One of the crazier themes afloat is that Hillary, if she’s the nominee, will need to distance herself from the President, lest she be slammed as “four more years of Obama.”
Really? Like that would be bad?
Who wouldn’t want four more years of continuous private-sector job growth?
Of increasing energy independence, low energy prices, and ever more-competitive energy alternatives?
Of low inflation, healthy home prices, and falling foreclosures — and a Dow nearly triple its March, 2009 bottom?
Of record-high high school graduation rates?
Of the lowest health care inflation in more than 50 years?
That’s the one place — Obamacare — Republicans have succeeded at selling their negativity . . . because that’s the one place hard to measure.
Anyone can see what it costs to fill the gas tank, where the Dow is, or how many fewer servicemen and women are dying each week . . . all standards of performance that make Mitch McConnell’s ridiculous assertion — “by any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country” — entirely ludicrous.
(And entirely telling — but about McConnell, not Obama.)
Harder to assess is the success of the Affordable Care Act. People know that millions more are now covered — but how do they assess its impact on their own lives?
In some cases, it’s obvious — they’ve found something about it they hate; or (in other cases) it saved their lives. But for a great many people, it’s not as clear, and the 880,000 TV spots its opponents have spent $445 million to air since the law passed, to make it unpopular, have taken their toll.
Yet consider a key piece of Obamacare: It taxes a few to provide coverage, subsidies, and enhanced benefits for a great many.
That may or may not strike you as fair — a $380,000 surtax on every extra $10 million in dividends or capital gains you rake in, a $90,000 surtax on every extra $10 million in earned income — but it’s pretty hard to see it not being good for the 320 million of us who, for example, are more secure not having to worry we will someday lose coverage because of a lifetime cap or pre-existing condition.
(You can say fire insurance is worthless unless your house burns down — but most people recognize it’s valuable because their house might burn down. Well, the same here: You can say the removal of lifetime caps is worthless unless you or your kids are hit with some awful injury or disease — but people need to know it’s valuable because they might. How about spending $445 million on ads stressing that? Even more so with pre-existing conditions, which tens of millions of us already have and tens of millions more will surely develop.)
And there’s more. Obamacare provides incentives to improve efficiency and quality of outcomes going forward.
McAllen, Texas, used to be everything wrong with American health care. Not anymore.
. . . [Gawande’s] article ran in the summer of 2009, when Congress was in the throes of the health reform debate. And McAllen became a stand-in for everything wrong with American health care: doctors ordering more tests just for the heck of it, but not actually helping anyone get healthier. President Obama brought up the article in private meetings and public speeches. It was, as one headline put it, “The Texas Town at the Center of the Healthcare Debate.”
This year, Gawande went back to McAllen and found something surprising: in the aftermath of the article, the Texas city had dramatically reduced health spending. And nobody seems to have gotten any sicker; they just got rid of the care that wasn’t doing any good. . . . But this is also, in a way, a national story: as Gawande notes, Medicare spending has grown particularly slowly over the past five years. . . .
A good thing, no?
Also good that the free market is working, as per the Washington Post last fall:
. . . [T]he number of insurers offering coverage through the exchanges is set to increase by 25 percent next year. In some states, the number of participating insurers will double. For every insurer that has dropped out, five more have joined. . . . This increased competition should help keep premium hikes down, since as any free marketeer will tell you, that’s what competition does. . . .
And good that preventive care is now free and that the Medicare “doughnut” hole your beloved seniors have had to fill with their own cash will be closed by 2020.
Yes, Hillary or Bernie Sanders or whoever gets the Democratic nomination should, for sure, pledge to improve parts of the Affordable Care Act that need improvement. Let Medicare negotiate drug prices!
But the Republican approach, voting over and over to cancel the surtax and take away all the added coverage, benefits, and security it pays for — I doubt that’s what most voters want.
With unemployment already down to 5.4% versus the 6% Mitt Romney hoped to achieve by 2017 if we elected him . . . with the headline-dominating death toll of Ebola contracted here held to . . . zero . . . (and Liberia, thanks in part to our leadership, now declared Ebola-free) . . . with millions of LGBT Americans and their loved ones leading happier lives . . . with Pell grants up and bank profits removed from the federal student-loan programs . . . with a Credit Card Bill of Rights enacted and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched . . . with impediments to stem cell research lifted and progressive judges and Justices appointed . . . with Detroit thriving, Bin Laden dead, net neutrality preserved, a China climate agreement reached . . . and on and on and on . . . Democrats have a great deal to be proud of looking back on the Obama years — despite unprecedented Republican efforts to assure failure. Let’s trumpet that, not distance ourselves from it.
Okay. I’ll stop.
Four more years on this trajectory? Yes, please.
Quote of the Day
A penny saved may be a penny earned, but it's one boring penny. A penny invested, on the other hand, bounces around. It gets bigger one day, smaller the next. A bit player in the drama of global finance, that penny buys a guy a balcony seat in the theater of macroeconomics.~Susan Stewart
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