August 22, 2014

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Obamacare as a political tool PDF Print E-mail

On May 9, I wrote that President Obama showed more interest in domestic policy than foreign affairs. That his hallmark and legacy depended upon “his domestic revolution to create a permanent progressive majority based on an entitlement based economy beholden to him and his successors. He has placed all his eggs in the basket of the Democratic Party becoming the perpetual landing site for immigrants, minorities, women, young people, and older Americans dependent on Social Security and Medicare. I waver about including Medicaid recipients in the permanent Democratic majority stew – hesitant because statistics show they are less likely to trudge to the polls and vote.” I no longer waver. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, is a not so subtle attempt to add this increased constituency to the pot.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), a record 70.4 million people, or about 22 percent of the population, were enrolled in the Medicaid health care program for the poor in fiscal year 2011. The record number of Medicaid enrollees in 2011 – the most recent year for which figures are available – reveal an ever-expanding Medicaid program. And this is before the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, which may add 16 million low-income Americans to the Medicaid trough. In Illinois, Medicaid expansion is expected to add 342,000 to the current roster of 2.7 million recipients.
From 2005 to 2011, total enrollees grew by more than 10 million people, going from 60.1 mil
million in 2011. Medicaid is the joint federal-state health care program for the poor that allows states to extend coverage beyond those who are in poverty. Recently, the Obamacare health reform law expanded Medicaid eligibility to those living on 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The poverty level annual income for a family of four is $23,000 – 133 percent of that would be $30,590. That expansion does not go into effect until 2014. According to CMMS statistics, Medicaid has been growing rapidly since 2008, going from 62.8 million total enrollees to 70.4 million in 2011. Prior to 2008, Medicaid rolls had remained relatively stable, going from 60.1 million in 2005 to just 60.9 million in 2007. While Medicaid rolls would be expected to rise during a recession, as they did in 2008 and 2009, the Great Recession supposedly ended in June 2009 and Medicaid rolls have expanded faster than during the 2005-2008 period. Is the reason because the Obama administration sees millions of new entitlers joining the hoped for Democratic permanent ascendency?
The Medicaid expansion added to Obama’s earlier increase in the food stamp program, one of the federal government’s biggest social welfare programs, helps many people who struggle to provide for themselves and families, but many recipients are deadbeats who are professional welfare system milkers. They will definitely vote “Democrat” since it is no secret Republicans would prefer scrubbing the welfare rolls of such characters and putting them to work even if it is flipping burgers part-time.
Enrollment for food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has increased 70 percent since 2008 to a record 47.8 million as of December 2012. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office thinks participation will rise again this year and dip only slightly in coming years. Analysts believe the biggest factor in the soaring rate “is a sluggish economy and a rising poverty rate. At the same time, many states have pushed to get more people to apply for SNAP, a program where the federal government picks up the tab.” Apparently, even Republican controlled states are unwittingly feeding fuel to Obama’s dreamed of progressive ascendency.
The problem with snowballing Medicaid, SNAP and welfare in general is the fundamental enabling of a permanent class of welfare recipients who are born, raised and breed the next generation in a subculture that seeks entitlement not employ-

