It’s the Economy, Stupid. So Why Bother Attacking ObamaCare?

July 7th, 2012

By Dan Miller

ObamaCare has already hurt the economy and its effects will continue to worsen until repealed. To ignore ObamaCare would be like noticing only the coarseness of the rope with which one is being hung.

obama_weirdThe economy continues to be a festering mess.

The economy continues flailing about and has by no means improved as substantially as promised under President Obama’s “wise” (we are told) leadership. It is doing so even though his party had substantial majorities in both the House (256 Democrat vs. 175 Republican or 59.4 percent Democrat) and the Senate (51 Democrat vs. 41 Republican or 55.4 percent) from January of 2009 until January of 2011 and still retains control of the Senate. At least until January of last year, President Obama was able to push through legislation and did, including his “signature legislation” ObamaCare, pretty much on request. Among other disasters, ObamaCare included the “individual responsibility” medical insurance mandate which the Supreme Court on June 28th of this year deemed to be a tax rather than a penalty so that it could thereby deem it constitutional. Whether called a tax or a penalty, it remains a recipe for worsening economic calamities.

President Obama’s party also had control of the Congress during President Bush’s last two years in office. From January of 2007 until January of 2009,

The Democratic Party controlled a majority in both chambers for the first time since the end of the 103rd Congress in 1995. Although the Democrats held fewer than 50 Senate seats, they had an operational majority because the two independent senators caucused with the Democrats for organizational purposes. No Democratic-held seats had fallen to the Republican Party in the 2006 elections.

President Obama campaigned against the economic (and other) problems he attributed to President Bush and has continued to claim that the economy is still “Bush’s fault.” Yet as noted last year by Victor Davis Hanson,

to the degree that economists fault Bush for the financial meltdown of 2008, they have cited his excessive federal spending, government intrusion into the housing market, and chronic budget deficits — just those areas where Obama has trumped Bush and turned his misdemeanors into felonies.

Those “misdemeanors” were committed when the Democrat Party controlled the Congress.

In addition to telling us still to blame President Bush, President Obama’s administration has told us, for the last three years, not to “read too much” into monthly jobs data when they are bad. After three years, we (and President Obama as well) should pay substantial attention to them and to the undesirable cumulative trends they show. President Obama himself, along with his party, should also take “individual responsibility” for the dire economy rather than blame it on others.

On July 6th of this year, the United States’ employment situation remained “stagnant” at 8.2 percent — except that the percentage of Blacks worsened to 14.4 percent, for women it worsened to 8.0 percent and for Latinos it remained stagnant at 11 percentHowever, it’s worse even than that:

The real [overall] unemployment rate – the number that includes part time and discouraged workers – is now at 14.9%. That’s the highest it’s been in two years. It has also been the weakest quarter for job growth in two years.

And,

A record of 8,733,461 workers took federal disability insurance payments in June 2012, according to the Social Security Administration. That was up from 8,707,185 in May.

Even these figures understate the sad reality.

In May, the economy created just 69,000 jobs. The government has been in the habit of releasing a number and then later revising it down, so today’s 80,000 number may not stand for long. Economists expected 90,000 jobs to be created in June. A healthy economy would be expected to create north of 200,000 jobs.

Despite President Barack Obama’s claim Thursday that manufacturing is “coming back,” the US manufacturing sector actually shrunk in June. Retailers also reported a “stagnant” economic environment in June.

Time reports that one-third of the new June jobs are barely jobs, they’re at temp agencies. Retail, manufacturing and the housing sector all saw no job growth at all.

The president and the White House got their communications lines crossed in response to the numbers, with the president saying that they show a “step in the right direction” while the White House warned not to “read too much” into the June report. (Emphasis added)

Manufacturing is “coming back” and doing “just fine” in only one respect:

obama_manufacturing

obama_private_sectorSo the big issue is the economy, Stupid. What could ObamaCare possibly have to do with that? Plenty. Even though some five new or improved species of higher taxes are scheduled to go into effect due to ObamaCare after this year’s election, the impact is already being felt. With thirteen thousand pages of new Federal ObamaCare regulations already written and more on the way, the private sector that President Obama says is “doing fine” can have no reasonable humpty_dumptyexpectation of the degree of certainty needed to stimulate private investment, and therefore hiring as well, in order even to begin “doing fine” — assuming a definition of “fine” not created by the Roberts Court Humpty Dumpty or his apparent kinsman, President Obama. Neither can consumers have sufficient confidence in their own economic security to buy more of the goods and services they want and which would be offered by the private sector if it could offer them. The effects of such persistent lacks of confidence reinforce each other.

obamacare_costs

These new taxes, along with some significant tax breaks that may expire this year, will force more people to spend more money on things they don’t want to spend it on, leaving them less to spend on things they do want and that the private sector could and would provide in a more certain and better business environment. These problems will continue to fester and worsen as long as President Obama remains in office and gains “more flexibility” to do whatever he pleases.

However, the ObamaCare problems go well beyond additional taxes. President Obama said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.However,

Research continues to show that as many as 30 percent of employers will dump their employees from their existing health care coverage. The Administration itself has admitted that “as a practical matter, a majority of group health plans will lose their grandfather status by 2013.”

The linked article illustrates many other ways in which the public will face higher medical insurance costs, more limited options and declining medical service.

What should Governor Romney do?

