September 20, 2013

The Mad Hatter Goes To Washington

 There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.

Welcome to the Washington Tea Party, complete with its own Mad Hatters in the guise of forty or so Republican/Tea Party members of the House of Representatives who have forced Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on simultaneously providing funding to keep the government open, while stripping away money to implement portions of Obama’s health-care law. That is part of a one-two punch that may well knock out the government. The second blow will land in a few weeks when the House will put forth a similar proposal to delay Obamacare before granting expanded borrowing authority to the Treasury in the coming weeks.

The House has already voted forty times to defund all or part of the Affordable Care Act. Each time, the Senate has refused to go along, as it will this time. So why do they keep doing it? Wasn't it Einstein who said that madness is doing the same thing over and over and thinking you will get a different result?

Geesh. There is no way the Affordable Care Act is going to be defunded. Period. Leading Senate Republicans have already made that judgement. The language will be stripped from the Senate version and returned to the House for reconsideration. What happens then is when the real games begin. Some sort of deal will be cut. That's what politicians do. The Tea Party contingent says they won't accept another symbolic gesture. The smart money say they will. Once again, the political process will be a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

If I believed that Obamacare was as bad as they say it is, then I would let it take effect and go to the people in the next election cycle and ask them if they are better off now than they were before health care reform. If the facts have made the case for you, then the Senate will fall to to the Republicans and the bargaining center of gravity will have shifted decisively.

Of course, Social Security and Medicare faced the same criticism. There were cries of socialism and the end of the American dream as we know it. Now they are third rails that politicians refuse to touch. Will the same thing be true of Obamacare twenty years from now?

No on can answer that question, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds in a scenario where some states are 100 percent supporting the implementation of the law and some states states are 100 percent stymieing the implementation of the law. Could either Social Security or Medicare have survived the inevitable birth pains under such conditions?

The states are the laboratory of federalism. The fate of the Affordable Care Act in states such as California that are going all in and states such as Texas and Florida that are actively sabotaging the process will be fodder for many election cycles to come. As they would say in Las Vegas, "Place your bets and roll the dice."

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