Republicans announced that the United States Senate will vote this week on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. I doubt it, but it they do it will fail. The Senate may then vote on just the repeal of Obamacare. Again I doubt it, but if they do it will fail by an even larger margin. They will fail for two reasons.
First, the Republicans have made the same mistake as the Democrats did in enacting Obamacare. They have assumed that healthcare coverage can only be solved at the federal level and that there is only one solution for everyone – one size fits all. Obamacare has demonstrated what a monumental mistake that is.
This is a diverse country. The responses to welfare programs such as those contained in Obamacare vary significantly across America and it is these welfare programs that are at the heart of the collapse of Obamacare and the disagreement as to its replacement. (The welfare programs consist primarily of expanded Medicaid eligibility funded by taxpayer resources, premium subsidies for individual plans funded by a combination of taxpayers resources and surcharges, and unnecessary mandated coverage forcing individuals to pay for coverage they neither need nor want – for instance a thirty year old single male does not need pregnancy coverage and a fifty year old woman does not need prostate coverage and yet both are required by Obamacare.)
An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that there is a societal responsibility to care for the poor, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. There is greater disagreement as to the role of government in addressing that responsibility. However, what constitutes the poor, the elderly, the sick and the disabled varies enormously – often by state, more often by local jurisdiction.
“Poverty” in the backwaters of Mississippi differs significantly from poverty in New York City and that differs from poverty in Portland. The definition of poverty often is more dependent on the willingness of those in power to spend other people’s money than the actual state of deprivation of the recipients. There is a reason that the “poor” migrate towards liberal bastions such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Easy access to welfare creates a huge incentive for not just the poor, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, but also the cheats, the malingerers, and the indolent.
The conditions under which those who are poor, elderly, sick and disabled should be entitled to welfare benefits – like Obamacare – likewise differ greatly by state and even more so by local jurisdiction. Some areas believe that there should be requirements for work – including community work – for the able-bodied receiving welfare payments. Some areas believe there should be stricter scrutiny of those claiming disabilities. Some areas believe that sustained access to welfare promotes generational dependency and time limits should apply. And some areas believe that residence status should be asked and checked with regard to those who receive welfare payments.
These regional and local differences account, in part, for the failure of the Republicans to coalesce around a replacement bill. And these regional and local differences are precisely why imposition of healthcare coverage at a federal level is inappropriate. The only value to a “federal” solution is the ability of the government to spread the cost of any such plan across a broader population than can any state – sometimes size does matter.
A far better method would be to allow the states to craft their own healthcare coverage solutions with federally funded block grants and income tax credits available to offset the cost of coverage to the poor, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Such a plan would allow each state to define eligibility, duration, and coverage. Voters are much more likely to hold state and local officials accountable for their decisions on healthcare coverage than they will for congressional members – or for that matter, members of the permanent federal bureaucracy who control these programs without having to participate in them. (This would seem to be a perfect solution for Republican congressional members who seem to spend most of their time trying to avoid responsibility for difficult decisions.)
Second, at a congressional level there really is no Republican Party. It’s more like a dining club than anything else. The only thing the members – particularly members of the United States Senate – have in common is a card that says “Republican” and which entitles them to be in each other’s company. There are no core beliefs. There are no commitments of support for each other – or even a majority of the others. There is no deference for expertise – each Republican senator thinks that he or she is the smartest person on Earth and that only he or she has to the solution to any given problem – more likely that they don’t have a solution at all but everyone else’s solution must necessarily be wrong. They embrace the concept that perfect is the enemy of good and, therefore, nothing can progress unless it is perfect.
The only time that they can be said to be in concert is when they are opposing a plan constructed by the Democrats – particularly if they know that there opposition will not succeed. Thus for seven years the Republicans have run their mouths about repealing and replacing Obamacare safe in the knowledge that as long as President Obama was in office or one of the houses of Congress was under the control of the Democrats, their big talk wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans – well, other than being a good campaign slogan. They would not have to accept responsibility for their actions because their actions would be for naught.
Even in the 2016 election when Mr. Obama could not be re-elected, the Republicans were so sure that Hillary Clinton was going to beat President Donald Trump, that they continued to run their mouths assured that they would never be called on to succeed. You would have thought that someone – anyone – with a lick of sense in the mainstream media might have asked the Republicans that if they were going to “repeal and replace” Obamacare what is it that would “replace” it. Of course the mainstream media never bothered because they, like the Republican elites, assumed that Ms. Clinton would win and the Republicans could continue whining instead of legislating. As a result there never was a plan because they never thought they would have to have one. Every Republican senator had a plan and none of them could draw more than a half-dozen votes – most of them couldn’t withstand five minutes of superficial scrutiny. In a Senate caucus meeting, the Republican members cannot even agree on directions to the bathroom. It is the sound of their own voices that make them crazy.
With the exception of preventing the Democrats from gaining control of Congress, there is simply no good reason to return an incumbent Republican member to the House or the Senate.
What this country needs is a new party. A party consisting of mainstreet businessmen and women, working men and women (including private sector unions representing skilled trades), farmers and ranchers, educators who have rejected the public employee and teachers unions and most importantly the large body of legal immigrants who now represent the pursuit of the American dream – they are the ones who work hard, sacrifice greatly, take risks and focus on a better life for their children. The country does not need a party dominated by people on the extreme edges or addlepated by a single issue. It needs people who are dedicated to getting something done. Were I Mr. Trump I would kiss the current set of losers good-bye and get started on a new party by eschewing political ideology and focusing on solving the long list of problems confronting the nation. He could find substantial help in current and former governors like Bobby Jindahl (R-LA), Rick Perry (R-TX), Scott Walker (R-WI), and Ted Schwinden (D-MT) or former and current Senators like Jim Webb (D-VA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and John Kyl (R-AZ). Add to that Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Jack Welch – forget party affiliations, these men and women are problem solvers.
Young and old, the people of American have become disillusioned with the federal government as it has evolved – securing its own power and comfort in lieu of solving problems. And they have soured even more over a media that they now know deliberately slants and withholds news coverage in pursuit of its own liberal/progressive values. A democratic government succeeds only by the voluntary compliance of its citizens. When you destroy the faith of those citizens in the politicians and the media, you greatly endanger the continuity of the government.