America’s health-care morass is now entwined with the president’s credibility crisis, and neither shows any signs of abating.
Documents released last week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee once again demonstrate the administration knew that the Obamacare signup system was a disaster in the making but still had the audacity to roll it out. Two late September emails from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tell the story.
A September 26 email stated, “the results are not good and not consistent at all.” A September 27 email likewise depicted pending failure: “The scripts are failing so far due to issues like load balancing, inefficient and defective code, and inefficient queries. We have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications without income verification.”
As Bob Schieffer put it on Sunday, “every day there just seems to be some new mind boggling development about the problems with Obamacare . . . There’s now evidence that people in the White House, including the President, were briefed months before the program started that there were some flaws here.”
Yet only earlier this month, Obama told Americans, “We would not have rolled out something knowing very well that it wasn’t going to work the way it was supposed to, given all the scrutiny that we knew was going to be on the website.” Really?
Obama’s credibility is in free fall as the gap between presidential rhetoric and reality grows ever greater. Americans are already living through Obama’s promise that “if you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance.” Now, we are about to find out that “No matter how we reform health care. . .we will keep this promise: if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period,” was at best wishful thinking, and outright deception at worst.
Not surprisingly, America is losing patience with Obamacare and Obama. Support for Obamacare steadily leaches out, with nearly three in five Americans now opposing the President's eponymous achievement. Can you really blame House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for saying that she always called Obamacare the Affordable Care Act? Failure is an orphan.
But even more damaging than the public’s loss of confidence in Obamacare is America’s growing distrust of the President’s integrity and competence. Half the country thinks of him as less than truthful. Obama’s approval rating is 40 percent, his disapproval is 55 percent, and his base is unhappy.
Women (53 percent) and suburbanites (58 percent) now disapprove of him, according to the latest CNN poll. To put things in context, Obama won 55 percent of the women’s vote and captured America’s suburbs, as he bested Mitt Romney. If the presidential election were held today, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll reported that Romney would have his revenge. Clearly, 2013 is Obama’s annus horribilis, his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Indeed, 2014 doesn’t look much brighter as the Democrats head into the midterm elections. Growing hostility toward Obamacare will present an even more serious problem for Obama and the Democrats, and their upstairs-downstairs brand of coalition politics.
From the start, Obamacare was premised upon a wealth transfer from the Republican base to America’s poor and minority communities, much as the Obamans have tried to hide this fact. As Thomas Edsall of Columbia’s School of Journalism explained, “the Affordable Care Act can be construed as a transfer of benefits from Medicare, which serves an overwhelmingly white population of the elderly—77 percent of recipients are white—to Obamacare, which will serve a population that is 54.7 percent minority.” Over a decade, the ACA stands to slash $455 billion from Medicare budget to help pay for Obamacare.
Recently, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the third-ranking Democrat in the House, was only slightly more forthright about the demographics that underpin Obamacare. On CNN, Clyburn acknowledged that Obamacare was an attempt to change America’s “value system.”
Still, coming from Clyburn, that’s a huge admission. According to Double Down, the campaign recap by Time’s Mark Halperin and New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, Clyburn is one of the few members of the House whom Obama respects.
The redistributive impulse that is Obamacare wreaked havoc in the 2010 midterms and may do so again. Already, the Senate seat being vacated by Montana Democrat Max Baucus looks as if it will fall into Republican hands. Rep. Steve Daines leads prospective Democratic challengers by at least 15 points as they vie to replace Baucus.
For the record, it was Baucus who shepherded Obamacare through the Senate, together with Jim Messina, Baucus’s former chief of staff, Obama’s senior White House aide, and reelection campaign honcho. Obamacare was their baby, too, and to his credit it was Baucus who warned that Obamacare could become a train wreck.
Yet, the Obamans, including Messina, never treated Obamacare to the same hands-on attention they gave the president’s reelection campaign. Messina busily stroked Google and Silicon Valley for Obama 2012; Obamacare, not so much.
The Economist summed it up like this: “a man with little interest in details and a disdain for business, Obama tried to impose a gigantic change on the whole country all at once and far too casually.” Obama’s cool and Obamacare’s failure may have seriously damaging consequences for the Democrats.
Upscale America will likely go Republican in 2014, just as it did in 2010 and 2012. Yes, wealthier Americans voted Democratic in 2008, but that was a protest against Bush and his war.
Still, all this might be manageable for Team Obama, except for one thing—middle America now has a real bone to pick with the President. Nationwide, Obama’s approval is lowest in the Midwest (36 percent). Even the South likes him better. And unlike the South, the Midwest went for Obama, not Romney.
Apparently, nobody likes being left for road kill, treated like the canary in the coal mine, stripped of their health insurance, or losing their doctor. Especially when the president promised them otherwise, and especially when it’s about America changing its values system.