The GOP punditocracy's fear of winning

Operation Husky, July-August 1943. Group of smiling Italian prisoners, trudging into a small town near Messina, Sicily, behind hastily rigged flags of surrender. U.S. Army Photograph. via the Library of Congress. Public Domain. Accession #: LC-USZ62-98976

Italian SurrenderYesterday, my colleague Aaron Gardner noted the proposal made by Townhall contributor Guy Benson that the GOP declare defeat on Obamacare and call it a day just in case the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies for most Americans.


Aaron hits the main points cleanly, the 2010 and 2014 elections have been a clear indication from the American people have rejected Obama’s leadership, they have not voted for divided government

Yes, it is true that the President did win reelection in 2012, but he did so without a clear mandate and having actually lost many voters who voted for him in 2008. This capitulation is totally uncalled for and a primary reason why the American people remain skeptical of GOP governance.

Republicans have been giving the House and the Senate, now is the time to use our majorities, force the issues, hold press conferences with those hurt by Obamacare every day, until the Democrats are forced to relent from the pressure applied to them by the public.

Benson’s proposal is a violation of the principle of “don’t negotiate with yourself.” Benson’s real fear is that Obama will lose the upcoming Supreme Court case on subsidies for federal exchanges:

But let’s fast forward a bit to next June and entertain a hypothetical scenario that could very well become reality. Let’s say the Supreme Court reads the text of Obamacare as written and determines that it means what it says: Only consumers in states that set up their own exchanges are eligible for taxpayer subsidies. The immediate consequence would be that most Obamacare consumers, who live in the majority of states that declined to do so, would be denied sizable tax credits that offset the law’s high costs, because that’s what the law requires — as written and rammed through by Democrats.


In Benson’s view, this would be disastrous:

Millions of lower-income people will suddenly face shockingly, prohibitively high costs, and they’ll be stuck either trying to pay the full freight, or dropping out of coverage. This would be a human tragedy.

There are excellent policy and political reasons why we should ignore the impulse to “do something.”


Repeal and replace is a slogan. It is not a policy. There is absolutely no reason to think that a comprehensive bill offered by the GOP, and according to Benson one is in the works under the guidance of [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] and [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ], would be a whit better than Obamacare. (Just remember this and we will visit it again later.)

On the issues of subsidies, does Benson really think it makes sense for the GOP to do a fix Obamacare that involves creating a larger class of Americans dependent upon government subsidies and then, at some future date, attempt to take those subsidies away?

The only feasible way to handle the problem is to go back to the status quo ante, let the system reestablish and equilibrium and move forward with small proposals that are focused on outcomes rather than process. The one thing the Obamacare fiasco has shown is that the US health care system is too vast to be radically changed, especially in the dead of the night under the guidance of lobbyists and amoral zealots like Jonathan Gruber, without a tsunami of unintended consequences. This should be an object lesson, as well, for those who are yammering about “comprehensive immigration reform.”



The overriding question that Benson evades is why we would want to go into the 2016 election with a GOP version of Obamacare being debated.

The fact of the matter is that if SCOTUS does invalidate subsidies for federal exchanges, it isn’t incumbent to do anything. It is incumbent upon Obama and HHS to propose a legislative fix. There should be hearings on the impact of no subsidies (a human tragedy? Really?) and of the administrations proposed fixes. And we need these hearings to focus on the duplicity of the Obama administration and Jonathan Gruber and ensure that all negotiations for “fixes” are held in open session, ideally televised on C-SPAN. The last thing we need as we head into a presidential election is a shoot-from-the-hip GOP solution to roil the waters for our presidential candidate.

Back to the Rubio-Ryan “repeal and replace” bill that is allegedly in the works. While Benson wrings his hands over how the media will react:

As a result, the Left would instantly jump all over Republicans in Congress, demanding a “simple fix” to the problematic “typo.” All the GOP has to do, they’d argue, is pass a one-sentence bill clarifying that Americans who obtain coverage through are eligible for subsidies. Are these heartless, nihilistic, mean-spirited Republicans really willing to actively hurt so many low-income people in order to once again demonstrate their hatred of the president? That will be their indignant narrative, and the media will go along with it.


What he fails to acknowledge is that a replacement bill will not solve that problem. In fact, the media narrative will still be heartless Republicans killing grandma just for grins. What a replacement bill offers them is a piñata to smack around while they are demanding the “simple fix.” In fact, a replacement bill makes handling the politics much more difficult.

The fix to the subsidy issue is a repeal of Obamacare that Obama can either sign or not.

This will be an issue in the 2016 campaign but it will be a completely different issue from our candidate being put in the position of attacking or defending a bill (the alleged Rubio-Ryan) effort that he has had no hand in crafting.
By the same token, we have a large House majority and a Senate majority because the voters have had it with Obamacare. It is difficult to see how campaigning on saving Obamacare so that it can limp on to poison a GOP presidential administration makes much sense.

But all of this is premature. As Calvin Coolidge said

If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.

What Benson is doing is panicking at the first inclination of trouble. A Supreme Court decision is some eight months in the future. A lot of damage can be done to Obamacare in the meantime. The last thing we should be doing is trying to find ways of propping it up.




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