Sunday, April 22, 2012

Barney Frank: Obamacare Was a 'Mistake'

As far back as Fall 2011 Liberals were saying: Obamacare was a mistake

Via Noel Sheppard at News Busters comes word that Chris Matthews asked panelists on some round table show he runs, “What has been President Obama’s biggest mistake in his two and a half years so far?” Readers already knew the answer. Obamacare. Barack Obama wasted political capital on this half-baked attempt to have the government take over health insurance. I have said this repeatedly. But now it is dawning on the political insiders that maybe instead of playing hardball with the opposition, Barack Obama should have tried to swing a few Republican votes his way.

From News Busters, the transcript:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: This week we want to do something slightly different with our “Tell me Something” segment. Let me ask you all, all four of you, what has been President Obama’s biggest mistake in his two and a half years so far? Howard.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Chris, on things under his control, not the wars so much because they were built in, his decision to spend all of his political capital in a year and a half of his time on the health-care reform law I think was his biggest political mistake.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Smart statement.

And then there was this exchange with another panelist:

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: I would agree with Howard. The idea of launching a major change in social legislation without having a consensus in the country and in Congress about what that should look like was a mistake. That’s just not how a president makes good policy.


Wow indeed. What does Obama have to run on next year? The economy? Foreign policy? I suppose. One thing he cannot run on is the centerpiece of his domestic policy: Obamacare. Suddenly Obamacare vindicated the late Roberto Goizueta — the CEO who gave the world New Coke.

h/t to Don Surber  -  September 6, 2011


Barney Frank

Well now Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), who is retiring from the House this year, now says that President Obama made a “mistake” in pushing for his signature health law. “I think we paid a terrible price for health care,” he told Jason Zengerle of New York magazine. “I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after [Republican] Scott Brown won [Sen. Kennedy’s old seat in Massachusetts], I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform but certainly not health care.” But Frank’s reasoning carries pitfalls for conservative reformers as well as liberal ones.

Frank explains that it’s difficult to enact reforms that threaten to disrupt the arrangements of those who already have health insurance and are happy with the care they get. “Obama made the same mistake Clinton made,” says Frank. “When you try to extend health care to people who don’t have it, people who have it and are on the whole satisfied with it get nervous.” (h/t Jim Geraghty.)

Obama, says Frank, over-interpreted his mandate from the 2008 election. “The problem with health care is this: Health care is enormously important to people. When you tell them that you’re going to extend health care to people who don’t now have it, they don’t see how you can do that without hurting them. So I think he underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the health care with poor people.”

Let’s leave aside Frank’s accusation that the reason Obamacare is unpopular is because the middle class doesn’t want to “share the health care with poor people.” (The middle class does plenty of sharing already.)

Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius also both agree with the majority of Americans that socialist ObamaCare was President Downgrade’s biggest mistake.  See Video

Wouldn’t it be fascinating if media members that helped this President pass ObamaCare against America’s wishes came to the conclusion this was his biggest mistake?

On Sunday’s “The Chris Matthews Show,” the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius both told a somewhat startled host that Obama spending so much of his time and political capital on passing healthcare reform was his worst decision to date. 

Love Chris Mathews at the end, “wow.”

Two other Democrats not runing re-election came out this week and announced that voting for ObamaCare was a mistake.  And even AARP admitted that supporting ObamaCare was a mistake for its members. Members' premiums up 8-13% for just next year. Spokesman on Fox twisting and squirming, admitting supporting ObamaCare might have been a mistake.

But before Republicans start chortling at Barney Frank’s admission of Obamacare’s unpopularity, it’s worth remembering that the overall problem he identifies makes sweeping market-oriented reforms difficult too.

That’s why, for example, Democrats go on about Republicans supposedly “ending Medicare as we know it,” even though that is patently dishonest, and why the new Republican plan for Medicare, endorsed by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, (1) doesn’t affect anyone over the age of 55, and (2) retains an option for people to stay on traditional Medicare if they so choose.

Many Republicans have aggressively pushed the critique that Obamacare prevents people from keeping their current arrangements, if they like them. But that critique would also apply to any plan that, say, eliminated the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance, in order to help fund universal coverage (an idea favored by people like me).

If Republicans are lucky enough to gain power in November, they will face two challenges. Democrats will instinctively push back on any changes to our three health-care entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid, and the employer tax exclusion. In addition, much of the conservative base does not appreciate that health care reform is urgently needed, because conservatives tend to be the people who are happiest with their current arrangements.

What’s the solution? The solution has two parts. First, any proposals to replace Obamacare must be implemented gradually, over time, so as not to overly disrupt the arrangements that many Americans like. Secondly, the solution ought to be bipartisan, by pairing free-market reforms with expansion of coverage (a liberal priority).

For all the partisan bluster right now, if Obamacare is overturned or repealed, it’s hard for me to see centrist Democrats voting against a significant expansion of coverage sponsored by Republicans, out of spite. But I could be wrong.

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