Krugman — Obamacare Here to Stay

From “One Reform, Indivisible,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“Start with the goal that almost everyone at least pretends to support:  giving Americans with pre-existing conditions access to health insurance.  Governments can, if they choose, require that insurance companies issue policies without regard to an individual’s medical history, ‘community rating,’ and some states, including New York, have done just that.  But we know what happens next:  many healthy people don’t buy insurance, leaving a relatively bad risk pool, leading to high premiums that drive out even more healthy people.

“To avoid this downward spiral, you need to induce healthy Americans to buy in; hence, the individual mandate, with a penalty for those who don’t purchase insurance.  Finally, since buying insurance could be a hardship for lower-income Americans, you need subsidies to make insurance affordable for all.

“Oh, there will be problems, especially in states where Republican governors and legislators are doing all they can to sabotage the implementation.  But the basic thrust of Obamacare is, as I’ve just explained, coherent and even fairly simple.  Moreover, all the early indications are that the law will, in fact, give millions of Americans who currently lack access to health insurance the coverage they need, while giving millions more a big break in their health care costs.  And because so many people will see clear benefits, health reform will prove irreversible.”

Obamacare Delay

The Obama Administration is delaying the mandate on businesses with at least 50 employees to provide health insurance or pay a penalty.  It was supposed to take effect next year and is being delayed until 2015.

The individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance or pay a penalty will still go into effect next year.

It seems to me the individual and business mandates should take effect at the same time.

The GOP is gloating, of course.

Too Much Daylight Between GOP and Mitt

David Axelrod on the split between the GOP’s arguing that the Obamacare mandate is a tax and the Romney campaign’s insisting that it’s not:

“So now, as the Republican Party and their SuperPacs try to depict this narrow, freeloader penalty, that would touch less than 1 percent of Americans, as a broad tax on the middle class, they’re sliming their own nominee, as well.”

Mitt Agrees with Obama

The Romney campaign says the Obamacare mandate is a penalty, not a tax.

So how can they run against Obama by screaming about the enormous tax increase on the middle class, which is the new overarching GOP strategy and theme?

Mitt is now aligned with the Prez and off-message with Fox News and his own party.

Roberts has painted Mittens into a corner by choosing the tax argument.

The GOP has painted itself into a corner by choosing  Mittens.

McConnell Leaves Mitt Twisting in the Wind

Senate Minority Leader Mitch (“Turtle”) McConnell emerged from his shell to appear on Fox News Sunday.  Chris Wallace asked him if the mandate in Obamacare is a tax ,why isn’t the mandate in Romneycare also a tax?

McConnell said, “I think Gov. Romney will have to speak for himself on what was done in Massachusetts.”

I would have said that it’s a Zen koan.

The GOP Wrapped in a Pretzel

The GOP/Fox News machine is twisting itself into a pretzel over the “mandate is a tax” part of the Obamacare decision.  They now effectively have their heads up their tushes.

First, they demonize Justice Roberts for calling the thing a tax.  It’s not a tax, he’s wrong, he’s evil, he’s a moron.

But then, in the next breath, they turn around and start campaigning against Obama for imposing this horrible new tax.  It is a tax.  It is, it is!  We are going to call it a tax every minute of every day from now till November.

So eight Supreme Court justices from both the left and the right agree that the mandate was purposefully written as a penalty and is not a tax.  The GOP and Fox say these justices have interpreted the Constitution correctly, but when President Obama says it’s not a tax, he’s no legal scholar, he’s a liar.

You can say it’s not a tax if your name is Antonin Scalia, but not if your name is Barack Hussein Obama.

Crocodile Tears Over Our Lost “Freedom”

Peggy Noonan’s latest column — “Obama Has a Good Day (But liberty has a bad one)” — complains that “The ruling strikes me as very bad for the atmosphere of freedom in our country.”

You know, that wonderful freedom to choose not to have health insurance, crash your motorcycle into a truck, and stick your fellow Americans with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills for your care.  I’m sure that’s what the Founding Fathers saw as the essence of freedom, a God-given right to be a burden and a free-loader.

The GOP’s betrayal of the individual mandate they loved for two decades is worthy of John Edwards.

If the individual mandate had become law under President Bush or a President McCain, we all know Noonan would have been cheer-leading in a column that read “The ruling strikes me as very good for the atmosphere of personal responsibility in our country.”

From Incentive to Tyranny

Mitt Romney, “Mr. President, what’s the rush?,” USA Today, July 30, 2009:

“No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts.

“Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank.  First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance.  Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.  This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar.”  Emphasis added.

So now Mitt sees the mandate as tyranny, the end to liberty as we know it.  But three years ago, it was just an ‘incentive’ to encourage personal responsibility, something Republicans are always yelling and screaming about as they seek to cut Medicaid and Schip and food stamps and extended unemployment benefits.

The GOP and Fox News are now ranting that Obamacare is a tax increase on every American.  In Massachusetts, only about 1% have chosen to pay the Romneycare tax for not having health insurance.  The CBO has estimated that about 4 million Americans will owe the tax, so less than 1% of the population.

Exactly how is a tax that 99% of the population won’t pay a tax increase on every American?


Quote of the Day

“This is a substantive win for the president.  There is no doubt, however, that the individual mandate is unpopular.  The president campaigned against it — it was, after all, a Republican idea.  Romney’s ability to capitalize on this politically will be limited by the fact that he signed the individual mandate as well.  Rick Santorum’s warning is coming true:  the GOP will nominate the only other person in America who has signed an individual mandate.  So Romney’s message is: ‘Vote against Obama; he signed a national version of my health care law!'”

Paul Begala, Dem pundit and strategist.

John Roberts, Profile in Courage

However you feel about Obamacare, today was an excellent day for our system of government.

John Roberts did his job.  The question before him was not whether or not he liked Obamacare, whether this was the law he would have written, but whether this law that Congress passed and the President signed is constitutional.

He found that it is, under Congress’ power to tax.

Back on March 26, I wrote that this might be the outcome, based on Roberts’ stance during oral arguments.  Opponents of  the individual mandate had sought to distinguish the mandate itself from the fine (or tax) that would be assessed, and Roberts rejected that distinction as ridiculous.

Roberts is getting a ton of grief from his fellow conservatives, but our Founding Fathers would be proud.  He did the right thing for the Court and the country.  I’ll be mad at him again, I’m sure, but today he has my respect and admiration.

Those of you who read my pieces know that I would have taken a different approach to health care reform from Obamacare, but I have never doubted that it is constitutional.  So I celebrate this result.