With the problems plaguing the Obamacare website very likely to continue into the (hopefully very) near future, liberals continue to heap scalding criticism on the administration’s mishandling of the rollout. That’s exactly as it should be.
On the substantive reasons why liberals and Democrats should continue to hold the administration accountable for the problems, read Jonathan Cohn this morning. As Cohn notes, pushing the administration to do better is good for the liberal project in general — liberals believe in government, and must show that it can succeed — and makes it more likely that Obamacare’s problems will be fixed before they threaten the law’s long term prospects, which remains a real possibility.
But I wanted to add a point about the politics of this.
Liberal and Democratic criticism of the rollout continues to be widely mischaracterized by Republicans — and some in the media — as proof that Democrats are running away from the law. This is largely false: Democrats who are suggesting the administration consider extending enrollment are either engaging in a bit of garden variety political positioning, or are genuinely suggesting ways of making it more likely the law will work if problems do continue. That doesn’t constitute running from either the law’s overall design or its overarching goals.
Indeed — barring a situation where the problems end up being so serious that the law’s long term prospects genuinely are threatened — it’s the Republican position, and not the Democratic one, that is untenable. Note this extremely telling tidbit buried in a Politico piece this morning:
Privately, certain Republicans express concern with the party’s decision to focus so much attention on a website that could very well be fixed over the next few months, instead of calling attention to other potentially problematic aspects of the law. And polls show support for Republicans remains way down, while support for Obamacare is still ticking up.
I don’t know how widespread this is. But it has to be a real concern for at least some Republicans who are thinking a few moves ahead on the political chessboard. And it really captures what this whole situation is all about.
The Republican criticism of the law’s rollout is justified in the sense that the rollout does, indeed, deserve criticism. But it’s badly undermined — and indeed revealed as comically incoherent — by the GOP’s overall posture on the law, which is to do everything possible to prevent it from functioning for the very same Americans Republicans claim to be speaking for in criticizing the rollout. Indeed, the greatest threat to the GOP’s current strategy is the possibility that the websites very well may get fixed soon, possibly allowing the law to succeed. As the First Read crew put it this morning (no link yet):
The GOP’s political problem might be the more significant (and lasting) one, because Republicans — unlike the Democrats — aren’t working to fix the problem. In addition, the website could become a proxy if the health-care law (and government) actually works. So what happens if/when the website gets fixed?
If liberals and Democrats criticize the law’s failures aggressively right now — which is the right thing to do on the substance — it actually reinforces the real overall story here, which is that Democrats want to solve the problems plaguing the health care system, while Republicans are working to ensure Dem solutions fail.
* WHITE HOUSE UNDER FIRE OVER OBAMACARE FAILURES: The New York Times has an appropriately tough piece documenting that administration officials were overly confident right up until the rollout that everything would work out just fine, to disastrous effect. As the piece notes, a central sticking point right now is “the issue of when administration officials recognized the Web site’s potential for major problems.”
This is an important accountability question, and it is exactly the sort of thing that real Congressional oversight could help answer.
* HOW WASHINGTON IS KILLING THE ECONOMY: Ben White has a good explainer on how Washington’s continuing austerity obsession — combined with the GOP addiction to crisis governing — is holding back the recovery. As White rightly notes, things aren’t going to get any better anytime soon, because in coming budget talks, Republicans will be “drawing a hard line on protecting every penny of the $1.1 trillion in sequester cuts.”
Remember, the sequester/Budget Control Act is the one major GOP victory in the battles over the size and scope of government that have characterized the Obama era. ICYMI: My interview with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Robert Greenstein on the jobs-boosting policies Dems should push for in coming talks.
* OBAMA TO PUSH FOR SPENDING ON ECONOMY: Reuters reports on the President’s pending remarks on the economy today:
White House aides say the president is looking ahead to the next round of the budget debate and wants to use the speech to contrast his goals of boosting government spending on things like schools and infrastructure with those of Republicans, who are focused on reining in the nation’s debt and deficit and shrinking the role of government.
Though Obama in the past has been too quick to reinforce the austerity frame, he is now prioritizing job creation over the deficit. Of course, there’s no chance Congress will follow this template.
* CHART OF THE DAY, DEFICIT-IS-ACTUALLY-FALLING EDITION: Related to the above: Business Insider has a terrific chart documenting the fall of the deficit as a share of GDP under reckless Big Gummint spendthrift liberal Barack Obama.
As always, with many Republicans in the grip of the notion that spending and the deficit remain the most urgent problems facing the nation — and many unwilling or unable to acknowledge the concessions Dems have already made on spending cuts — a serious debate over our budget priorities remains impossible.
* DEBT DOOMSAYERS WIELD DISPROPORTIONATE INFLUENCE: Also related to the above: Paul Krugman’s column today marvels at the degree to which the conversation in Washington continues to be influenced by baseless predictions of debt apocalypse:
There are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.
Exhibit A: Paul Ryan, who will surely be treated as the Most Serious Man in the coming budget talks.
* OBAMA PRODS GOP ON IMMIGRATION: I missed this line from the President’s remarks on immigration yesterday, but they are important enough to merit a quick mention now:
“If House Republicans have new and different, additional ideas for how we should move forward, then we want to hear them. I’ll be listening.”
This is a signal to House Republicans, I think, that Dems are open to the various other ways (aside from the Senate or House Dem bills) House Republicans could get to comprehensive reform, via embracing piecemeal solutions that fall short of citizenship as a means to get to conference.
* DEMS MOCK GOP CROCODILE TEARS ABOUT OBAMACARE: The White House-allied Americans United for Change is out with a new web video mocking the GOP health care stance: After spending literally years voting to repeal Obamacare and casting it as an existential threat to American liberty and civilization — and doing everything possible to sabotage the law — Republicans suddenly are outraged that it is failing to work as effectively as it might for the uninsured.
* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, GOP CROCODILE TEARS EDITION: GOP Rep. David McKinley excoriated the chief Obamacare contractor at yesterday’s hearings as follows:
“I haven’t heard one of you apologize to the American public on behalf of your company for the problems. Are apologies not in order? I haven’t heard the words ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
The demand for accountability is entirely appropriate. But does this mean Rep. McKinley wants the law to work as well as possible on behalf of these Americans so deserving of an apology, so as many people sign on to the exchanges as possible?