Friday, October 13, 2017


James Hohmann of The Washington Post has written a piece titled "Throwing a Bomb into the Insurance Markets, Trump Now Owns the Broken Health-Care System" -- a premise I don't fully accept.

Hohmann writes:
The administration announced late last night that [President Trump] will immediately halt cost-sharing reductions. These $7 billion in annual subsidies to health insurers allow around 7 million low-income Americans to afford coverage.

Earlier in the day, the president signed a far-reaching executive order that makes it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy alternative types of health insurance with lower prices, fewer benefits and weaker government protections.

This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.
That's the conventional wisdom: If health insurance becomes harder to get and significantly less affordable for millions of people, Trump will get the blame -- with, as Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein notes, one asterisk:
Of course, extreme partisans will blame the other party no matter what, but that doesn't matter much because, well, they're extreme partisans, and we already know how they're going to vote, although there might be some small effects on turnout.
Yes, but hasn't the past year -- the failure of Trump's campaign to implode after the Access Hollywood tape broke, the relatively low but persistent support for him despite his colossal boorishness and ineptitude, the fact that his approval still tops his disapproval in 23 states -- taught us how widespread and intractable pro-Trump extreme partisanship is? Will his voters ever blame him for anything? And aren't there still a hell of a lot of them, even though they're far from a national majority? (Of course, they weren't a national majority in 2016.)

But while Trump's fans may not blame him for their health insurance difficulties, it's quite possible that they'll blame members of Congress from his party. Remember that the propaganda they're hearing these days tells them that Trump is the God Emperor and our failure to reach the conservative Promised Land is largely the fault of Judas Republicans -- "swamp creatures" -- who are deliberately sabotaging Trump because they're part of the same Trump-hating, Trump-sabotaging "establishment" as the evil Democrats.

I don't know what percentage of Trump voters believe that -- but I hope it's not quite enough to defeat GOP incumbents in the 2018 primaries, while still being enough to lower Republican turnout in the 2018 general elections in which Republican incumbents will be on the ballot. I'm supposed to believe that Republicans will lose general elections if a lot of Bannon/Mercer whackaloons win primaries, but I don't believe that -- at this point, I don't think anyone is too extreme for the typical GOP voter. I think Republicans have the opposite problem: Their voters are now being trained to hate their incumbents, Trump excepted, and those incumbents, if it make it to the November ballot, aren't going to inspire high turnout.

On health care, I think Democratic voters are going to blame Republicans -- all of them -- for destroying Obamacare, while many Republican voters are going to blame Republican incumbents (excluding the sainted Trump) for not fully repealing Obamacare, which is what they think would solve all our healthcare problems.

I don't want to see Obamacare destroyed. But if, going into 2018, everyone blames congressional Republicans for the health care mess, I'm cool with that.

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