Sunday, November 3, 2013

To the GOP: Enough Already

Do you remember the rollout of Medicare Part D? It was a mess.

I have had enough of this Republican gloating about Yes, the website was and is a major and inexcusable fiasco. So they were entitled to a week of “we told ya so” – or even two. But really, it has practically been a month now. Enough already. 

I know that we can expect no decency from the GOP, so this will sound naïve, but truly, what they should be doing is helping their constituents figure it all out. That is what the Democrats did in a similar situation not too long ago. I refer, of course, to the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and early 2006. That was the big prescription drug bill passed in 2003. You remember – it is the one where the Republicans did not have the votes in the House, even though they controlled the House, and Speaker Tom DeLay held the floor open for 15 minutes after the bell rang as his lieutenants went around and badgered and threatened some GOP members until they changed their vote from nay to aye. 

Most Democrats voted against the bill. In the House just 16 of 203 Democratic members voted yes. In the Senate, however, 11 of 48 Democrats voted for the new Bush entitlement. First, let’s just stop right there. Could you imagine 16 and 11 Republicans ever voting for an Obama legislative priority, something that was clearly Obama’s “baby” in the same way that the Part D bill was Bush’s? There would be no end to the slobbering over Republicans for being so reasonable. As I recall, the Democrats were attacked at the time for not supporting the bill enough. 

Two years later, the rollout came. It was a mess. In mid-October 2005, the Bush administration announced a delay. But a month later, as Jon Perr noted recently at Crooks & Liars, the planned comparison-shopping website still wasn’t up and running. Even after it finally was, it was confusing and a mess. Some sample headlines: “Web-based Comparison of Prescription Plans Delayed,” The Washington Post; “Glitches Mar Launch of Medicare Drug Plan,” The Wall Street Journal; “President Tells Insurers to Aid Ailing Medicare Drug Plan,” The New York Times.

Needless to say, some of the same people now trying to put the hex on Obamacare spent 2006 pooh-poohing the glitches – as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) put it back then. I’m sure they would say the two laws are different things, and it is true that the Affordable Care Act is a bigger undertaking. But they are precisely similar in spirit – big, new government programs that depended largely on citizen interaction via personal computer. And the Obama law corrects what was conspicuously awful about the Bush law – the so-called doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage.

But the biggest difference between the two laws is not how Republicans behaved back then but how Democrats did. Most Democrats voted against the law; but they did not then sue the Bush administration and try to take the thing to the Supreme Court and get it invalidated. And then, when the start-up was a mess, Democrats did not go around saying it was proof the law had to go. They tried to help fix it.   

Hillary Clinton, then a senator, said: “I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it.”  It is interesting that we have this quote from someone the press has described over the years as one of the most polarizing women in America. Here she was being the exact opposite of polarizing, just doing what was then her job, being a normal and rational human being and public servant. She was deciding, amazingly enough, that the needs of her senior-citizen constituents who might benefit from the law once the kinks were worked out were more important than any grudge or animus she might bear toward the sitting administration. Her husband said it well Sunday, while campaigning with Terry McAuliffe: 

“But our side, we are not so ideological. So instead of bashing them and screaming about how incompetent they were, most of our people just tried to help people understand the law and make it work, and then wait for it to get fixed.”

And yet here was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on TV on Sunday spouting the same lies and scare-tactics that has been gushing from their mouths for a month. And there was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), having no earthly idea what she was talking about on CNN. Neither Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell nor Sen. Rand Paul had one kind word to say for Kentucky’s excellent implementation of the law under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. About 15,000 Kentuckians had enrolled as of last week

This is yet another stomach-turning GOP-induced state of affairs. I am sick and tired of hearing that Obamacare is an existential threat to their idea of America. Grow up and get over it. You lost this political fight. You may someday win, but until the day you do, behave like adults and as if you actually love the democracy you live in.  And you might consider behaving like the Democrats did back in 2006 when you passed the unpaid for Medicare Part D that added millions of dollars to the deficit. 

Edited from: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2013 Grow Up And Get Over It: Enough Already On HealthCare.Gov, Don’t You Remember Medicare Part D?