To borrow a cute term William Safire penned for Spiro Agnew, the “nattering nabobs of negativism” carrying on about the evils of the Affordable Care Act aren’t going to roll back the health insurance overhaul they like to deride as “Obamacare.”
Reality sure isn’t on their side. Since the ACA began to take effect, at least 9.5 million uninsured Americans have cut through the nonsense and gotten themselves some coverage.
And while the Republican Party’s propaganda war is great at rankling the party faithful, it’s unlikely to win back the White House. Not one single GOP candidate is polling well nationwide. Americans are overwhelmingly favoring the presumptive 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton whenever pollsters pit her against anyone expected to lead the Republican pack.
However, the ceaseless attack on President Barack Obama’s health care reform may have inflicted some serious damage. For one thing, it has shifted public sentiment the wrong way on the question of whether government ought to guarantee that all Americans enjoy health care coverage.
In late 2006, 69 percent of respondents said “yes” when pollsters asked them about this obligation. In 2013, only 42 percent did.
Even if all other rich countries take it for granted that governments must ensure that their people get decent care, that’s no surprise. Professional propaganda funded with boatloads of corporate money can sway opinions.
But as Obama puts it, this does seem odd. “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?” he asked when he declared that his administration had met its goal of enrolling 7 million people through the newly established health care exchanges. “Why are they so mad about the idea of people having health insurance?”
One way to answer Obama’s question is to figure out what’s driving the GOP to keep beating this dead horse.
Although it’s not often discussed, the taxes on the rich that are partly funding the Affordable Care Act are one likely motive. There’ a new 0.9 percent payroll tax and a 3.8 percent tax on investment income — including proceeds from very profitable real estate sales — for couples making more than $250,000 and individual tax filers earning at least 200,000 a year.
Those tax tweaks will raise an estimated $318 billion between 2013 and 2022 to cover many of the costs of this new government program.
Over the same period, middle-class taxpayers are supposed to get more tax relief than they will pay in new ACA-linked taxes if all goes according to plan.
Several months after Tax Day, Americans will learn how all this went in 2013, as the government ramped up the ACA’s rollout.
And sure, that rollout certainly ranks among the biggest bureaucratic and PR disasters of our time.
But moving forward, the health care reform is bound to become more popular as it delivers care to millions of people who couldn’t get it, increases job mobility for Americans who were trapped by their insurance situation until now, and gives the middle class a break.
The Affordable Care Act won’t fix every health care woe. It won’t ever appeal to the many progressives who would have preferred a public option or Medicare-for-all approach. Yet no one should bet on it getting legislated away by the Republicans in Congress or completely quashed in the courts.
As Agnew said about those nabobs, GOP politicians who keep trying to repeal the ACA have “formed their own 4-H Club — the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’”