Governor Romney should focus his campaign on the economy and on ObamaCare’s consequences for it. Due to ObamaCare’s substantial adverse impact on the economy, he does not need to choose between them. Too few in the media have provided even the highlights of the large and adverse impact that ObamaCare has already had and will have in the future unless repealed. Not only should Governor Romney emphasize these things, he must.

Should Governor Romney be concerned that ObamaCare and RomneyCare are fungible? Unlike ObamaCare under the Federal Constitution, enactment of Romney Care’s individual mandate was clearly within the constitutional regulatory authority of Massachusetts. Nor are RomneyCare and ObamaCare fungible in other respects. That point in particular should be emphasized. For example,

The Massachusetts law contained an individual mandate (which states, unlike the federal government, are allowed to impose). But it did not consist of 2,700 pages of new regulations; 159 new boards and commissions; more than $500 billion in new taxes (and counting); the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a rationing board whose decisions are unreviewable by the courts and practically untouchable by Congress itself; restrictions on religious liberty; Medicare cuts; affirmative-action mandates for medical and dental schools; huge new authority over one-seventh of the U.S. economy for the secretary of health and human services, and open-ended regulations of the way doctors and others perform their jobs.

Governor Romney vetoed major parts of it, such as

the employer mandate, coverage for illegal aliens, the creation of a new bureaucracy to be called the Public Health Council, a provision limiting improvements to Medicaid, and another provision expanding Medicaid coverage to include dental care. His vetoes were overridden.

Beyond that, a glance at the history of Romneycare in Massachusetts shows that Romney’s instincts and initiatives were for free-market reforms. An 85 percent Democratic legislature thwarted his best efforts, and a Democratic successor as governor twisted the law’s trajectory dramatically.

Before Romney’s time, Massachusetts had enacted a number of laws that made its health-care system needlessly expensive. All policies offered in the state were required to cover expensive treatments like substance-abuse counseling and infertility. In 1996, the state passed a law requiring “guaranteed issue” and “community rating” — meaning people could wait until they got sick to purchase health insurance. Naturally, rates skyrocketed. In addition, a 1986 federal law required hospital emergency rooms to treat all patients, regardless of ability to pay.

Romney’s idea was to permit Massachusetts insurers to sell catastrophic plans. As Avik Roy explained in Forbes, “Shorn of the costly mandates and restrictions originating in earlier state laws, these plans, called ‘Commonwealth Care Basic,’ could cost much less. Romney also proposed merging the non-group and small-group markets, so as to give individuals access to the more cost-effective plans available to small businesses.” Romney’s plan would also have involved a degree of cost sharing, so that those receiving subsidies would have an incentive to minimize their consumption.

Romney agreed to the mandate believing that Massachusetts citizens would get the opportunity to purchase inexpensive, catastrophic plans. But the legislature, together with Romney’s successor as governor, Deval Patrick, changed the law to require insurers to offer three tiers of coverage — all of them far beyond catastrophic care. Perhaps Romney ought to have foreseen what future legislatures and governors would do — but that’s a far cry from the accusation that Romneycare was indistinguishable from Obamacare. (Emphasis added.)

Governor Romney can and must explain these differences and must do so clearly yet simply. He can also explain his vision for Federal interventions in medical care as shown by the things he tried to bring — and tried not to have brought — to Massachusetts. Just as “it’s the economy, Stupid,” so it is imperative to “keep it simple, Stupid.” Whether the media, and therefore enough people, will pay attention is unknown. Perhaps if the points are made simply, clearly and often enough they will.

Nevertheless, the ObamaCare issue with the greatest “sex appeal” lies in its adverse economic effects; that is what Governor Romney should emphasize the most. In doing so, he should point out that President Obama has indeed been a transformational President; far too transformational in the wrong directions and hence far too damaging to the nation.

obama_work_done

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)


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2 Responses to “It’s the Economy, Stupid. So Why Bother Attacking ObamaCare?”



  1. Tom Carter |

    There’s no doubt that Romney has a good case to make in response to a number of the charges being thrown at him. On RomneyCare and Bain Capital in particular, the Democrats are at best twisting the facts and at worst outright lying. The problem, I think, is the ratio of words needed to fling the charges and words need to refute them. Most voters are too poorly informed to understand the counter-arguments: “RomneyCare is just like ObamaCare!” “Oh, yeah? Well here are the facts … yada yada yada….” Most people are either too ignorant or too biased to waste time listening to the facts, either because they’re too complicated or because they don’t care about facts (or both).

    Notwithstanding the power of incumbency, I think the election is Romney’s to lose. I think he should make a number of detailed speeches, accompanied by campaign literature, to explain the facts. Then he should reduce them to a number of bullet points that are easily understood and can be stated in less than a minute. Then use that to respond to questions on the campaign trail and, more importantly, to respond to Obama during debates. That could do him a lot of good, especially in the debates.

    On the other hand, Romney’s statements against Obama should be factually correct, leaving out even moderate distortion. There’s enough ammo to do that, and it leaves Obama without the same kind of opportunity to rationally refute them, especially in debates.


  2. Dan Miller |

    Thanks, Tom

    I agree, as I said in the post, that Governor Romney needs to keep it simple. Bullet points would probably work. Maybe they should not be explicitly in response to the ObamaCampaign charges; that appears to be defensive and only gives them more notice.


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