The summer of ObamaCare, avoidance, and our discontent
Goodbye, summer. And good riddance.
Say goodbye to summer, and with it, another three months squandered by our do-nothing political leaders.
Please try and contain your surprise. And as a loyal [insert name of your political party], I'm sure you'll agree that all the blame belongs to [insert name of the other party].
In many ways this was another summer of ObamaCare, much as 2009 was. (Though this time around, ObamaCare is the law of the land.) The president's gargantuan health-care-plan law began springing leaks earlier this summer, much to the delight of House Republicans, who have now voted and failed 40 times to repeal it. That's a lot more votes than they've held on jobs bills, by the way. And before all is said and done, they may vote another 40 times.
Both sides have ammo here. "If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it," Obama said umpteen times in 2009 and 2010. Oh? Then why, so far, are 12 percent of companies dropping spouses from their employees' health-care plans? The biggest one to date, UPS, said last week that it will dump 15,000 spouses to offset what it expects will be a 4 percent rise in health-care costs because of the new law.
On the other hand, Democrats point to the fact that 15 million young Americans have now enrolled in their parents' health-care plans. Guess what? Two thirds of them admit they are Republicans. As Rick Perry might say: Oops.
Implausibly, this was also the summer of impeachment, or at least cries for it from the far right, which is convinced that the president has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" worthy of being removed from office. Yawn. There have been calls to impeach every president since Ronald Reagan. Republicans who spend their time on this reveal their narrow-minded pettiness and bankruptcy of ideas. But it plays well to like-minded folks back in the home district. The impeach-now crowd are just birthers in a different set of clothing.
It was also the summer of avoidance. Despite both Democrats and Republicans stressing the urgency of dealing with the budget, even hinting of a "grand bargain," they haven't done a thing. The government has no budget for its 2014 fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1. The $16.7 trillion debt ceiling will probably be hit by the middle of that month, much sooner than expected. The sequester — which, among other things, is literally taking food out of the mouths of poor children and the elderly — is scheduled to continue.
What happens if there's no budget deal? You've heard the apocalyptic scenarios before: The government won't be able to pay its bills and could shut down, or default on its debt obligations. This is no big deal if you don't mind paying higher interest rates for mortgages, car loans, and credit cards, and it's no big deal if you're fine seeing your 401(k) and other investments plunge. At least that's what happened two years ago when we last went to the brink.
Ah, but Congress and the president have a whole month to work this out, don't they? Not really. President Obama may be back from his eight-day break on Martha's Vineyard, but Congress doesn't come back from its 35-day summer recess (not to be confused with its long Memorial Day and Fourth of July breaks) until Sept. 9.
That means there are just eight or nine working days to resolve all this — and both sides seem completely dug in and further apart than ever. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told CNBC this week that he and President Obama won't even negotiate over raising the debt ceiling. And here's where ObamaCare comes into play yet again. Some GOP bomb-throwers are linking a hike in the debt ceiling to a defunding of the health-care law. This actually plays into the hands of the White House. It can say GOP militants are content driving interest rates up and crashing your retirement account just to score political points. Both sides know that no matter what the House GOP does on ObamaCare, the Senate won't go along. But why let reality get in the way of a slick talking point?
Finally, this was the summer of our discontent. The number of Americans who say the country is on the wrong track is the highest it has been in a year. President Obama's approval ratings are now at 20-month lows — just 44 percent, says the Real Clear Politics poll average. But if you think that's bad, try being a senator or congressman. They're down to just a 15 percent (clearly friends and family) approval rating, with 77 percent disapproving. Americans are clearly sick of the spin, the excuses, and the finger-pointing peddled by each side.