ment. President Obama has seized upon the 1996 Clinton welfare overhaul that enabled states to ease asset and income tests for would-be participants with higher incomes and savings. The idea was to encourage people to join the food stamp program before they became destitute. That logic does not encourage development of a work ethic to inspire less well off Americans to rise in society as far as their talent and ambition allowed. That idea of upward social mobility highlighted Abraham Lincoln’s view of the role of government and the legal system in a democratic republic – enforce the rule of law to remove obstacles in the citizenry’s quest to better themselves. However, Obama’s redistribution of wealth, with the rich and workers paying for everyone else’s food and health care, is designed to further cozy the feathered nest of the sustained welfare subculture – which, he hopes will show their gratitude.
Again, of course not all welfare recipients are unworthy, but currently nearly one-fifth, 66.2 million people, of a population of approximately 317 million receive state cash-assistance, food stamps or unemployment insurance. Total government spending on welfare annually (not including food stamps or unemployment) is $131.9 billion.
The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger observed: “Barack Obama has dedicated his presidency to revising the internal political and economic order of the United States. He wants to create a permanent progressive majority.” Indeed, the president is not out to compromise on a grand bargain over the federal deficit and economy; he wants to “annihilate” the Republican Party and regain the House in the 2014 mid-term elections in order to push his agenda of entitlement expansion and cement the permanent Democratic control of Washington. The Vegas odds against Obama’s strategy are off the charts. No other president has retaken full control of congress in a mid-term election. Not only are the chances miniscule the Democrats can gain 17 House seats, or even hold their 10-seat Senate majority, the odds favor Republicans holding the House and getting another shot at replacing six Democrats to take control of the Senate. The chances of a permanent Democratic majority occurring during Obama’s second term are nil. America doesn’t work that way. Nothing is permanent in American government and politics except voters replacing failed Democrat legislatures, governorships and presidents with Republican candidates, then tiring of those administrations and bringing Democrats back to power to try again to right the ship of state. Neither party ever gets it “right.” But then humans aren’t perfect. As Abraham Lincoln recognized, the principle characteristic of human nature is survival – self-interest, which can readily descend to greed and hoarding of assets.
Speaking of self-interest, the tea party small government radicals in the House have been unmasked during the shutdown. They have miscalculated their strategy of not negotiating a debt-ceiling increase without defunding Obamacare. Many other Republicans realize the ACA is the law of the land and want to negotiate. Yet, “they were terrified to take on a movement that is fortified by money, energy and the backing of a bloviating brigade of talk-show hosts. The assumption was that the tea party had become invincible inside the GOP.” Wrong! Less extreme Republicans, establishment Republicans, are now filing for primary challenges to incumbent tea party members of Congress. Investment adviser Brian Ellis will challenge Rep. Justin Amash in central Michigan, and similar fights have taken shape in North Carolina, Tennessee and on the outskirts of Detroit.
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote on October 10: “The slowly building revolt among Republicans against the tea party shutdown is one sign of how quickly the hard right’s influence is fading. So is the language they are being required to speak. Having talked incessantly about how useless and destructive government can be, House Republicans are now testifying to their reverence for what government does for veterans, health research, sick children and lovers of national parks, especially war memorials. Appreciation for government increases when it’s no longer there.”
Conservative Republican business writer, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., of the Wall Street Journal wrote in the October 12-13 edition: “A secret of the tea party is that it’s largely made up of Medicare and Social Security recipients who revile ObamaCare – and food stamps, and Medicaid and other means-tested programs – as giveaways to the poor that threaten to crowd out funding for their programs of universal ‘earned’ entitlements.” So much for their vaunted anti-Federalist, pro-Jeffersonian vision of states rights domination of a weak federal government.
With the tea party quest for power and opposition to immigration reform seemingly fizzling, the president is concentrating on broadening the Democratic electoral base. Hispanics are an important Obama target in the ACA overhaul as they account for a third of people in the U.S. without health insurance. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded $150 million to community health centers around the country – many of which focus on serving Hispanics – for outreach and enrollment work.
Hispanics work, but the welfare subculture created since the 1960s is disturbing. The president’s health insurance plan, ACA, according to University of Chicago economics professor Casey B. Mulligan, “forces those who hire, work and produce to pay full price for health care, while creating generous discounts for practically everyone else. The second redistributionist wave of the Obama era will follow a first wave of tax hikes, additional unemployment benefits, food-stamp expansions, waived work requirements for welfare benefits, etc. These measures were supposed to be temporary, intended to help people cope with the recession. The recession officially ended in mid-2009, but many of the administration’s measures continue.
“Regardless of whether redistribution is achieved by collecting more taxes from families with high incomes, levying employment taxes on businesses, providing more subsidies to families with low incomes, or all the above, an essential consequence is the same: a reduction in the reward for working.” And it seems the president’s tactic in reducing the will to work is increasing the Democratic Party’s chances for a permanent progressive majority. The odds are against it.
Lincoln’s vision for America: “There is no permanent class of hired laborers amongst us. Twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer. The hired laborer of today labors on his own account today, and will hire others to labor for him tomorrow.”
However, Lincoln the realist recognized: “Wanting to work is so rare a merit, that it should be encouraged.”