By Michael Adkins
Congressional Republicans spent seven years on meaningless votes to end Obamacare knowing they faced a presidential veto. Those efforts were merely for show for their base of supporters, who opposed anything with the name Obama attached to it.
Now without a veto concern — and after innumerable promises of an immediate repeal and replacement — congressional Republicans still could not repeal Obamacare. What does this failure tell us?
The most obvious lesson is that congressional Republicans are far better at opposing government than governing. It also reveals a serious, possibly fatal, schism within the GOP. As one Tea Party congressman said as he quit the Freedom Caucus, there are members of the caucus “who would vote against the Ten Commandments.”
Did anyone honestly believe Tea Party congressmen were going to replace Obamacare with any form of national health care? It goes against the grain of their anti-government philosophy. National healthcare involving private insurance companies requires a mandate for coverage or it will not work.
No Tea Party congressman will approve mandates. Such a plan would not succeed without subsidies, and no Tea Party congressman would approve subsidies for the poor.
Less conservative Republicans on the hill were rightly scared that passage of a health care plan that provided reduced benefits with greater out-of-pocket exposure and a reduction in the number of Americans covered would cost them re-election. That is exactly what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s plan has done. It is true that within 10 years, premiums would be reduced 10 percent, but that would have come only after initial premium increases, not to mention the reduced benefits.
To be blunt, the aims of the Ryan plan had little to do with health care. Its goals were twofold: reduction in the federal deficit and tax cuts for the wealthy. Ryan still doesn’t comprehend that the two aims are not compatible.
Columnist Dylan Matthews called the Ryan plan an “act of class warfare against the poor.” It offered tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy while passing the burdens on to the states, older persons, and the unhealthy. Subsidies would have been halved to the poor but increased for the wealthy.
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation declared that Ryan’s plan to repeal the 3.8 percent investment tax and the 0.9 percent Medicare payroll tax — both of which apply to persons earning $200,000 and up, or families earning at least $250,000 — would return to taxpayers an estimated $275 billion over 10 years with more than half that amount going to those earning $1 million annually.
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said the Ryan plan would give the top 10 percent of earners (those earning $772,000) a tax cut averaging $37,240. The top 0.1 percent would have received an average tax cut of $207,390.
How about Middle Class Mike and Mary? Earners making from $52,600 to $89,400 — the middle 20 percent of earners — would have seen tax cut of about $300, and the bottom 20 percent, $150.
You might be happy with $150 to $300 tax cuts, but not at the expense of higher deductibles and greater out-of-pocket expenses while receiving the benefit reductions allowed in the Ryan plan. The plan would have allowed insurance companies to charge baby boomers up to five times more in premiums than they would charge the young. The plan would have produced considerably higher deductibles that most Americans can ill afford, coupled with greatly higher copayments and a reduction in coverage.
President Trump, failing to meet his promise, is busy placing blame on the Democrats, Speaker Ryan and the Freedom Caucus. In his mind, his inability to lead the congressional Republicans was not a factor in the fiasco.
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.