat from both the media and Democrats about the immaturity and irresponsibility of Republicans. For days or weeks, the pressure would mount — and Republicans would eventually be forced to cave in. (There would also be quite an internal battle during that process.)
So what would they accomplish by this? Absolutely nothing useful. They would spend political capital to do nothing more than pander to their conservative base. And when the smoke finally clears, another budget will pass — and funding for ObamaCare will be part of that funding. So they’re playing a stupid political game that their core supporters love, but which is only going to reduce their broader support.
Anyone who understands basic economics can understand why this plan won’t work in the long run. Most people can understand why it’s going to cost everyone far more money than Obama and Democrats promised. As those already covered by insurance see their health coverage become even more expensive, it’s clear (and will become even more clear) that the new law won’t achieve what it set out to do. It’s going to cost massively more than its sponsors promised and it’s not going to deliver care for everyone.
When that happens, one of two things is going to happen. Democrats will argue that Republicans prevented the plan from being funded properly — and that it would have worked fine if not for this interference — so we need to move all the way to a fully socialist single-payer plan. (That’s what I think has been the Democrats’ end game all along. I think they’ve known this can’t work.)
On the other hand, if Republicans set themselves up from the beginning to document the failure of the law as it was enacted, they could gain political capital by being the reasonable people who predicted what was going to happen. If they could do a responsible and reasonable job of showing what’s likely to happen as the law is enacted, they could show that they understood what was coming.
If they sought the support of those swing voters whose insurance premiums are skyrocketing, they could put together a plan to win back the Senate and potentially repeal the law after the 2014 elections.
Republicans have a reasonable path to changing the law, but it’s only by gaining the support of swing voters as they’re affected by the law and then using the legislative mechanism to repeal the law. The efforts of people such as Sen. Ted Cruz to prevent funding the law are doomed to fail — and they’re doomed to make it more difficult to repeal the law after the 2014 elections.
ObamaCare is bad law and bad economics. Government meddling created the problem with expensive health care. Doing even more meddling isn’t going to fix it. Most of those who read here know that. But making yourself appear irresponsible in the eyes of the people who will hold the swing votes in congressional elections next year isn’t going to change the reality of where we stand.
Of course, I think it’s just one more event in a long string of events that will bring about an economic and social collapse, so I have trouble worrying too much about it either way — since I don’t think anything can stop the collapse.
But if you still want to play the political game — and spit into the wind in an effort to change things — the kind of brinksmanship that some conservatives want to play right now is a losing strategy. There are some times when you have to admit reality and move on.