A thirst for hemlock
GOP seeks predicted pitfall
What is the biggest pitfall Republicans should avoid, I was asked two years ago. Now I am watching my answer come true.
Republicans swept the 2014 elections. Soon after, a local Republican group asked me to speak at its lunch meeting. Someone asked the pitfall question. That is easy, I replied. Do not do what the Democrats did.
The Dems won in 2008 out of voter frustration. Voters wanted jobs and peace. But when Dems swept the board, they assumed “Wow. We have a mandate to pass health care.” They got shellacked in the next election.
Doubly frustrated voters turned back to the GOP. They wanted jobs and peace. So whatever you do, Republicans, do not assume: “Wow. We have a mandate to repeal health care.”
Cut a hickory switch and flail me well if that is not exactly what is happening.
I observe human affairs for a living and have since 1981. I started covering politics full time in 1998. I have never seen such a wide, deep, brimming-full cup of political hemlock as the Senate health care bill. I have never seen a major party’s leadership so bound and determined for members to drink it, lick the sides and wear the cup for a hat.
The GOP ran against Obamacare for four consecutive elections. Now everyone sees they never reached a consensus on how to replace it. This toxic mess of a bill is the result. Having no agreed-upon replacement plan ready after seven years of wailing and gnashing teeth is political malpractice.
Yes, Obamacare is headed for collapse. The health care system was headed for collapse before Obamacare, too. Now, show me some other government program on anything 1 percent as complex as health care that ran itself for more than six years without any fixing because it is too polarizing to touch.
I understand the GOP base and party donors think Obamacare is a pact with the devil that causes every problem health care ever had, including warts. Then why does the GOP bill not repeal and replace it? This Senate mess is not a health care bill. It is a tax cut bill for the wealthy.
This plan does not kill Obamacare and put something better in place. It is not even surgery. It is some sort of vivisection in which the cutters argue about how many body parts they can whack away and still leave the subject alive.
As for taxes, I can practically hear Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers saying what he always says: We will never get the budget under control until we rein in entitlement spending. I fully agree with him. Reining in entitlement spending to pay for a repeal of the 3.8 percent investment tax, though, is a zero-sum game as far as the budget is concerned.
There is a war going on overseas. At home, we have roads we need. In Northwest Arkansas, we sit in the garden spot of growth in the whole country, but 40 percent of the kids in Fayetteville public schools are on free and reduced-priced lunches. If concentrating wealth in the hands of investors is the magic formula for economic growth, then that mission is already accomplished. So when does the magic start? We have waited to see that rabbit pulled out of that hat since the last recession began.
To be clear, Republicans will not all die and bring the Democrats back into power if the GOP drinks this poison. That result requires a misbegotten war that turns into a quagmire, followed by a stock market crash and a Wall Street bailout. Even then, Republicans will come roaring back two years later.
Some GOP congressmen will die political deaths from passing a “health care” bill. Many more would only sicken. Most of them would recover soon enough. All I am saying is that a poisoned, reduced Republican majority in Congress would be even more useless than they are now.
When you are in the majority, you are supposed to do something. The Republicans are scared they will go into 2018 having accomplished nothing. Gosh, maybe they should do something that more than 27 percent of the population, according to a Fox News poll, can bring themselves to support.
But what do I know? I am just a guy who warned against this very thing two years ago.