I have to give President Obama credit for oratory mastery, in particular his ability to mislead the American sheeple into thinking he opposes that which he favors. The classic example is when Obama discusses “the failed policies of the past,” which leads many listeners to conclude that he actually opposed the substance the George W. Bush administration. Nothing could be further from the truth; Obama has been Bush on steroids.
From inadvisable heavy-handed new regulations on business, to expansion of the entitlement state, to massive deficits, to Keynesian “stimuli,” to bailouts, to dollar devaluation to “boost” exports, to crony capitalism, to war “surges,” to divisive partisanship, Obama has doubled down on Bush’s policies. “Anything Bush Could Do, I Can Do Worse” ought to be his reelection theme song.
So what has been the worst law that bears Obama’s signature? There certainly is no shortage of contenders.
The Stimulus Bill is an easy one to vie for to spot because it was such a colossal failure. Even the CBO acknowledges that the bill will harm the economy in the long term. At over $800 billion it was the largest appropriations bill in human history, and yes, it goosed GDP while it was running at full steam. But, once the dollars petered out, so did the bump to the numbers. A successful stimulus bill (theoretically) gives the economy a jump start. No such thing happened with the Stimulus Bill. And now we will pay interest on it until the end of U.S. history, or until we repudiate our debt, whichever comes first.
And of course, there is the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, a massive, 2000-page bill that no one read and no one understands. A bill the president signed months before his financial reform commission reported to him on the causes of the financial crisis the bill was designed to prevent. A bill meant to combat a mythical past threat (the purported “systemic risk” of a Lehman Brothers collapse). A bill that regulators cannot figure out how to implement. A bill that cemented the previously ad hoc policy of “too big to fail” into law. A bill that is choking community banks and small businesses. A bill that is leading to a further consolidation of the financial sector in the hands of a few mega banks. A bill that is making credit more expensive and less available to consumers, particularly in the lower and middle class. A bill for which the primary consequences have been both negative and unintended. A bill that is causing a massive die-off of polar bears. (All right, I made that one up…)
But, for as bad as the Stimulus Bill and Dodd-Frank have been, I have concluded that the Unaffordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) is the worst bill of the Obama leg of the Bushbama regime because it, a) will lead to a massive increase in health care costs for the average American family, and b) it has put us on the fast-track to a Greek-style debt crisis.
Regarding the first point, MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber, who was a key advisor to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on their namesake health care bills—and the one who claimed that the Unaffordable Care Act would lower health care premiums for American families—has had a dramatic change of heart. He was tasked by three states to determine the effect of the Unaffordable Care Act on residents, and he has concluded that 59% of the individual market will see a 31% increase in health care premiums as a result of the Act. For those of us who looked at the bill objectively, this report was a giant “duh” moment. And given Gruber’s philosophical support for the bill, however, 31% probably understates the hit that the average family will take.
For reasons that are unclear to me, Republicrats (both flavors) seem to have an unbridled contempt for the middle class. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” it is said. Would you like a side salad with your middle class family, Mr. President?
Regarding the deficit blowout from the Unaffordable Care Act, the CBO began revising the cost of the program upward before the ink was dry on the president’s signature. Astonishingly, there are folks out there still defending the UCA on budgetary grounds, even though none of its supposed funding mechanisms have actually come on line. The CLASS program, for example, was supposed to be a revenue-earner, but was ditched by Kathleen Sebelius because it was a huge money loser. Nonetheless, it hasn’t been formally repealed, so the CBO continues to score the program as a revenue source.
Similarly, the UCA was to be “paid for” in part by reducing or eliminating the “doc fix.” Has the doc fix gone away? Nope. Have any of the unspecified Medicare cuts been implemented? Nope. The UCA was supposed to be funded by rolling granny off the cliff for the benefit of the uninsured, but then the folks in Congress remembered that granny has more time to go to the polls. (See the chart here that shows Medicare cuts as the largest fiscal component of the UCA fiscal scheme.)
Getting to the fiscal side of the equation, everyone knows that Medicare is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room that is set to destroy the country; even the president, who generally has a poor grasp of the obvious. And, as Peter Suderman explained here, Medicare is the leading cause of runaway health care costs in the U.S. Did the UCA do anything to address the root causes of the Medicare spending blowout? Of course not, the UCA was simply piled on top of the already-failing program.
Undoubtedly there are those who will still believe the fictitious projections spit out by the CBO that show the UCA lowering deficits. After all, there are those who watch Finding Bigfoot and expect the cast to capture real footage of a live Sasquatch. But here in the real world, the UCA will be another gaping hole in the hull of the sinking U.S. fiscal ship. Like Social Security, Medicare (and all its lettered subparts), and Medicaid, the cost overruns for the Unaffordable Care Act will begin on Day One of operation. Indeed, the revenue failure has already begun, as stated above.
So in my opinion, of all the legislative atrocities committed during Bush 3 Obama 1 to date, the Unaffordable Care Act is the worst. Between blowing a hole in the deficit and burdening middle class families with huge health care insurance premium increases, the UCA is a disaster.
The Stimulus Bill was a failure, but its harm is known and contained; we’ll pay interest on it forever. Dodd-Frank may yet surprise and have greater harmful consequences than the UCA, but right now it appears that large chunks of the bill will go unimplemented because bureaucrats can’t figure out how to make it work.
So for the moment, the Unaffordable Care Act looks like the worst law signed during Obama’s first term, and quite possibly this century.
This article is also published at The Country Thinker.