On Thursday, if the Supreme Court decides to strike own the individual mandate it will also need to consider whether the entire statute should be invalidated. Some like Charlie Cook argue that Obamacare “isn’t what the election will be about.” I don’t doubt the primacy of the economy in the presidential race, but here are five ways in which wiping out the entire health-care statute will change the electoral picture in significant ways:
1. The Republicans are already reminding us that President Obama took his eye off the economy in pursuit of an historic legacy. In this, his overwhelming ego was his undoing. Instead of listening to aides who favored a focus on job creation, he plunged ahead on his health-care project, which not only didn’t help job growth but also retarded hiring. You’ll see many more quotes from Noam Scheiber’s book, “The Escape Artists” like this:
“But even after winning the presidency, Obama was loath to accept that the economy was singularly important. During a conference call with several senior aides early in the transition, [ Tim] Geithner remarked to his new boss that ‘your signature accomplishment is going to be preventing a Great Depression.’ . . . Even so, Obama’s response was slightly jarring. ‘That’s not enough for me,’ said the president-elect.”
And come Thursday, Obama (if the statute is nixed) would have neither reduced unemployment nor health-care reform. In short his term would be regarded as a waste.
2. Obama will need to tell us what he proposes in lieu of the invalidated statute. More unconstitutional power grabs? A single-payer system? For all the talk of Mitt Romney’s vagueness from the chattering class, we at least know the GOP challenger favors premium support Medicare reform, bloc granting Medicaid, opening interstate insurance sales, changing tax treatment of individually-purchased health-care plans and tort reform. What does the president have?
3. Striking down Obamacare should put the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan back in the mix. A major stumbling block for Republicans was the debt commission’s refusal to touch Obamacare. With that gone, will either side support all or part of the commission’s recommendations? No Obamacare, Republican-style entitlement reform, a top marginal tax rate below 25 percent but an overall increase in revenue? Hmmm. . .
4. Another constitutional rebuke for the president would once again focus attention on the president’s unilateral and unprecedented extensions of executive power. It is not “just” that he is acting in an unconstitutional manner and lacks a grasp of constitutional restraint; Obama simply doesn’t know how to work within our system of government. David Axelrod has come up with some cock-and-bull story that an Obama reelection will “free” Republicans to cooperate with him. Who buys that? Not even Democrats. If voters want conciliation and cooperation Obama isn’t their man.
5. Every Senate Democrat on the ballot who voted for or supported Obamacare has a big problem. Will they point fingers at the White House? Do they do a mea culpa expressing regret for their vote, thereby incriminating Obama?
The economy is certainly the most important issue for voters. But Obama is in peril because he appears to be ill-equipped and unsuited to finding solutions to our problems. Invalidation of his signature legislation will make that point crystal clear for the voters.