The next few months - with the October 1 start of the FY14 budget and the projected $17 trillion debt limit breach by early November - will look like Crazy Season in Washington. With both sides in full political posture mode, two obvious paramount factors risk being obscured.
1. Obamacare will not be repealed.
The House has tried this 40 times; a dozen conservative Senators have stated their opinion; Republicans lacking in zeal are likely to face primary opponents. To some extent this is seen as the last hurrah with exchanges going into effect on January 1, but the election of Mitt Romney was the last real hope for preventing the carnage. It wouldn't matter if the Republicans shut down the government, the Senate will not pass a repeal and President Obama would certainly veto any major changes.
Contrary to the "inevitable march of socialist progress" view, that need not be the end of the story. A plurality of voters oppose Obamacare today. Over the next six months there will be increased insurance rates, chaotic state and federal run exchanges, chaotic data hubs to verify eligibility for subsidies, more patients with fewer doctors, more layoffs of 40 hour workers, refusal of young workers to buy insurance, and the imposition of tax penalties for high end employer-sponsored plans. Even the unions and congressional staffers are seeing the light.
But you can't beat something with nothing. Republican success requires winning the Senate and presidency, then instituting Plan B. In fact, campaigning on Plan B should be wildly popular if it keeps near universal coverage with minimum base level benefits, encouragement of individuals and companies to buy supplement plans as they choose, no prohibition on pre-existing conditions, an increase in nurse practitioners, ability to buy insurance across state lines, no mandated birth control and morning after pills, and a few other similar provisions.
2. Obama's Democrats have locked in the inflated spending levels from 2009-2010 when they controlled the House as well as the Senate and the Presidency.
Obama and Paul Krugman will continue to obscure the central fact that prior to 2008 federal government spending was under 20% of Gross Domestic Product; throughout the Obama presidency it has remained in the 23 - 24% level. The 2011 Sequester simply held the line. Paul Ryan's 2014 proposal would put us on a path toward a balanced budget in a decade and move back toward traditioinal federal spending levels; President Obama's would increase spending, taxes, and deficits.
In his latest round of speeches, Obama has bragged about reducing the deficit due to his prudent management, and adding millions of jobs. The reality is that the reduction to a deficit of $750 billion in 2013 is the result of hundreds of billions in tax increases and the sequestration which he proposed, then fought tooth and nail. His latest laundry list of new spending proposals - universal pre-school; more "infrastructure"; more "clean energy" subsidies and R&D - will not get past the House, but the status quo does not represent progress and deserves a fight.
As backdrop, Obama has moved on from blaming Bush for his financial failures to blaming the Republican House. The ongoing real 15% unemployment, the decline in wages, the anemic 1-2% GDP growth, the explosion of food stamps, the poverty of retirees living on bond income - none of it the result of his war on carbon-based energy, his antipathy toward small business ("you didn't build it"), his tax increases, his National Labor Relations Board decisions, his financial regulations, or any of his other aspect of his Left-wing agenda.
Fortunately the American voters get it, continuing to trust Republicans more on the economy, jobs, and taxes. John Boehner gets it. Reince Priebus gets it. Hopefully, they will be able to keep Republican focus on 2014 and 2016 when there is a potential to truly eliminate Obamacare, move toward a balanced budget, and reverse the spate of executive orders from the increasingly imperial president. That outcome is the Republicans' to lose.
This week's video is the view of conservative icon Charles Krauthammer on the tactics for defeating Obamacare.
bill bowen - 8/8/2013