Political Physics: How You Like Me Now?
a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland
Last night as I watched the historic health care vote come to a triumphant end. I thought to myself that the President and Vice President Biden should have played Kool Moe Dee’s “How You Like Me Now,” over the loud speaker as he walked into the press conference.
I can just picture President Obama, decked out in a black kango hat, black shades and black leather jacket…
“…I’m no phony, I’m the only real micaroni…”
Kool Moe Dee and Ted Kennedy would have been proud. I know I was!
In a vote of 219 to 212, the Democrats passed a major health care reform package that would start phasing in expanded coverage, consumer protections, business tax credits, and aid to the elderly as early as this calendar year. About 32 million people without insurance would get coverage in the first 10 years (about half of them through Medicaid) and more reasonably-priced insurance options for individuals and small businesses would become available in 2014. And most importantly, lower income people would receive subsidies to make coverage affordable.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pegs the cost of the bill at $940 billion over ten years, however they assert that the bill will not add to the already staggering federal deficit. In fact, the CBO contends that the bill will reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first 10 years and by $1.2 trillion in its second decade.
According to PoliticsDaily.Com, “Democrats are paying for the bill with higher payroll taxes on the wealthy, an excise tax on very expensive health plans starting in 2018, savings in hospital and drug costs under Medicare, elimination of subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that are more expensive than regular Medicare, and a grab-bag of incentives, research, and pilot programs aimed at producing care that’s more effective, efficient, and coordinated.”
The passage of this bill was truly historic. U.S. efforts to achieve universal coverage began with Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900’s. According to Wiki, during the Great Depression in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to include publicly funded health care programs as part of his Social Security legislation. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) as well as state local affiliates of the AMA attacked these reforms as “compulsory health insurance.” Roosevelt ended up removing the health care provisions from the bill in 1935. Fear of organized medicine’s opposition to universal health care became standard for decades after the 1930’s. That fear would continue to thwart the health care reform attempts of Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, sent out an email message that read, “This moment in our nation’s history has been very long in coming. Like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights laws in the past, today’s vote will forever be a threshold moment for the nation. Generations to come will look back to this day as one where the American dream was more fully realized.”
And during his speech after the vote, President Obama said, “In the end what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American dream.”
Indeed, the vote on health care reform last night after nearly 100 years of trial and error was truly historic for President Obama and the Democratic Party.
But it was also more personal than that for President Obama.
With pundits across all the various news networks focusing on how his approval rating had dropped to 46%, predicting massive losses for the Democrats during the upcoming mid-term elections and some saying this his presidency was on “life support,” yesterday marked a critical moment in time for President Obama. A successful Obama Presidency was clearly linked to the successful passage of health care reform. If the bill had not passed, then his ability to govern over the next two and a half years would have been severely hampered. This was a make or break moment for the Obama Administration, for the Democratic Party and for President Obama personally.
In fact, an article in Reuters contended that “the [health care] bill’s failure would have left the Democrats weakened and divided, under a president and congressional leaders who could not push through a top domestic policy priority even while enjoying big majorities in both the House and Senate.” And in an article on Times.Com, Pablo Martinez Monsivals ties it even more closely to the president’s personal credibility. “If the President fails to win the upcoming series of congressional votes that are designed to get health care legislation to his desk, it will be a calamitous failure for his presidency and for him personally…”
The implications of the fate of the health care reform legislation to Obama’s presidency was clear to the President, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Tea Party, etc. — which is another reason why the successful passage of this legislation is so significant.
In today’s NY Times, Peter Wehner, a former political advisor to President Bush, noted that “[At least] in the short term Obama will get a boost, because the narrative is that he came back from the dead and got done what no president has managed to do in 70 years.” Now Wehner goes on to stress that this boost will be short-lived, the key point remains that President Obama survived what some thought was unsurvivable.
And now with health care as the wind in his sails, he is poised to continue his legacy of change. As further noted in Reuters, “The healthcare victory provides a resounding denunciation to critics who had termed him a ditherer with little to show for 14 months in office…it could give him momentum on a range of other signature causes, including job creation bills, his proposed financial regulatory package, immigration reform and climate change.”
In the end only time will tell. A few months ago I thought health care reform was a lost cause and I was disappointed at the incredible backlash and in some cases hatred being directed toward our President. Today, though I remain disappointed at the incredible backlash and hatred (cannot believe crazy tea party protestors spit on a congressman and called him a n&%#@r), I have high hopes again about what President Obama can do for our country.
And as Charles M. Blow noted in that same article “And if the reform bill passes, and his numbers rebound, I’m going to take to calling him Barack the Unbreakable.”
“How you like our President now?”