Henry Waxman made a plea Wednesday at the end of a House hearing grilling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The California Democrat asked Republicans to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats to improve Obamacare.
Yes, Henry Waxman, who has made a career of ideological witch hunts and smash-mouth partisanship, wants a cease-fire over Obamacare, or so he says.
He was picking up a common liberal theme: It’s not fair that Republicans continue to oppose the president’s eponymous health-care law and pick at its failures, deceits and irrationalities. If only they were more reasonable, Obamacare could be tightened up with a few technocratic fixes and go on to its glorious destiny.
It’s a little late to get Republican buy-in, though. That would have required serious compromise back in 2009, when Democrats, at the high tide of their power in the Obama era, saw no reason to make any.
They insisted on this particular law, at this particular time. They own it. They own every canceled policy, every rate increase, every unintended consequence and every unpopular intended consequence. It is theirs, lock, stock and two smoking barrels.
But they can’t stop whining. They complain that Republicans aren’t as cooperative as Democrats were when the Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan had a rocky start. This is absurd. The Part D website experienced what could be accurately described as “glitches,” rather than the meltdown of HealthCare.gov. And Democrats supported the basic idea of the prescription-drug benefit.
They complain that what they really wanted was single-payer, but had to settle for the unsatisfying second-best of Obamacare. Paul Krugman calls the health-care law “a clumsy, ugly structure that more or less deals with a problem, but in an inefficient way.” The reason they couldn’t get single-payer, though, is that there weren’t enough Democratic votes for it.
They complain that Republicans are refusing, in the words of Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent, “to have an actual debate about the law’s trade-offs.” This is especially rich given that the president has steadfastly refused to acknowledge any trade-offs, especially that some people will lose their current insurance and have to pay more in the exchanges.
The White House is loath to give up the falsity about everyone keeping their current insurance. White House aide Valerie Jarrett tweeted that it is a FACT that “nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.” Never mind that the entire architecture of the law is based on forcing people in the individual insurance market out of their existing plans and onto the exchanges.
In a health-care speech in Boston, President Barack Obama didn’t say anything about how his prior declarations had been misleading. Instead, he tweaked his dishonesty for a different positive spin: “For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.” Not if they are forced — as many of them will be — to buy benefits they don’t need at a price they don’t want to pay.
From the beginning, Obamacare has depended on a political ethic of doing and saying whatever is necessary. The falsehood about people keeping their coverage was essential to selling the legislation. So the president repeated it relentlessly. Now that actually allowing people to keep their current coverage would undermine a pillar of the law, the president will resist all efforts to make good on his famous promise.
Near the end of his Boston remarks, the president said, “If Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we’d make a lot of progress.”
Is that how we’d make a lot of progress? The president got his law, and it’s possible more people will be uninsured in 2014 than if it had never passed. That’s on him, no matter how much he and his supporters want to evade responsibility for their own achievement.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.