The Second Obamacare Election

Obamacare by from The Weekly Standard, October 27, 2014

A Gallup survey earlier this month showing that Americans oppose Obamacare by a margin of 53 to 41 percent was  the 150th poll listed by Real Clear Politics during President Obama’s second term to find Obamacare unpopular. The number that found it to be popular was zero.

The mainstream media, meanwhile, seemingly operating in an alternative universe, think that Obamacare is here to stay. Politico writes, “Deep down, Republicans who know health care know the truth: Obamacare isn’t about to be repealed. .  .  . [T]hink of the last time a major social program was repealed after three enrollment seasons, with millions of people getting benefits. That’s right—it hasn’t happened.”

But to conclude that the track record of major social programs indicates that Obamacare cannot be repealed requires historical cluelessness. Social Security passed the House with 92 percent of the vote (365 in favor, 30 opposed). Medicare and Medicaid (which were voted on together) passed the House with 73 percent of the vote (307 in favor, 116 opposed). Obamacare passed the House with 50.8 percent of the vote (219 in favor, 212 opposed). Moreover, support for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid was bipartisan. House Republicans backed Social Security by 81 to 15. House Republicans backed Medicare and Medicaid by 70 to 68. House Republicans opposed Obamacare by 178 to 0.

There’s a big difference between major social programs that passed the House with majority support from both parties and majority support from the citizenry and a major social program passed by the House over the unanimous opposition of one of the two parties and the clear opposition of a majority of the citizenry—opposition that (at least in the case of the citizenry) remains every bit as strong an Olympiad later.

A recent McLaughlin & Associates poll found that, by a 12-point margin (44 to 32 percent), likely voters preferred “a conservative alternative that aims to lower health costs and help people get insurance” to keeping Obamacare “either in its current form or in amended form.” (An additional 16 percent wanted Obamacare to be “repealed but not replaced with an alternative.”) Earlier this month, a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll asked likely Iowa voters whether they’d prefer to “repeal Obamacare” or “leave Obamacare largely the way it is.” Repeal won, 55 to 39 percent.

This combination of popular opposition and elite denial has helped set the stage for the second Obamacare election.

The first was, of course, the mid-term election of 2010, when the Democrats—seven months after they had passed “health reform”—got a “shellacking,” to use Obama’s word. They lost 63 House seats and the majority—the first time those two things happened in tandem since the 1800s. The 2012 election provided a brief hiatus from Obamacare. Confronted with a slate of presidential candidates that included only one sitting governor or senator, Republican primary voters reluctantly chose a nominee who, of all the prominent Republicans in the country, was probably the least able or willing to make Obamacare an issue—having himself spearheaded somewhat similar legislation in his own state. Exit polling found the voters opposed to Obamacare, but both candidates’ determination to de-emphasize the issue mitigated its importance in deciding the outcome.

Promptly thereafter, and well before the badly bungled rollout of, Obamacare resumed its rightful place as the principal issue of the day—and the 2014 election is being driven in large part by Americans’ opposition to it and everything it stands for. Obamacare is the symbol of big government, political arrogance, and federal largesse. According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, Republicans and their allies have run more than 70,000 anti-Obamacare ads in this year’s Senate races—more than on jobs, taxes, and social issues combined.

Liberals like to pretend this election isn’t about Obamacare, but one wonders what they think it is about. It’s not as if voters clearly blame their economic woes more on Democrats than on Republicans. President Obama’s approval rating is in the low-40s, but why would that be? Aside from a brief uptick after his reelection, his job approval has rarely cleared 50 percent since he signed Obamacare into law. Obama himself has said that his “policies are on the ballot” this fall, but is there any doubt which one is his centerpiece policy?

A second major rebuke of Obama would be historic—and might even suggest he’s “on the wrong side of history.” If the Republicans take the Senate, Obama will be the first president since Woodrow Wilson to lose the House in one election and the Senate in another. Obama has already blown a 77-seat advantage in the House. He now seems poised to blow a 10-seat advantage in the Senate. If he does, Obamacare will have been the main reason for both defeats.

So, why do Americans reject Obamacare? In large part, it’s because they knew from the start that almost nothing they were being told about it was true. And time has borne out their good instincts.

Obama and his Democratic allies manipulated the Congressional Budget Office scoring process and announced to the American people that Obamacare would cost less than $1 trillion over a decade. At the time the Senate passed the bill, the CBO said Obamacare would cost $871 billion. At the time of the House vote, it said it would cost $938 billion. This February, it said it would cost $2 trillion.

Using that same CBO process, Obama and his Democratic allies told the public that a 2,700-page legislative effort to provide taxpayer-subsidized insurance for tens of millions of uninsured people would—presto!—reduce federal deficits. At the time of the Senate vote, the CBO said Obamacare would reduce deficits by $132 billion. The CBO hasn’t updated that figure since the summer of 2012, but a new analysis by Senate Budget Committee staff, using new CBO projections for things like Obamacare’s effect on labor markets, now finds that Obamacare will increase deficits by $131 billion.

Obama and his Democratic allies told Americans that Obamacare’s subsidies wouldn’t fund abortion. The Government Accountability Office now says that more than 1,000 Obamacare plans cover abortion-on-demand. In five states, every Obamacare plan covers abortion-on-demand.

Obama and his Democratic allies said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” Since then, Obamacare has taken away millions of people’s health plans.

Obama and his Democratic allies said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.” But of the millions who lost their plans, many have lost their doctors as well—and Obamacare’s doctor networks are notoriously narrow.

Right before the House vote, the CBO said Obamacare would reduce the number of uninsured people by 19 million as of 2014. The actual number is elusive, but most estimates are in the ballpark of 7 to 11 million net newly insured, meaning Obamacare may not have hit even half its target.

The president said, “I .  .  . have a health care plan that would save the average family $2,500 on their premiums,” and many of his Democratic allies echoed the claim. But even before the Senate voted on Obamacare, the CBO said that, by 2016, premiums for the average family in the individual market would be $2,100—or 16 percent—higher under Obamacare than in the absence of Obamacare. Many Americans are already experiencing such spikes, or worse ones, firsthand.

Obama and his Democratic allies said Obamacare would be good for the economy. But the 62 months since Obama launched the Obamacare debate in earnest (with his speech to the American Medical Association in June 2009) have been the 62 worst months in the past 30 years in terms of the percentage of eligible Americans who are working. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ own numbers for the employment-population ratio.

And that’s without even mentioning Obamacare’s unprecedented individual mandate—long its most unpopular provision—which compels private American citizens, for the first time in U.S. history, to buy a product or service of the federal government’s choosing. It’s without mentioning the Independent Payment Advisory Board, Obamacare’s unelected, quasi-legislative, largely unaccountable, and blatantly unconstitutional Medicare rationing arm. And it’s without mentioning Obamacare’s $700 billion raid on Medicare, its war on religious charities, or the dangerous presidential lawlessness it has spawned.

What the American people have wanted for more than four years is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a conservative alternative. That’s what they’ll tell Washington once again this November 4.

Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the 2017 Project.

 © 2014 Weekly Standard LLC. Reprinted with permission.