The GOP: Still a party not ready to gov­ern

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - Steven Pearl­stein

The in­abil­ity of a Repub­li­can Congress and a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent to re­peal Oba­macare, or even just dial it back, is yet the lat­est demon­stra­tion that Repub­li­cans sim­ply aren’t ready to gov­ern.

The facile ex­pla­na­tion for this is the un­re­solved di­vi­sion, within the party, be­tween its rad­i­cal tea party pop­ulist wing and its more mod­er­ate, busi­ness-friendly es­tab­lish­ment wing. But the big­ger is­sue is that the party’s elected politi­cians are un­will­ing to make the trade-offs that are the essence of what gov­ern­ing is about.

On health care, for ex­am­ple, they promised to lower pre­mi­ums but re­fused to em­brace any of the three ap­proaches that could ac­com­plish that: in­crease co­pay­ments and de­ductibles; squeeze the in­comes of doc­tors, hos­pi­tals and drug com­pa­nies; or fi­nance more of the coun­try’s health care through higher taxes.

They wanted to give ev­ery­one the free­dom not to buy any health in­sur­ance — but also the free­dom to show up at hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms and de­mand free care, or to buy in­sur­ance the mo­ment they got sick.

Repub­li­cans vowed to elim­i­nate all the Oba­macare

taxes — but not the healthy in­sur­ance sub­si­dies for work­ing fam­i­lies that those taxes were meant to pay for.

They wanted to al­low in­sur­ance com­pa­nies to lower pre­mi­ums for the young and healthy — while deny­ing that the in­evitable con­se­quence would be higher pre­mi­ums for the old and the sick.

They wanted to shift more of the re­spon­si­bil­ity to the states for pro­vid­ing health care to the poor — with­out shift­ing ad­di­tional re­sources to go with it.

They wanted to give more power to state in­sur­ance com­mis­sion­ers to reg­u­late poli­cies — while also of­fer­ing insurers the free­dom to ig­nore state reg­u­la­tion by sell­ing across state lines.

Repub­li­cans wanted to give ev­ery Amer­i­can a new tax credit to help them pay for health care or health in­sur­ance — while re­fus­ing to cur­tail the cur­rent sub­sidy, the tax ex­clu­sion for em­ployer-pro­vided health ben­e­fits.

They prom­ise to solve the opi­oid cri­sis — while elim­i­nat­ing the re­quire­ment that in­sur­ance poli­cies cover sub­stance abuse treat­ment.

This same in­abil­ity to make trade-offs has also pre­vented ac­tion on a host of other Repub­li­can pri­or­i­ties.

They want to in­crease in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture — but don’t want to raise taxes or user fees to pay for it.

Repub­li­cans want to cut cor­po­rate tax rates nearly in half — but can’t iden­tify even a sin­gle cor­po­rate tax loop­hole they would close to pre­vent the deficit from bal­loon­ing out of con­trol.

They are hell­bent on dra­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing de­fense spend­ing — but won’t vote to au­tho­rize cur­rent op­er­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They think they can de­port ev­ery un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grant — with­out rais­ing la­bor costs for busi­nesses and prices for con­sumers.

They com­plain about the slow pace of get­ting the pres­i­dent’s ap­point­ments con­firmed — but refuse to give up their three-day work­weeks and four months of pol­i­tick­ing and fundrais­ing.

Repub­li­cans com­plain of a lack of bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion from Democrats — while in­sist­ing on draft­ing all im­por­tant leg­is­la­tion at meet­ings and lun­cheons of the Repub­li­can cau­cus.

Since gain­ing con­trol of Congress and the White House in Jan­uary, Repub­li­cans have been on a fran­tic and fu­tile search for the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic free lunch. It would be overly char­i­ta­ble to say that, when it comes to gov­er­nance, they are rusty and out of prac­tice. In fact, they have now ex­posed them­selves to be rank ama­teurs and in­com­pe­tents who don’t have a clue about get­ting im­por­tant things done.

As a group, they have demon­strated a breath­tak­ing lack of pol­icy knowl­edge and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, a stub­born dis­re­gard for in­tel­lec­tual hon­esty, lousy po­lit­i­cal in­stincts and a bro­ken moral compass. Their lead­ers have for­got­ten what it means to lead, if they ever knew, while their back­benchers don’t have a clue of what it takes to be con­struc­tive fol­low­ers. If there were a bank­ruptcy code for pol­i­tics, it’s safe to say the Repub­li­cans would be in Chap­ter 11.

This com­plete ab­di­ca­tion of gov­ern­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity was con­firmed Tues­day when the party’s nom­i­nal leader, Pres­i­dent Trump, an­nounced to the coun­try, “I think we are prob­a­bly in that po­si­tion where we will just let Oba­macare fail. … I can tell you the Repub­li­cans are not go­ing to own it.”

Even Sen. Shelly Ca­puto, the re­li­ably party-line-tot­ing Repub­li­can from West Vir­ginia, was moved to dis­tance her­self from that cyn­i­cal win-at-any­cost strat­egy. “I did not come to Wash­ing­ton to hurt peo­ple,” she said.

“It’s al­most an em­bar­rass­ment be­ing an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen trav­el­ing around the world . . . lis­ten­ing to the stupid s--- we have to deal with in this coun­try,” Jamie Di­mon, the chair­man of JPMor­gan Chase, said in an un­guarded mo­ment re­cently. Di­mon was quick to add, re­flex­ively, that it wasn’t a Repub­li­can or a Demo­cratic is­sue, but he knows bet­ter than that. Repub­li­cans were handed a golden op­por­tu­nity to gov­ern and they have blown it. This one is on them.

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