Having inherited my email address from his predecessor, Donald Trump continues to spam and survey me. Earlier today, the White House asked me to share my “Obamacare disaster story.”
OK, Mr. President. Here goes:
The trouble started in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt bolted the GOP and formed a third party — the “Bull Moose” Progressives — to support his bid for a then-unprecedented third term in the White House. His platform promised “to work unceasingly” for “a system of social insurance” to protect Americans “against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age.”
Horrifically, TR’s promise remains unfulfilled after more than a century.
In 1912, the doomed Bull Moose did what third parties always do: Lose. Within a decade, TR died. Most of his former followers returned to an increasingly conservative Republican Party.
A quarter-century later, TR’s distant (Democratic) cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt rolled out jobs programs and economic reforms to mitigate “irregular employment,” and signed the Social Security Act of 1935 to take care of people in “old age.”
FDR & Congress achieved that despite stiff resistance from conservatives and most employers.
But New Deal proposals to protect Americans from “the hazards of sickness”? Those utterly terrified not just Republicans and the business lobby, but also the American Medical Association and white southern Democrats (who feared the phantom menace of people of color gaining the human right to health care). The GOP, AMA, KKK and the Chamber of Commerce consequently combined to kill each and every health care plan pitched under FDR and his successor, Harry Truman.
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson finally realized some of Theodore Roosevelt’s original vision. An undisputed political genius, LBJ steamrolled the GOP-AMA-KKK-CoC Axis and signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. Thus, the elderly and the indigent gained public health insurance.
Providers promptly pivoted from opposing the programs to exploiting them by rapidly expanding care networks and inflating prices. From the perspective of the medical profession and the health care industry, Medicare and Medicaid “made us rich, simple as that.”
While ’70s stagflation and the Reagan Revolution prevented further reform, the escalating cost of care created a mighty and massive private health insurance industry. This behemoth fiercely fought and crushed every cost containment proposal that threatened their metastasizing profit margins, including Hillarycare under Bill Clinton.
However, later in his term, the Comeback Kid managed to eke out a modest bipartisan reform, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Cue the Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.
However, the industry warmly welcomed Medicare Part D under George W. Bush — a needed benefit for seniors struggling to pay for prescriptions, but also a blank check mercilessly milked by fat pharmaceutical companies.
In the nine decades after GOP icon Theodore Roosevelt first proposed public health insurance, Democrats had done nearly all of the heavy lifting. With Medicare Part D, Dubya became the only Republican president thus far to take any significant step toward realizing TR’s vision.
Finally, we come to Barack Obama’s grisly crime against humanity: He convinced Congressional Democrats to pass a moderate reform bill, infusing some new ideas into a rehash of Hillarycare, Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign pitch, and Mitt Romney’s bipartisan Massachusetts reform.
Republicans warned that it would fail.
Bizarrely, death panels failed to materialize.
Even more disastrously, the Affordable Care Act worked pretty much as designed. Taxes rose on the rich and for larger employers. Obamacare contained some costs, slightly slimming the profit margins of private insurers while trimming the growth of the federal deficit. Medical price inflation and premium growth slowed. Increased market efficiency, coupled with the Medicaid expansion and federal subsidies, extended coverage to 20 million more people, bringing the uninsured rate under 10% for the first time in this country’s history.
Obamacare’s successes are particularly startling when you consider that many Republican-controlled states perversely refused either to set up exchanges or expand Medicaid. Had they responded rationally to incentives, several million more Americans would have joined the private insurance pool, accelerating the virtuous cycle described above. Moreover, Medicaid could have extended coverage to millions of the neediest families in our poorest states.
Despite the GOP’s best efforts to throttle Obamacare in its crib, the ACA survived and succeeded.
This frustrates Republicans to no end. Since taking control of Congress in 2011, the GOP majority passed dozens of frivolous repeal bills that Obama of course vetoed.
But now that Trump inhabits the White House, Republicans in Congress have lost both their nerve and the courage of their convictions.
After a long chase and much yapping, the dogs have caught the car, and they do not now know what to do.
The Teabaggers want to push ahead with total repeal, but the semi-sane sensibly fear blame for stripping health insurance from more than 20 million Americans.
Trump, who claims to have mastered the art of the deal, has no earthly idea how to herd these cats.
The real failure — the actual disaster — the true horror story — is that this country is paying the price for electing an incompetent ignoramus.
Trump has shown that you can win the White House by inciting spite in some voters and exploiting blind partisan loyalty in others.
But at no point in his long life or short presidency has he evinced the knowledge, wisdom, courage or integrity needed to lead a great constitutional republic.
Investing inherited wealth in prime real estate demands little business acumen. On the contrary: going broke running casinos requires a remarkable reverse Midas touch. (The house always wins, unless Trump is in charge.)
Twitler says he wants to make America great again, but having grabbed Lady Liberty with his reverse Midas touch, he is now turning her into something else.
And that is truly terrifying.
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You can tell President Trump your own Obamacare horror story here.