Friday, June 29, 2012

Their Biggest Fear

Out of all the tantrums and spluttering we heard from the Republicans yesterday after the Supreme Court upheld the healthcare law, the theme was the same: money. The individual mandate is now a tax, says the Court, and the Republicans are saying “Ah ha! Obama’s raising your taxes to pay for Obamacare!” Setting aside the fact that it only applies to those people who do not voluntarily comply with the law by getting health insurance, and unlike evading the IRS, there’s no criminal penalty, it’s interesting and very telling that all the Republicans can talk about is money. They say it will cost trillions (it won’t), and they say we’ll all pay more (the opposite is true). It’s all about the dough. You’d think it was the only thing in the world that mattered to them, and they have done little to disprove it.

But there’s more to it than that. It’s that the Affordable Care Act does good things for a lot of people. The Republicans fought it tooth and nail not because they don’t want a lot of people to have insurance — they’re not all evil — but because they’re not going to get any credit for it. And worse for them, President Obama will. So they did the one thing they are really good at: they demonized the bill and took it to court once it passed.

And it worked…up to a point. The lies and the boogedy-boogedy stories about death panels and rationing they ginned up made people afraid of the law, and the law is unpopular with a slight majority of the population… until you tell them what’s actually in it. Then they love it. They like the idea of getting health insurance that isn’t tied to a job. They like the idea of no pre-existing condition limits. They like the idea of keeping kids on their parents’ insurance to age 26. And 30 million people like it that they’ll now be able to get insured. That’s why conservatives are really against the law: it helps a lot of people, and the government did something good; two things that are incompatible with their philosophy of self-reliance and smaller government. (Unless you have a uterus or you’re gay. Then all bets are off.)

In reality, the biggest fear the Republicans have about the Affordable Care Act is that those 30 million people who can now get health insurance, and those people who can now get it even if they have a pre-existing condition, or changed jobs, or who fell into the Medicare doughnut hole, will remember in November who it was that tried all the way to the Supreme Court to take it away from them. It would be a very good idea if President Obama and the Democratic Party would remind them of that every chance they get.