While Republicans have been plotting about what to do with control of the U.S. Senate, they’re trying to ignore how the debate over Obamacare has now shifted to whether the law has “won” or is simply “winning.”
Some Republicans want to dull its sudden veneer of success by delaying any verdict about the law until 2023.
Though it will always be October of 2013 and HealthCare.gov will always be crashing in the heart of Senator Ted Crux (R-TX) and his followers, the prognosis for President Obama’s key legislative accomplishment has seen a remarkable reversal from six months ago, when the words “death spiral” were taken seriously.
A “death spiral” occurs in the insurance industry when low enrollment or adverse selection leads to skyrocketing prices. Thanks to how the law was written, such a spiral was never likely for Obamacare, even when it seemed like HealthCare.gov might never be fixed. And now it’s pretty much impossible.
Obamacare has nearly matched Romneycare’s signups in its share of young people who enrolled. It has exceeded the predictions of the Congressional Budget Office by a million signups with 8 million. At least 5 million more Americans now have Medicaid through expansion, which will continue to accept people all year long. And millions more Americans have gained coverage off the exchanges or through employers, as the individual mandate seems to be proven more effective than predicted. It’s not all we need to do to fix our bloated, absurd and cruel health care system — but it’s a valiant start.
The effects of the law will vary wildly state by state, with the states that are not trying sabotage it — shockingly! — doing a much better job of insuring their residents. But the only way Obamacare is going away is if a Republican president wins a landslide and decides his first act is to take health insurance away from the 22 million Americans expected to be covered by the exchanges in 2016 and tens of millions more on Medicaid and their parents’ plans.
Meanwhile, dust settling around the rollout of Obamacare is revealing a Republican Party that is terrifying Republican donors.
With the Republican Governors Association slowly morphing into a legal defense fund, funders look at the GOP’s 2016 field and see one candidate with a father promoting 9/11 truthers and another whose father defends “ex-gay therapy” because he thinks sexual orientation, unlike bigotry, is a choice.
No wonder these donors are drooling over someone whose father—especially when compared to his brother—was a pretty good president. Jeb Bush’s “optimism” and the fact that the GOP hasn’t won without a Bush on the ticket since 1972 make him the favorite of most of the people who spent millions to (not) elect Mitt Romney.
Jeb even says the right things about immigration reform. He thinks it’s an “act of love” but didn’t actually suggest that House Republicans vote on the bipartisan Senate bill that they’ve been ignoring for the better part of a year.
And for this dusting of bravery, he was mocked by Donald Trump and booed by a crowd of conservatives in the state where the first 2016 GOP primary will be held, New Hampshire.
Donald Trump has been pretending to run for president for decades. But no mainstream political party took him seriously until he embraced the “birther” issue and briefly became a frontrunner in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. Now he’s updating his act by demanding that 11 million undocumented people show him their papers.
Even some Republicans get that Trump is a clown in search of a circus. But The Donald’s wealth, fame and willingness to attack the president over nonsense keep earning him invites to Republican events.
How do you come up with an immigration policy for a party that takes Donald Trump seriously?
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) keep pretending that they want to do reform but they can’t because Obama’s mean, or they don’t trust him, or #OBUMMER, as The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent keeps pointing out. No one buys these arguments, especially because the GOP couldn’t get its base to support reform when George W. Bush was president.
But the GOP’s inaction will likely force the president to act to stem deportations that break up families later this year. Then the party that ran on self-deportation in 2012 will be running on actual deportations in 2016.
The GOP’s problem is that not doing anything on immigration this year is the safest bet to keep its base motivated and possibly even take over the Senate. Likewise, not proposing an Obamacare alternative or expanding Medicaid to the 5 million people spitefully being denied coverage in red states is safe, in the short term.
Just say #fullrepeal and screw the consequences.
Meanwhile, voting for the Ryan Budget charges up Republicans who would vote anyway, while making it clear that this GOP, if ever given the power, will cut Medicare benefits immediately and then more and more and more.
The costs for these actions are low in 2014, as Republicans try to win Senate seats in six states Mitt Romney carried. Though the chances of them winning the upper house of Congress seem to be decreasing every day. And after 2016 demographic time bombs begin to detonate that could cost the party Georgia, North Carolina and eventually Texas.
Perhaps a Jeb Bush can swoop in, mend fences with the immigrant community and appeal to voters that have voted for a presidential ticket with a Bush on it five times — even though he has his own skeletons in his closet, is hated by many Tea Partiers and most Americans still blame his brother for the slow economy.
Or maybe the GOP’s death spiral has already begun.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr