Liberal pundits and Democratic lawmakers (easily confused with one another) have taken to arguing that the GOP is rooting for Obamacare to fail. And, moreover, they complain they aren’t helping to fix it. To the first I plead guilty and the second, I must ask: Are they mad?
Yes, I want Obamacare to fail spectacularly and quickly so we might replace it with something less onerous, less disruptive, less costly and less unworkable. It isn’t bending the cost curve. It’s not affordable for many people, and it’s going to force people to dump their doctors since their doctors won’t be in the new plan they will get. And it isn’t even meeting the needs of millions of working poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid or the Obamacare exchange subsidies. The medical device tax presents a threat to future technological innovation, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board portends scarcity via price controls. Well, what if those things weren’t all happening? Please — then it wouldn’t be Obamacare. It is now such an debilitating mess it is far better to start over. Right now it is doing more harm than good not because of a “glitch” or a “bug,” but because the premises underlying it (including an undue amount of coercion) are unwise and self-defeating.
On the “fix our mess for us” front, so far the White House hasn’t come to Congress to ask them to fix anything. Indeed they oppose it with every fiber of their spin squad. President Obama apparently thinks unilateral tinkering will get the job done. So which is it that Democrats want of Republicans — to fix it or to get out of the way?
More to the point, this was a Democratic project from start to finish, rammed through without GOP support. Unlike every other entitlement program that had bipartisan backing, this did not. It is nervy, when it turns out to be a mess, to dragoon Republicans to fix it — but not fix it too much.
In the Iraq War, President George W. Bush did not ask Democrats — who had voted for the war in large numbers — to fix our strategy. Democrats didn’t want to fix it; they wanted out. He was the commander in chief with the responsibility for the war’s success, just as the president is the chief executive, responsible for implementing the laws. And if Obama thinks Congress should pass specific legislation, why doesn’t he send something up to the Hill?
The other variation on Democratic whining is the claim that there are no GOP plans out there. This is simply false. Everyone from conservative think tankers Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has a plan. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to roll out his own next year. None can operate, however, unless Obamacare is repealed, and it is that which the Democrats will not tolerate.
I do however want to encourage Republicans once again to actually unify behind an alternative and pass it through the House. Why shouldn’t a party that makes a claim to the majority of both houses put its cards on the table? Strategically R’s will say this only “distracts” from the Obamacare mess. That might have been true a few months ago, but now that a significant majority of the country understands all too well that Obamacare is a disaster, there is no reason to wait for a replacement. The GOP can walk and chew gum at the same time — continue to highlight the Obamacare debacle and present its own plan. Indeed, the latter would make the repeal effort more convincing.
Providing a GOP alternative to Obamacare — one that does not coerce young, healthy people into buying gold-plated insurance — would be especially helpful in capitalizing on the greatest political opportunity in a generation. Obama, to be blunt, has blown it with young people. A new Harvard poll of millennials tells us that young people disapprove of Obamacare by a 57 to 36 margin and only 20 percent of them will or likely will enroll. If they could, they’d recall Obama (by a narrow 47 to 46 margin). Coupled with their angst over the cost of college and the rotten job market, their disillusionment with Obama personally and dislike of his signature health-care plan provide a wide opening for Republicans. Just as Ronald Reagan captured young people’s votes with optimism and an agenda to restore the United States, so, too, can Republicans win back the people most disappointed by the president who told them “hope and change” were theirs for the taking.
So, Republicans, go ahead and root for Obamacare to flop — and flop quickly so the damage it is doing can be ended as soon as possible and we can get on to an alternative. Don’t fix it — end it. And then come up with something better. There is no shortage of ideas.