The recent Supreme Court decision that found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be constitutional caught both liberals and conservatives off guard. Most thought the conservative majority would follow it’s “activist” judicial ways and rule against what the Right derisively calls “Obamacare”. Though now that the law has been validated by the highest court in the land, supporters are also now using the term. Perhaps as a dig to those people who have used it as a pejorative since the ACA passed both houses of Congress in March, 2010.
The Court’’s majority was surprisingly led by conservative Chief Justice Roberts, sending the right into an apoplectic fit. They were prepared to make this President Obama’s death nail, being as it has been considered his signature policy piece. But that plan of action has been taken from them so their outrage has been rekindled and we can expect vitriol and distortions at a new level and with a fervency of a Southern Baptist preacher exorcising the demons from the heathen masses.
What the public can expect to see from this outrage are some of the old lies and distortions about the health care law and perhaps even a few new ones. But leading their attack will be the hue and cry of “another tax on the American people”. Though conservatives are more correct in hitting the Obama administration with increased spending (necessitated by the Great Recession he inherited from the Bush administration) their attacks about being “Taxed Enough Already”, from which the T.E.A. Party evolved from shortly after Obama’s inauguration, is a bogus claim since American tax rates are at a fifty-year low, especially for the wealthiest 1%.
But this hasn’t stopped the right-wing spin machine from fabricating the delusion that we are over-taxed. In actuality the U.S. tax rate is near the bottom of a list of developed countries, coming in with a higher rate only over Korea, Chile, Turkey and Mexico. But if you’re a Grover Norquist libertarian this ranking is not only too high but should be perhaps lower than most third world countries whose populations live in utter poverty by most standards.
The GOP has taken this theme and intends to elevate it to pitched levels that will distort the reality. Chief Justice Roberts declared in his ruling that the fee that will be assessed against those Americans who refuse to get health insurance by 2014 is in fact a tax. Technically he’s right and I suspect his reason for stressing this was to generate the type of virulent response we will soon see from the anti-tax devotees. Many will falsely claim it to be, as my Republican Congressman Michael Burgess has, “a very large tax on middle-income Americans.”
To include all of “middle income America” into this equation is the lie in Congressman Burgess’s statement. The CBO has estimated that only a little over 2% of the population, about 6 million people, will be affected by this law. In 2006 nearly half of the 116,011,000 households in the United States had annual middle-income wages that fell somewhere between $36,000 and $91,000. This tallies out to about 50 million households. This is hardly a number close to the 6 million who the CBO projects will be impacted by the ACA’s mandate and is clearly not a tax that all middle-income Americans will be hurt by.
Once this theme has run been through the cycle on radio talk shows and right-wing blogs we will most likely see a renewed effort to discredit the ACA with claims that have already been fact checked and proven false. Politifact.com has posted a few of their biggest falsehoods about the law:
- The health care law is a government takeover of health care.
- “Obamacare is . . . the largest tax increase in the history of the world.”
- The law said people could be jailed for not buying insurance.
- The health care law rations care and denies treatments.
- The law includes Death panels.
A couple of new ones are Senator Tom Coburn’s rant about how Obamacare will “Sovietize the American health care system” and Carly Fiorina’s screed about how the health care law would make it “very deleterious” for breast cancer patients. Accompanying these are the hyperbolic claims being distributed by GOP functionaries like the one from the RNC on how the health care law will tax heart attacks, sick puppies and new babies. This is the one I did a recent satire on titled “Mr. Priebus’s Neighborhood”.
It will be a certainty that those who buy into such nonsense easily will never be persuaded to see things rationally. There simply are about thirty percent of the electorate that hate Barack Obama for various reasons and are willing to accept anybody that the GOP finds who’ll replace him in 2012. It looks like this person will be the former Governor of Massachusetts who himself passed a health care law exactly like what the Obama administration modeled the ACA on. Go figure.
But it falls on the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to concentrate their energy and money on those rational, thoughtful human beings who remain undecided at this point on how they feel their vote will select the best candidate. These are the people who haven’t been completely won over with the idealistic view that free markets are our only hope. Many still recall it was the collapse of the free market under the Bush administration in a highly de-regulated economy that put us where we are at today. Some may see Obama as failing to have turn things around a lot quicker than they feel he could have, and in fact they would be right in the views of many economist. But they are still uneasy in assuming that the GOP pig with lipstick on it – trickle-down economics – is somehow going to work this time when it has failed ever since its inception under Ronald Reagan.