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Health Care Reform Was Not About the Economy for Voters

Americans needed a life preserver.

Charlie Cook made the rather unconventional point that Democrats suffered from President Obama’s rather poor handling economy in 2009, but Jonathan Bernstein took issue with this assessment. Bernstein’s defense of Obama I think is worth mentioning mainly because he is accidentally highlighting what was Democrats’ big problem. From Bloomberg View:

6. The stimulus package, Detroit bailout and other Obama efforts galvanized the Tea Party and ended any Republican approval for the new president.

7. Democrats in the White House and Congress kept working on the economy after that.

8. Obama sent the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to Congress in June 2009, and they both worked on it for the next year. That’s about the economy!

9. Obamacare is about the economy, too. Health security is a big part of economic security. It is mostly working as intended.

When voters in the middle of one of the worse downturns in decades say they want their leaders to “focus on the economy,” they mean the immediate economy. They need help with their underwater mortgages that month. They need immediate relief to help pay their bills and find new jobs.

Voters are not talking about bank regulations that will be slowly phased in over the next several years, or a reform to the health care insurance industry that wasn’t even designed to start providing tangible benefits for half a decade, or trying to build “confidence” with a long-term grand bargain to bring GDP to debt ratio down over the next 30 years.

People were drowning and needed a life preserver. Democrats’ plan to help was planting a tree so that in a few years they could cut it down and carve a canoe for themselves. Even the the too-small stimulus law, which was supposed to be about providing short-term relief, spent much of its money in more long-term ways, like encouraging the adoption of electronic health records over several years.

At the very least, almost every supporter of the health care law should acknowledge in hindsight that the political focus was a huge mistake. Democrats could have used the law to provide a second round of immediate stimulus and relief by, for example, expanding Medicaid right away. Instead, they delayed the planned help for years because they chose instead to make the focus on getting a CBO 10 year score that said they law was deficit reducing and under $900 billion. I can’t see how anyone thinks this was a politically smart move given that after all the work polling shows the majority of Americans think the CBO actually concluded the opposite.

Photo by Christopher Irwin under Creative Commons license

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Health Care Reform Was Not About the Economy for Voters

Americans needed a life preserver.

Charlie Cook made the rather unconventional point that Democrats suffered from President Obama’s rather poor handling economy in 2009, but Jonathan Bernstein took issue with this assessment. Bernstein’s defense of Obama I think is worth mentioning mainly because he is accidentally highlighting what was Democrats’ big problem. From Bloomberg View:

6. The stimulus package, Detroit bailout and other Obama efforts galvanized the Tea Party and ended any Republican approval for the new president.

7. Democrats in the White House and Congress kept working on the economy after that.

8. Obama sent the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to Congress in June 2009, and they both worked on it for the next year. That’s about the economy!

9. Obamacare is about the economy, too. Health security is a big part of economic security. It is mostly working as intended.

When voters in the middle of one of the worst downturns in decades say they want their leaders to “focus on the economy,” they mean the immediate economy. They needed help with their underwater mortgages that month. They needed immediate relief to help pay their bills and find new jobs.

Voters are not talking about bank regulations that will be slowly phased in over the next several years, or a reform to the health care insurance industry that wasn’t even designed to start providing tangible benefits for half a decade, or trying to build “confidence” with a long-term grand bargain to bring GDP to debt ratio down over the next 30 years.

People were drowning and needed a life preserver. Democrats’ plan to help was planting a tree so that in a few years they could cut it down and carve a canoe for themselves. Even the the too-small stimulus law, which was supposed to be about providing short-term relief, spent much of its money in more long-term ways, like encouraging the adoption of electronic health records over several years.

At the very least, almost every supporter of the health care law should acknowledge in hindsight that the political focus was a huge mistake. Democrats could have used the law to provide a second round of immediate stimulus and relief by, for example, expanding Medicaid right away. Instead, they delayed the planned help for years because they chose instead to make the focus on getting a CBO 10 year score that said they law was deficit reducing and under $900 billion. I can’t see how anyone thinks this was a politically smart move given that after all the work polling shows the majority of Americans think the CBO actually concluded the opposite. (more…)

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