In a Sunday interview on Fox News, a supporter of Obamacare parroted the current liberal line that if the Supreme Court were to side with the plaintiffs in the upcoming case of King v. Burwell thousands of Americans will die.
The King case, in which oral arguments will be heard on Wednesday, challenges the ability of the IRS to provide tax subsidies to Americans who purchase health insurance through the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, because the clear language of the Affordable Care Act states that subsidies are only available in “an exchange established by the state.” Jonathan Gruber told us that the language was crafted intentionally to force states to create exchanges; it was not, as some have tried to claim, a “drafting error.”
An amicus brief to the Court from a group of “public health” academics argues with remarkable specificity that “a decision striking down the IRS rule… can be expected to translate into over 9,800 additional deaths annually.” The statists at the Center for American Progress note a “slightly less grim” method that “suggests that approximately 8,000 people will die every year if the King plaintiffs prevail.”
Given the ignorance of the American people when it comes to little things like liberty, the Constitution, and economics, some of this fear-mongering might actually sink into the minds of citizens.
The hope that similar fear will seep into the thinking of at least one Supreme Court justice is the reason that the Obama administration is so explicit about not having a backup plan should the Court rule against it in King.
Instead of buying into the fear, Americans should be asking a more fundamental question: How is such a situation even theoretically possible in a free country?
After all, the liberals’ argument amounts to this: Government has made health insurance so unaffordable that you might die unless you let government steal someone else’s money on your behalf.
Do middle-class Americans want to be part of such a fundamentally corrupt scheme? Or, more accurately, would they if they understood it? (The middle class is the proper focus here because the poor already qualify for Medicaid and are much less impacted by Obamacare.)
Are middle-class Americans unable to afford their auto insurance or life insurance without having to enlist government to commit what Bastiat called “legal plunder”?
No, there’s a thriving, efficient, and affordable market for each of these things because they are so much less regulated than health insurance. For that product, government adds costly mandates (including dozens of items that healthcare providers must offer for “free”) and prevents interstate competition.
There’s a reason you can name so many different companies that advertise for your car or life insurance business (at least four of them advertised during the 2015 Super Bowl), but I bet you can’t think of the last time you saw a television ad for a health insurer. Why should they spend money on marketing when government has created an oligopoly for them? And if a company doesn’t need to advertise to get you as a customer, just how much do you think they’ll care about you when they have you?
You can buy insurance for your car or home or business or life anytime you want — literally any hour of any day. But if you go to Healthcare.gov today, you’re told that “Open Enrollment is over. See if you can still get coverage.”
Seriously? American consumers need to see if they can “still get” health insurance without waiting for another year?
Have we really come to this?
This is a situation that could only have been created by politicians and bureaucrats. Americans should be furious, and some are.
But not enough. Because too many have come to believe, without even knowing they have, that the nine most terrifying words in the English language — I’m from the government and I’m here to help — are actually a promise that government intends to keep. But government won’t deliver because it can’t — it has all the wrong incentives — even if it bankrupts us both economically and morally in the effort.
Many people — whether interested in expanding government or insufficiently confident that Americans don’t thrive on the basis of bureaucratic diktats — look to a government solution where government is the problem. It’s like a medieval doctor saying that a patient who is not recovering after a prescribed bloodletting just needs to be bled some more.
Part of the reason that so many Americans have become little different from European-style social Democrats is that the Republican Party is such a colossal failure at making strong and winning arguments in defense of rational policy and fundamental liberty — even when they have the advantage of arguing against a law that remains unpopular with the American people.
A recent article for The Hill says that “Republican fears are mounting” over the possibility that the Supreme Court might rule that the Obamacare law must be enforced based on the actual words in the act.
Does the GOP believe that after just months of an overtly socialist health insurance regime, Americans are so addicted to other people’s money (and we know what happens with that, right?) that we will revolt against those who save us from the travesty of Obamacare even though that’s what we elected them to do?
Some Republican governors seem to be considering caving in to the ACA’s extortion and creating a state exchange if the plaintiffs win in King. It is worth noting, and it’s noted far too infrequently, that such a ruling would also end the employer mandate in those states without state-based exchanges, giving employers the ability to hire more people and pay people more, something weak-kneed GOP governors would do well to keep in mind.
The Hill says that a verdict requiring the government to enact the law as it is clearly written (a ruling that would be inevitable in a less politically charged case) would “put the Obama administration on the offense for the first time.”
Have we really come to this?
Two and a half times as many Americans say they’ve been hurt by Obamacare as helped by it. Two and a half times as many Americans view the law very unfavorably as compared to very favorably. According to Rasmussen Reports, “Voters who say the law has changed their health insurance view the law even more unfavorably: just 28% have favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 71% view the law unfavorably.” Opposition to Obamacare was largely responsible for Republicans’ historic win in the 2010 midterms and boosted conservatives again in 2014. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 was arguably due to his being the single worst-positioned Republican to argue against Obamacare.
And Republicans are now afraid of winning?
We can hope that these GOP worries are little more than the projections of a liberal reporter who has been part of the fear-mongering on behalf of Obamacare.
But it’s just as likely that Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, is right when he says that Senate Republicans leaders “really don’t have any backbone” and are “scared to death to be painted as mean.” Cuccinelli pointed out, as any good game theorist would, “If you’re the president, that is awfully easy to deal with.”
Few people have the courage of the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain, who argues convincingly that even in the unlikely event that the liberal argument about some number of deaths resulting from the repeal of Obamacare were correct,
In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals — including more cash for other programs, such as those that help the poor; less government coercion and more individual liberty; more health-care choice for consumers, allowing them to find plans that better fit their needs; more money for taxpayers to spend themselves; and less federal health-care spending. This opinion is not immoral. Such choices are inevitable. They are made all the time.
Frankly, although this is the right answer, it may not be the best politically. For those Republicans who don’t have Mr. Strain’s cojones, at least the ability to explain to Americans that Obamacare is terrible policy for a range of reasons (a few of the best arguments are here, here, and here) would seem the least they could do to repay those who elected them to office.
Mix in a credible GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, even if the replacement is something less than a perfect free-market solution, and it would be — as it should be — Democrats who fear for their political lives.
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