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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 11/23/2010

The difficult politics of repeal

By Ezra Klein

McClatchy's new poll testing attitudes toward health-care repeal is just more evidence that repeal, like reform itself, is going to get a lot harder when its advocates are forced to get more specific:


For now, Republicans have been talking about which policies to repeal. They want the 1099 tax gone, or the individual mandate reversed. But when they actually have to repeal anything, they're going to have to talk about what functions they want repealed. Repeal the individual mandate, for instance, and you make it possible for the irresponsible to freeload on the system, and impossible for the responsible to get insurance at low rates. You also make it impossible to end discrimination based on preexisting conditions. And do Americans really want that repealed?

Poll after poll shows that they don't, of course. And Republicans know those polling results as well as Democrats do. That's why Republicans have fallen back to purposefully misleading descriptions of their policy on preexisting conditions. But though that sort of thing works when you're writing a campaign pledge, it won't be enough if Republicans actually force the political system to focus on what they're trying to do.

By Ezra Klein  | November 23, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
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My sense is that many of the stickier questions, like the individual mandate, will end up deferred to the states by actions like Wyden/Brown.

That leaves the national GOP free to continue savaging health reform on their own terms, namely, in abstractions about government takeovers.

And if health reform becomes a non-issue, they'll walk away unpenalized by the public for their rote opposition in the name of political gain. They'll just go back in search of a new issue to get people riled up, like always.

At least we'll have most Americans covered and a large degree of flexibility in how it's done. That's what this is all about, after all. In the long run, progressives always win.

Posted by: itstrue | November 23, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

If everyone who is complaining about the mandate would simply sign a legal agreement stating that if they are hit by a car, and don't have insurance, if their credit card doesn't work they agree to be left by the side of the road, then everything works fine.

Posted by: silverson | November 23, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Excellent. This is the first time I have seen the results presented realistically, i.e., repeal-or-reduce on one side, keep-or-expand on the other. Normally "Approve" is matched against "Disapprove", with the spin that reform is "unpopular" because a majority disapproves. But when you looked at the details, a narrow but consistent majority always favored reform as such, i.e., keep-or-expand.

I think the MSM and pollsters have been complicit with Republicans in featuring the approve/disapprove dichotomy. Now we get the real story -- after the elections!

Posted by: jtmiller42 | November 23, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that there are some true conservatives out there who really do dislike the individual mandate and we may see a push by these folks for repeal. But by and large, the GOP's gains this year were helped tremendously by the Healthcare Industry and there is no way they want to see the mandate repealed. Maybe some of the cost-control measures and new taxes, but not the mandate. This is another in a long string of fights the GOP has to have in the next two years.

Posted by: klautsack | November 23, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Advocating a repeal of the ACA was not just for the campaign - by getting about half the country to support repeal, the R's are building the groundwork for the SCOTUS to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional (which it is, and I'm a liberal) and thus void all or most of the ACA.

Yes, the health insurers who help fund R's love the mandate and the ACA, but more important to the R's is having Obama's signature, divisive achievement declared unconstitutional, which really could be his Waterloo.

Posted by: michaelh81 | November 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, it might have been more useful to post the poll's finding that Americans of every group overwhelmingly oppose the mandate and think it violates the constitution...since the only way "repeal" becomes a relevant discussion is if the SCOTUS declares the mandate unconstitutional and may repeal the whole thing. Here are the important findings of the poll:

"They turn a solid thumbs down on the law's mandate that every American must buy insurance, with 65 percent calling that unconstitutional and 29 percent saying it should be kept.

A majority of every type of American called the mandate wrong, except for Democrats overall and Democratic men in particular. Among critics of the mandate: 50 percent of liberals, 53 percent of Democratic women, 68 percent of independents, and 83 percent of tea party supporters."

Read more:

Posted by: michaelh81 | November 23, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

The votes are not there to mess with Obamacare.

Posted by: ReubenfromDenver | November 23, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

REubenfromDenver: I think there are. Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy.

Posted by: michaelh81 | November 23, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

I spoke with and wrote to senior members of Congress (e.g, Pelosi), the White House and Treasury (including senior attorneys and the person responsible for writing the regulations on 1099). I told them long before the election that the matter of 1099s would play a decisive role (also see comments I wrote for the WSJ). Millions of people knew about the 1099. The irony is that I explained how it is easy to create a data system that gathers the necessary information and saves time and money. The approach I developed would require no additional costs or staff to the IRS (using advanced IT and methods I developed). It would simplify existing reporting methods. It would increase data reported to business and lower their current costs to keep tract and audit their expenses. It can all be done with appropriate data acquisition, processing and analysis as I have done when designing large scale data systems.
I provided an outline of my approach. I have expertise in these matters (MS in math and computers, PhD with emphasis on system design). I designed and supervised one of the largest data systems in the Federal Government. I cut costs to less than 1/10 and cut reporting time from years to hours (for which I received one of the highest awards from the federal government). I also conducted (for the Executive Office of the President) a review of government operations and data systems, so I have expertise and experience and know how to solve the problem. Lucky for the Republicans, nobody paid attention to me. Probably they were too busy writing secret memos to each other so they could be posted on wikileaks.
I suggest Senior administrators ought to remember that old saying: "We have seen the enemy. It is us."

Posted by: coolfoods1 | November 29, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

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