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Why do Republicans Hate ObamaCare?

January 5, 2017

The orgy of destruction by the new Congress has already begun.  No sooner was the swearing-in ceremony over than the Republican majority grabbed for the axe to kill the Affordable Care Act.  There is nothing to stop them now, and no one has a clue what will happen when they are successful.

Yet one of the enduring mysteries of recent politics is why Republicans have been so single-mindedly determined to destroy the Affordable Care Act since its very inception.

After all, the ACA was famously copied from the program that Mitt Romney instituted when he was the Republican governor of Massachusetts, and the idea on which it was based was a product of the Republican-associated Heritage Foundation.  Yet when the ACA was passed by Congress in 2010, there was not a single Republican vote in its favor.  And Romney himself opposed the ACA when he ran for president in 2012, despite the evident success of “RomneyCare” in Massachusetts.

Except for the rocky roll-out of (the website for the federal insurance exchange for people living in Republican-controlled states that refused to set up their own exchanges), the program has been a considerable success.  There are now at least 17 million Americans who have health insurance because of the ACA, and there would have been millions more if most Republican-governed states had not rejected the expansion of Medicaid that was one of the pillars of the bill.  Both the costs of the program and premiums charged to the insured have been within parameters forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Moreover, according to the CBO, repealing the ACA would add close to a trillion dollars to the federal deficit over the next ten years.  Of course, the Republicans never give a damn about the deficit when they’re in charge, and only become deficit hawks when they’re out of power.  Remember how the Clinton-era budget surpluses vanished like a mirage under the George W. Bush administration?

None of this has made a dent in the implacable Republican determination to repeal the ACA.  Republicans simply assert that Obamacare has been a “disaster” or a “failure”, or they exaggerate the increase of premium costs without consideration of other reductions in medical care costs that the ACA has achieved.

There is, actually, a perverse economic rationale for repeal, but only if you buy into the GOP’s belief that it’s a good thing to shower big tax breaks on the wealthiest while shifting the burden to the poor.  According the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, repealing the ACA would take tax subsidies for the poorest Americans in order to give a tax reduction to the very rich.  The bottom 40 percent would see an effective reduction in their income, those in the middle (up to the 95th percentile) would be virtually unaffected, while the richest 5 percent would get almost all the benefits. For the very top 1 percent this would mean an average tax saving of about $32,000 a year.  Of course, Republicans never talk about that.


But the basic reason that Republicans hate the ACA is that it’s a government program. This offends their religious belief that government programs are evil (excepting the military or police, or programs that benefit their key constituencies like agricultural subsidies).  They believe that government does not work, and then they do everything possible to make sure that it doesn’t.  Evidence to the contrary, demonstrating that some programs are actually successful in improving the lives of millions, makes no difference.

For the same reason, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are once again in the Republicans’ crosshairs.

Finally, the fact that the ACA is President Obama’s proudest achievement means that it must be destroyed.  The shameless and unrelenting obstruction to anything associated with Obama and the shocking—and, let’s say it, racist—contempt and disrespect shown to him personally by Republican politicians remains outrageous.  It was the Republicans who mockingly applied the term “Obamacare” to the ACA, and it infuriated them that he had the political jiujitsu to make the label his own and turn it to advantage.  Now it’s the Republicans’ mission to obliterate his legacy.

Reconstruction gives way to Jim Crow.

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