Felicia Muftic: Killing Obamacare has its own risks
November 9, 2010
The Republicans are planning to be guilty of the same sin they criticized Democrats for committing: getting their priorities in reverse. The GOP recently announced their first item on their agenda: to repeal, replace or defund Obamacare. With Obama holding the veto pen, and the Senate still in the hands of Democrats, it will be mostly an exercise in futility. So, whatever happened to jobs and the national debt issues that truly dominated in the mid-terms?
There are risks in trying to kill Obamacare. Health care reform is still popular with nearly half of Americans. In the November exit polls, 48 percent wanted to repeal Obamacare but 47 percent did not. Many are beginning to realize the benefits of consumer protection from unfair insurance company practices.
Why do it, then? I suspect it is more than great political theater or keeping campaign promises or rallying the base for 2012 to unhorse Obama and his veto power.
Making Obamacare the main event will serve to bury a conflict within the Republican party itself. It is no wonder GOP candidates were vague about details of which programs they would cut, but they now will have to become specific. The tussle between Republican business interests and fiscal, small government tea party hawks is not going to be pretty.
To make good on promises to create jobs and reduce the debt, the GOP will have to make some tough calls that will step on many toes belonging to traditional supporters of the Republican Party: defense contractors, those benefiting from natural resources and agricultural subsidies, real estate professionals depending on bailouts of FHA, VA and other entities that now finance 95 percent of home mortgages issued today, seniors who treasure Social Security and Medicare, and earmarks. The two factions do agree on one issue: killing or crippling Obamacare. So long as the GOP focuses on that one issue, they can bury their intramural debates in the fog of health care debate No. 2.
Jobs and the economy are still the number one concern of voters. In polls, only 8 percent called health care a priority. Republicans are not deaf, so they are already framing their “kill Obamacare” agenda as a jobs/budget issue. Making this argument is going to be tough. It flies in the face of arithmetic. The Congressional Budget Office has already “scored” Obamacare as saving the federal treasury $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years. Replacing Obamacare with announced Republican replacement proposals has already been calculated by the CBO as saving much less than Obamacare. Defunding will only delay implementation and savings. Repealing without replacing will result in no savings.
Can repealing Obamacare be spun as a jobs issue? The exact net impact is debatable. Per http://www.Politifact.com, “The CBO concludes that requiring employers to offer health insurance will reduce employment, but the effect ‘would probably be small’.” The CBO conclusions were estimated even before the legislation exempting small businesses under 50 employees had been included.
The GOP claims current slow job creation is due to “uncertainties” surrounding Obamacare, but how could that be? Most of the reform is not even implemented until 2014. Besides, uncertainty is not an issue for small businesses, the fundamental job generator. They are already exempted from requirements to provide employee insurance now or later, with or without Obamacare. Making insurance accessible to 30 million additional people who will seek annual physicals, elder care, and care the rest of us enjoy will certainly open up many new jobs in the health care professions.
What Democrats need to do is to hammer home the job creation and debt reduction aspects of health care, promote their own versions of job creation/debt reduction, and not let the GOP escape some of the traps of cost cutting/debt reduction promises they set for themselves by being so vague in the mid-terms.