Today, the Supreme Court justices will take a vote on the fate of President Obama’s healthcare law. We won’t know the outcome until June. But based on how the oral arguments went, the law’s chances of survival seem much slimmer than they did just one week ago.
The administration has been insisting all week that they have no “Plan B” to put in place if the law gets struck down - saying they remain confident that it is constitutional. But rest assured, over the next two months they will be scrambling to come up with both a policy fix and a political strategy to handle what now seems like a very real possibility that it will be overturned.
If the law is found unconstitutional, the Republican line of attack is already clear. It will be framed as both an example of executive overreach and utter incompetence. Just as the president was “in over his head” when it came to the financial crisis, Republicans will argue, he didn’t know what he was doing on healthcare either. As conservative columnist Peggy Noonan puts it in The Wall Street Journal, “The constitutional law professor from the University of Chicago didn’t notice the centerpiece of his agenda was not constitutional? How did that happen?”
For their part, many Democrats have been arguing that an overturn might actually help the president politically - since the whole issue would lose much of its urgency for the GOP base. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, “There’s a significant school of thought that the administration is … in a better position for the election if it’s turned down.”
And Democratic strategist James Carville predicted on CNN that in the wake of an overturn, healthcare costs would skyrocket - and Republicans would then shoulder the blame for the problem. ”The Democrats are going to say, and it is completely justified, ‘We tried, we did something,’” Carville said. “The Republican Party will own the healthcare system for the foreseeable future.”
Still, that public shift in blame - if it happens - would likely be more of a long-term, rather than short-term effect. In the immediate aftermath, the Obama team will rely on a different line of defense, which can be summed up in two words: Mitt Romney.
As White House adviser David Plouffe put it last weekend on NBC’s Meet the Press, the likely Republican nominee is “the godfather of our healthcare plan.” It isn’t just Democrats making this case: Romney opponent Rick Santorum has been arguing throughout the primary fight that the Massachusetts law Romney put into effect as governor - which served as the model for Obamacare - makes Romney “uniquely disqualified” to run against the president on healthcare.
As we’ve already seen, Obama can employ Romney’s own words to defend key elements of Obamacare. Here’s Romney in 2007, talking about the need for an individual mandate (albeit at the state level):
“When [individuals who have chosen not to purchase insurance] show up at the hospital, they get care, they get free care, paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is. So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what, if people can afford to buy insurance, if they can afford to buy insurance, or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservatism…. [W]e rely on private market dynamics to get people in our state insured and for individuals to finally take responsibility for some portion of their health care rather than expecting government to give them a free ride.”
Romney has said repeatedly that he never believed the Massachusetts model should be employed at the federal level. So far, it’s been a difficult distinction for him to draw.
But if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, Romney will finally be handed one sharp, unequivocal contrast between his law and Obama’s: One was constitutional, while the other was not.
In fact, we can even conceive of Romney using his healthcare experience to then argue that he would be the ideal candidate to go in and clean up the policy mess that the Supreme Court decision may leave in its wake. That, of course, would take a certain amount of political deftness. We’ll see if Romney can rise to the occasion.
— Liz Marlantes
It took 16 debates, but on the 17th night Rick Santorum finally put the conservative case against Mitt Romney (and, to a lesser extent, Newt Gingrich’s) healthcare histories into a complete package.
This argument has two prongs, which Santorum laid out neatly:
Prong 1, on the politics: “And [Romney]’s going to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, ‘well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it.’”
Prong 2, on what’s right: “You’re arguing for a plan; you’re defending a plan that is top-down. It is not a free-market health care system. It is not bottom-up. It is prescriptive and government. It was the basis for Obamacare.”
The full transcript is below, with Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich’s remarks appended after the jump.
KING: Senator Santorum, you heard Governor Romney and you heard Speaker Gingrich. Do you trust them if one of them is the Republican party’s nominee and potentially the next president of the United States to repeal this?
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest — the biggest thing we have to do is elect a president. I think Newt’s right. The problem is that two of the people up here would be very difficult to elect on, I think, the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now, which is the robbing of our freedom because of Obamacare.
Governor Romney tells a very nice story about what his plan is now. It wasn’t his plan when he was in a position to do a plan. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he put forth Romneycare, which was not a bottom-up free market system. It was a government-run health care system that was the basis of Obamacare, and it has been an abject failure. And he has stood by it. He’s stood by the fact that it’s $8 billion more expensive…
… than under the current law. He stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country. It is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country.
Doctors — if you’re in the Massachusetts health care system, over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients — primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days on average for the care. It is an abject disaster. He’s standing by it. And he’s going to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it. And then…
… then we have Speaker Gingrich, who has been — who has been for an individual mandate, not back when the time that just was — Heritage was floating around in the ’90s, but as late as comments since 2008, just a few years ago.
He stood up and said that you should have an individual mandate or post $150,000 bond. How many $150,000 bond holders do we have here who can post a bond for their health insurance?
These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast that I do, who was the author of health savings accounts, which is the primary basis of every single conservative reform of health care.
I was the author of it back in 1991 and ‘92, 20 years ago. I’ve been fighting for health reform, private sector, bottom up, the way America works best, for 20 years, while these two guys were playing footise with the left.
National Journal puts America’s healthcare situation into stark relief. There’s much to be thankful for in American life today - but also a long way to go.
(You might also think of this next to American defense spending.)
What do the “99%” who the Occupy Wall St. (and elsewhere) protesters/sympathizers really care about?
Econoblogger Rortybomb parsed the text of the We Are the 99% Tumblr page - go and follow it now - to determine the major themes of the We Are the 99% submissions, which typically look something like this:
Here is Rortybomb’s knowledge:
This means the “We are the 99%”-ers are about a decade younger, on average, than your typical Tea Party sympathizer. Consider this chart from Gallup, done up in April 2010 and perhaps it isn’t a surprise that student loan debt is first up in terms of importance for We are the 99% but hasn’t even been touched by the Tea Party.
The constitutionality of the president’s signature healthcare law - which his Republican opponents have all vowed to overturn - may very well be decided by the justices this term. That means the decision could come out right in the heat of the presidential campaign.
(Of course, even if the law survives scrutiny by the Supreme Court, as analyst Charlie Cook recently wrote, it’s highly unlikely to survive if Republicans take over the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2012…)
You won’t find large-scale changes to entitlements in President Obama’s deficit reduction plan. What you will find, in big bold font:
The President will veto any bill that takes one dime from the Medicare benefits seniors rely on without asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.
That was reiterated by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in the moments after the president laid out his deficit reduction vision in the Rose Garden this morning.
Observers of the coming face-off over debt reduction and job creation would be wise to note the linkage between the biggest political shibboleth on the right - taxes - with the left’s top priority, entitlements. Remember, during the debt ceiling negotiations, President Obama drew criticism from liberals for signaling a willingness to compromise on changes to Medicare. This time, he’s drawn a clear line in the sand:
‘If you want entitlement reform,’ Obama’s essentially saying to the GOP, ‘you’d better be willing to give way on taxation.’
The race for bigger and better healthcare offerings - and their attendant jobs - as explained, Dr. Seuss-style, by NPR’s Marketplace. Decoder got wind of this video from The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, who originally saw it on the Washington Post’s Wonkbook.)
Consider: The August jobs report showing a net gain of zero jobs for the American economy (or, in Decoder’s analysis that adjusts for a workers’ strike, about 50,000 additional jobs) showed growth of 30,000 jobs in the healthcare sector. Over the last 12 months, the US added more than 300,000 healthcare jobs.