Barack Obama’s legacy is a series of ethics train wrecks of remarkable and depressing longevity. The oldest of them, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck. may never stop rolling, leaving destruction in its wake forever..
1. It is clear that the Republicans will not be able to repeal, undo, repair or reinvent Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, consistently with their rhetoric and the wishes of the thoroughly messed-up law’s abundant critics. The many bills passed by the GOP-controlled House to that end during the Obama Administration were grandstanding only: they passed because there was 100% certainty they would be vetoed. Now that such bills actually risk becoming law, Republicans are, reasonably enough, not willing to take the leap into the void.
2. The President has told Congress that if they are not prepared to deal with the repeal and replacement of the ACA now, he will move on to other priorities. This is entirely responsible, both politically and pragmatically. Passing a sweeping law in haste that will affect millions of Americans would be irresponsible.
3. This means, of course, that the President’s campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” “on Day One” was nonsense. On one hand, it was reasonable for him, or anyone, to assume that after seven years of complaining the party’s legislators had a viable plan ready to replace the affordable Care Act. On the other, it was dishonest to make such a pledge without ascertaining with certainty that what Candidate Trump was promising was within the realm of possibility. “Day One” is obvious hyperbole, but anyone making such a statement must assume that it will be widely interpreted as “before the next Ice Age,” and thus should not be uttered unless the pledge can be fulfilled eventually.
4. The Republicans cannot, however, as the President implies, simply allow the ACA to crash and then point to the Democrats saying “See? Told you so!” That is neither responsible nor ethical governance. It doesn’t matter that Democrats unethically, deceptively and worst of all, incompetently passed an over-hyped law and badly-conceived entitlement. The consequences of that botch have to be dealt with. Harm must be mitigated, and the duty to do that is bi-partisan.
5. Entitlements cannot be undone. The Democrats knew that. It is socialism’s great advantage. Once something is promised to a large number of citizens, it can’t be taken away unless a dire crisis is imminent. The crisis of exploding health care costs and the crisis of the out-of-control U.S debt are both dire, but not imminent enough to make undoing this latest entitlement politically feasible. Obamacare essentially made health care a right, in willful defiance of financial realities and without any acknowledgment of the need to stop rising costs and insist on personal accountability for health-affecting life-style choices.
6. It’s a national, bi-partisan problem now. If Republicans think they can benefit by emphasizing that Democrats got the nation into this mess and fiddling as the ACA burns, they are as stupid as they are incompetent.
7. The Democrats, and especially President Obama, have nothing to be smug about. The Affordable Care Act should stand as a cautionary tale warning of the consequences when massive, transformative laws are passed by one party without transparency, honesty, or humility.
8. When the ACA approaches collapse, as it will, the ethically responsible course for Republicans is uncertain, and perhaps non-existent.
9. Regarding Obamacare, then, the Republican Party is in Ethics Zugswang. No doubt Democrats consider this a great victory: true, health care is a mess, costs are still rising, and people who once could afford their insurance can’t… but more Americans are insured (even some who don’t want to be), and the GOP is stuck in the middle! Meanwhile, the country is stuck with rising health care costs, less consumer freedom, bad insurance plans, and unaffordable premiums.
10. Good job, everybody!