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Thursday, October 27, 2016

LOUISVILLE, KY. — The debate over the Affordable Care Act can stay small, focusing on website failures and other short-term difficulties facing the law. Or it can get bigger, with wider insurance coverage seen as part of a larger struggle for social justice in a nation growing steadily less equal.

On Wednesday in Washington, President Obama decided it was time to go bigger. With HealthCare.Gov finally beginning to work, the president sought a return to the ground he fought from so effectively during the 2012 campaign. He pledged that the rest of his term would be devoted to reversing “the relentless, decades-long trend” toward “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain.”

Mourning that “a child born into the bottom 20 percent has a less than 1-in-20 shot at making it to the top,” Obama insisted: “We are a better country than this.”

He unapologetically defended his health care law, noting that it “will ultimately reduce a major source of inequality.” In the process, he called out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a tough re-election fight next year in Kentucky, home of one of the nation’s most successful rollouts of the new system.

“If the Senate Republican leader still thinks he is going to be able to repeal this someday,” Obama said, “he might want to check with the more than 60,000 people in his home state who are already set to finally have coverage that frees them from the fear of financial ruin.”

And Obama put forward his strongest call yet for an increase in the minimum wage, raising the stakes around a popular cause that Democrats hope to make central to the 2014 midterms.

Obama’s speech reflected the administration’s view that while it could not try to move the public debate toward the rest of its economic agenda until it made noticeable improvements in the health care website, the technical progress it announced this week frees it to go back on offense.

The address, delivered at an event organized by the Center for American Progress, sets up a contest between two narratives that will affect the future of both policy and politics.

By trying to make the problems of Obamacare the overriding question in American politics, Republicans want to deflate hopes that government programs can counter inequality even as the party highlights Obama’s administrative failures.

Democrats, by contrast, will argue that Republicans are trying to undercut the Affordable Care Act because they oppose any efforts to use government to right existing injustices or upset current economic privileges. Obama insisted that “government action … can make an enormous difference in increasing opportunity and bolstering ladders into the middle class.” He pointedly challenged Republicans to offer their own policies toward these ends.

  • Bill Thompson

    There is only one way to grow this economy and that is put the money back in the hands of the people that spend it. That would be the middle class when the middle class has expendable income it uses it, businesses prosper and the economy grows. The destruction of blue-collar jobs, and with that went the unions has had a negative effect on our economy is hard to deny this. Globalization has enabled multi national businesses to thrive without the US consumer. Make no mistake this was the plan from the beginning, expand your consumer base worldwide and drive down wages in this country. With that went our economy and our infrastructure we are quickly on our way to a Third World status. It is hard for me to believe that this is not evident to anybody that truly has their eyes opened.

    • Suralin

      I believe there are a fair number of business owners in the US who genuinely want to raise wages, or at least to expand hiring. Not sure if they’re a majority or not, but most of them are at least aware of the importance of the demand-side of the economy.

      The issue is more of a collective-action problem; the pervasive (and fairly well-justified) fear seems to be that if any of them stick their neck out and raise wages, they’ll have their throats cut by the ruthless competition.

      • Bill Thompson

        You make a very good point and that’s why it has to happen on a national level no one is going to stick their neck out the minimum wage must be raised.

        • Allan Richardson

          It was the same situation in the civil rights era. If a white business owner in the South felt it was the right thing to do to serve customers of all races equally, he would lose the white customers who didn’t like that to his competitors who continued to discriminate. It was not financially safe to go with your conscience until it was required by law of all your competitors.

    • Kurt CPI

      I think there is more to it than that, but the cause/effect you are defining is right on! Definitely “Free Trade” was implemented so that US business could take advantage of global import and labor markets without having to pay tariffs and duties. This led to disenfranchising the American worker. On the other hand, the economic rise of Asia-Pacific countries and China put US business at a competitive disadvantage – the third-world entrepreneurs did it better and cheaper – in everything from cars to VCRs. This is the flip-side of the bank bailouts. Neither should have happened and both provided short-term relief in exchange for the long-term repercussions. In the end, US workers salaries would have had to be reduced it order to remain competitive internationally (on both the import and export side). The problem is that the people at the top win either way, removing their incentive to stay at home and compete, indeed rewarding them for losing your money. Instead they move offshore, re-label imported product, accept your tax dollars so they can loan your money back to you for even more profits. Then they wonder why Americans can no longer afford to buy even their discounted imports, and why 30 year mortgage rates are at 3%. Do we really need a degree in economics to see the outcome of our policies?

  • elw

    President Obama is a intelligent man who knows what he is doing. The ACA will not fail, it may falter and need adjustment, but that is to be expected of any new venture. Republicans cut off their own nose with their stance, smart ones know it, which is why so many of them are fleeing the Party. As long as Republicans continue with pushing their policies that hurt the Middle Class, seniors, minorities and women they are on a losing track that in the long run will hurt them more than anyone else. They underestimate the intelligence of the American Voter, and by listening to only what they want to hear they push themselves further and further from reality and what the voters want. They are on a self-destruction path.

    • middleclasstaxpayer

      Speaking of “Further & Furtherr from reality” , why has the leading liberal democrat in the senate, HARRY REID allowed some of his OWN STAFF to AVOID BEING FORCED to use the ‘wonderful” and “affordable’ ACA (Obamacare)??? Quoting from the NY Times:
      “In spite of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) being one of the Affordable Care Act’s most vocal supporters in Congress, he is the ONLY top congressional leader to exempt some members of his staff from having to purchase insurance through the ACA’s insurance exchange.”
      If the ACA is SO GOOD, WHY is Harry Reid exempting his staff from forced participation like the rest of us Americans are being forced to participate????

      • elw

        No one who gets their insurance through their employer is being forced to participate in the Exchanges, except federal employee. Actually no one has to participate, everyone is free to purchase their coverage directly from an insurer, the only requirement is that they have insurance the meets the guidelines of the law if they want to avoid a penalty. Which is the same exact requirement President Bush II put on his drug program for Medicare. Senator Reid and his personal staff are following the law and buying their insurance through the exchanges. However, the law also lets lawmakers decide if their committee leadership staffers can hold on to their federal employee insurance plans and Senator Reid decided to exercise the option.

        • middleclasstaxpayer

          Well, it’s really great that FEDERAL EMPLOYEES get to hold onto THEIR insurance, while many tens of millions of regular Americans have seen their insurance CANCELLED, forcing them to find different & grossly MORE EXPENSIVE plans.

          • elw

            Perhaps, if it was true. But it is not.

          • middleclasstaxpayer

            Sorry, but when Horizon Blue Cross, Blue Shield, the country’s LARGEST health insurer, sends out cancellations in ALL states, you know the impact on the middle class will be devastating. They ARE offering to renew, but most plans have easily doubled or tripled in costs, and the deductibles have risen by 1300% to 2000 %…..from $500 to a minimum of $6500 & topping out at $10,000 & HIGHER! The middle class is being brutalized, while the lower class is still covered by Medicaid at little or no cost. Wonder what happened to…”You can KEEP your doctors & plans, PERIOD, and costs will be LOWER????”
            Either liberals & the president are stupid or they are liars!

          • elw

            Or it could just be that you information is not correct. But then when was it ever?