Friday, July 12, 2013

A populist critique of Obamacare

Populism is a dirty word to many conservatives, but there is a difference between class warfare -- what many think of when they hear the word populism -- and attacking crony capitalism. The House GOP is going after Obamacare in the latter way. From National Journal:
The argument goes like this: By delaying last week a requirement that employers with a workforce of 50 or more offer their workers insurance, the White House gave a break to big business. But it isn’t granting a similar reprieve to ordinary Americans by postponing the law’s unpopular requirement that individuals obtain health insurance or face a fine. The approach, developed in the wake of the White House’s decision to delay implementing the employer mandate, is designed to force Democrats to take tough votes on the law that could be used against them in close 2014 elections. 
“The White House says it’s listening to the concerns of our nation’s businesses. But are they ignoring the voices of American families and taxpayers?” Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, asked at a Wednesday hearing. His remarks echo similar talking points from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. 
It’s unusual rhetorical territory for Republicans, who are frequently criticized for favoring business interests over those of people, a common theme in the 2012 Obama campaign. It’s even a quick switch on health care; in the weeks leading up to the administration’s announcement about the employer mandate, congressional Republicans were attacking the provision as one that stifled business growth and hiring. 
But the fairness argument could be a winner in next year’s races, says Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Any time a president is seen picking winners and losers is politically toxic,” she said.
(First, National Journal misses the mark on a couple of points. Most Republicans, and certaintly those elected since 2010, are not pro-business but pro-free enterprise. And the employer mandate would stifle business growth and hiring. House Republicans did not change their tune on that but rather the way the administration circumented Congress to delay it and the unfairness in granting businesses with large lobbying budgets a reprieve but not every American citizen.)

But I think this is exactly the right approach for the GOP. Acting and being seen as the party of markets and free enterprise -- ecschwing both big business and big government -- is not only the right policy but good politics as well. President Obama is no opponent of big business; he has worked with them on health care, on the auto bailouts, on financial regulation.

While I would prefer getting rid of Obamacare in one fell swoop, there is no chance of that until January 2017 at the earliest. Death by a thousand cuts -- or a few big ones -- is the way to go. And pushing the fact that this White House thinks that individual Americans should have to be forced to buy health insurance while businesses are exempt is a big cut.

And in other news, Nancy Pelosi is really, really confused.

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