Okay, young’ns, here’s your chance.
In two consecutive elections, you’ve carried Barack Obama to victory. When he said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he basically meant you. You voted for Obama by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent in 2008, and, despite a horrendous economy for people your age, by nearly that much again in 2012.
The president announced his candidacy in 2007 by insisting, “This campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us — it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. . . . This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.”
And on the night of his reelection in 2012, he proclaimed, “The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”
Between those two elections, the president pandered to you like no president in American history. As I wrote last fall, he visited college campuses more often than a Red Bull delivery truck. He’s carried water for you on college loans like an aqueduct. He made sure you can stay on your parents’ health-care plans until you’re 26, which is a really nice consolation prize when you can’t find a job.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but you kids ate that stuff up. It reminded me of H. L. Mencken’s line about Harry Truman: “If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country he would have promised to provide them with free missionaries, fattened at the taxpayers’ expense.”
Whenever curmudgeons like yours truly suggested that young people were getting caught up in a fad or that Obama was simply buying votes at the expense of taxpayers, you’d have a fit. You’d insist that millennials are not only informed, but eager to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Well, here’s your chance to prove it: Fork over whatever it costs to buy the best health insurance you can under Obamacare. Just in case you forgot, under Obamacare healthy young people such as yourself not only need to buy health insurance in order for the whole thing to work, but have to be overcharged for it. If you don’t pay more — probably a lot more — than what you could get today on the market in most states, Obamacare will come apart like wet toilet paper.
Estimates vary and depend on how much you make and where you live, but if you’re buying health care yourself, your out-of-pocket costs will probably be at least a couple hundred bucks a month, give or take. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s “subsidy calculator” estimates that a 26-year-old nonsmoker making $30,000 a year will pay $2,512 a year for the “silver plan.” Although, if you fill out all of the paperwork, the feds could send you a check for about $500. If you smoke — you don’t smoke, do you? — the premium rises to over $4,000. (The subsidy stays the same.) Also, the more you make, the more your insurance will cost because the subsidies will get smaller.
Of course, the above is a pretty rosy scenario. The more young people who don’t sign up, the higher the premiums will have to be to cover the costs of those who do. Many experts think the sky’s the limit to how high prices will go.
And as prices go up, the whole thing might go down. Actuaries call this the “death spiral.” The old and sick race to sign up, but the young and healthy opt to stay out. That causes prices to go up, and more people to drop out. And since the fine for not signing up is so much lower than premiums, lots of people will just wait until they’re sick before buying insurance.
Now, that might be the smart play — for cynics.
But you’re not cynical. You didn’t vote for Obama and cheer the passage of Obamacare because it was the cool thing to do. You did your homework. You want to share the sacrifice. You want to secure the president’s legacy.
And now’s your chance to prove it.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at email@example.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.