The human factor in politics and business has not changed much over the last fifty years, as I listen to familiar rhetoric and see the same results, decade after decade. This is important to consider, as I hope you younger voters don’t come to the same conclusion as you approach your sunset years. That would mean nothing has changed from my generation.
The value of “Pork” that ends up in almost every Bill is used to persuade a sufficient number of congress people across the isle to vote for the legislation, but the pork benefit is usually selective and often creates animosity within each party. It is always a win or lose fight, from a system where the participants can’t accept the loss and move on. Then, when the balance of power shifts in congress these contentious bills are fought again in order to try overturn them; and to right the wrong. We’re back to where we started. A natural theme when there are only two contestants.
We can draw from many Congressional “Hot Buttons” to use as an example. Budget battles, gun violence, healthcare options, military spending, infrastructure spending, Social Security, Medicaid, and the list goes on. Let’s look at two issues only, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as the ACA or Obamacare; and infrastructure spending.
With Obamacare, the big question today seems to be: Do we improve it or do we get rid of it?
To answer that question, we should look at its beginnings some eight to ten years ago when it was still an election promise. It was opposed by Republicans from the outset, who delayed implementation at Federal and State levels using the courts to challenge many aspects of the program. Governors of many Red States were able to block the National program by using their considerable control of Medicaid and other health programs that are directed at the state level.
To look back to the end of the Obama administration, it’s amazing how well the ACA accomplished their mandate in the face of this adversity. Sure, there were problems implementing the program and prices were rising in states where choice was limited or blocked, but the underlying citizens who utilized the program could still expect to receive increased premium aid based on their income. This protected the poor in the short-term, giving legislators more time to fix problems, or to stop blocking progress.
Now we have President Trump with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, and they want to repeal the ACA as has been their mantra for the last eight years. The House vote didn’t happen as the ultra-right wing, the Freedom Caucus with about 25 members said they wouldn’t vote for the Bill as they believed it didn’t go far enough to repeal Obamacare. President Trump then reaffirmed the objective, declaring that Obamacare will implode and Republicans will pick up the pieces of this Democratic mess.
We all know from Business 101, that any project is doomed for failure if the CEO and team leaders are not committed to it. The first thing the Trump administration did was strip away any positive references to the ACA, and changed the name from “Affordable Care Act” to “healthcare law” on the government website, which serves as the only enrollment platform for consumers in states not running their own marketplaces.
Complete sections praising the law’s impact on costs, coverage and care were deleted and webpages that explain emergency room access and doctor choice were removed entirely. The “About the Law” section once provided information about how consumers have more control over their healthcare and detailed the services insurers must cover. Now, it just links to the raw text of the 2010 Act and it regulations. The administration also removed blog posts highlighting Americans who benefited from the law, as well as a section encouraging people to share their own stories by using the hashtag #coveragematters.
The writing is on the wall as the President has committed it to failure, and predicts its impending implosion. Democrats are to be blamed and Republicans will pick up the pieces. We obviously need some common sense in government and this two party system only fosters a Yes/No; Right/Wrong; Love/Hate, mentality, with moderates being lost in the extreme positions. After eight years of obstructionism with the ACA, we may be in for several years of dismantling the same legislation. What a waste!
Regardless, the above is what we did accomplish. Now let’s look at what we didn’t. Infrastructure rebuilding with almost free money.
After the Great Recession that could easily have slipped into another Depression, we needed jobs, a safety net and a government strategy that balanced fiscal and monetary policy. Congress voted to extend unemployment benefits providing the safety net, at least for several years until phasing it back. Both parties talked about our failing infrastructure, bridges and roads, and of all times what a great opportunity to get people back to work and boost the economy. Obstructionists in Congress didn’t want President Obama to look good and to spend money both parties agreed needed to be spent. So, fiscal policy was restricted. No money, even though money was becoming cheaper every day.
That only left monetary policy, which fortunately the independent governors of the central bank concurred, and expanded the money supply over the following six or seven years to compensate for the declining level of economic activity. There is little question that if monetary policy had worked in concert with fiscal policy, that jobs would have recovered a lot faster and the economy would have been a lot stronger.
Can you imagine if Congress had voted to do more infrastructure rebuilding? Failing bridges would not be an issue. Jobs and the economy would be a lot stronger and with a decade of near zero interest rates the money to pay for it could have gone to principal reduction? Can you imagine a 30-year infrastructure bond where all the payments for the first ten years went to pay principal only?
Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader had said for eight years his number one priority was to get rid of President Obama. Unfortunately, every view he shared seemed to be biased toward that narrow constituency, rather than working for the American people. Whether you liked President Obama or not, what a waste of time and resources. Building up and tearing down Obamacare. Or, to not work at all fixing our broken bridges and roads.
What a waste!