The Land of the Free, the Brave; the Misled
Late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a very, VERY controversial decision on the constitutionality of a healthcare law provision called ‘The Individual Mandate.’ To the unschooled, this simply meant that everyone in the U.S. was compelled to have health insurance coverage. If you could afford to buy coverage but chose not to buy anyone of the different packages available in the private insurance market, then you would be penalized. The Supreme Court’s 9 justices deliberated whether the U.S. Congress could actually force people to buy insurance for their own general health and safety. Eventually, based on the Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion, the individual mandate and thus, the entire healthcare law – infamously termed ‘Obamacare’ was constitutional. Many in the political arena and even those in private business had made prognostications. If Obamacare had been struck down in this election year, President Barack Obama, healthcare’s chief proponent, would, probably, have lost his bid for reelection in November 2012. On the other hand, the fact that a conservative judge – Chief Justice Roberts in this case – sided with the 4 liberal justices to give a liberal president victory was too much to bear for many conservative activists and politicians.
For one thing, if Obamacare had been ruled unconstitutional, Obama would have had a much harder time making the case for reelection. After all, he had spent more than a year marshaling his often recalcitrant fellow Democrats into the historical legislative process. And it was a difficult process, indeed. Against the headwinds from a Republican and conservative onslaught of negativity and legislative anti maneuvers, the extra headache the new president received from his own party was exactly like herding cats. This was not the case for the conservatives. Leaders in the Senate and House were able to whip their colleagues into shape. The message was that Obamacare meant ‘socialism’ and ‘government take over of healthcare.’ In the middle of a recession where many were unemployed, many did not understand why Obama would go right ahead to fight for healthcare reform and yet he could have stuck to working on growing the economy.
But the heart of the matter is that Obama had made promises to the American people when he run for election between 2007 and 2008. Despite warnings from his colleagues and staff, Obama went big and reached for history that had eluded almost all his Democratic and Republican predecessors. His most recent Democratic colleague Bill Clinton had crushed and burned with ‘Hillarycare’ between 1994 and 1995. Before that, Carter had not even tried to work on healthcare and the last major reform in the U.S. had been under George W. Bush in 2003. Simply, Obama did what many former presidents had not done. He had gotten his people to enact legislation that provided coverage to more than 30 million people who did not have it. These 30 million or more people were making it more expensive for everyone else since they just showed up at different emergency rooms when they fell sick. In America, you cannot be turned away simply because you do not have insurance and so poor people waited until they were at the cusp of death to go to the doctor. There, they were treated and because someone had to pay for their services, the cost was transferred to those who diligently paid their bills. Private insurance companies who control the bulk of America’s health looked at their bottom lines and basically jerked up the insurance rates year in and year out. They also rejected anyone who had the modicum of a disease before they were insured. If you had what they termed ‘a preexisting condition,’ you were on your own. In essence, in the richest country of the world, you could, literally, become bankrupted because you were sick.
This paper gives this long preamble to a complex thing as reductively as it can. Healthcare is very complex. It is connected to the overall economy and Obama, his people and predecessors – including Republican administrations – had all tried to look at the issue of the uninsured and all, until Obama, had failed to find the resources to get healthcare passed. Obama did it – and in the process, he managed to piss off the majority of those opposed to his presidency. Of course, Republicans calculated that any victory for a Democratic president would mean less of a chance for their ideas ever winning the White House. Bush II had, for 8 years done what many a Republican would have done and this resulted in a depression reminiscent of the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s. If a Democratic regime rescued the country, this would, politically, be Armageddon for the Republicans.
And so they called Obamacare ‘socialized medicine.’ They accused Obama of trying to transform America into failed European states like Greece. They [The Republicans] said that Obama was going to saddle America’s precious children with debt for years and years to come. And many Americans believed the efficient Republicans. In extrapolation, Obama – that Great Communicator – lost the communication war. He allowed his overall good legislation to be painted as bad for the people. Republicans even said that Obamacare had death panels – a group of bureaucrats who would decide who lived and who died. Almost all these things were sheer, bloody lies. But the land of the free and the brave is also home to some of the most gullible people in the world. And there is no doubt in our collective mind that they were misled by the party out of office. Most Americans believe that they are turning into Greece; they believe that Obamacare is going to affect their patient – doctor relationship; and most of all, they think that there is socialism waiting for them around each corner.
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