The Corner

Obamacare Has ‘Nothing to Do with the Budget’?

I’m honestly at a loss as to where one might start with President Obama’s healthcare speech earlier. It was so utterly mendacious and cynical as to inspire awe. Perhaps one should begin with the outrageous claim that healthcare is an American “right,” which is not only untrue but was bizarrely allied with the insistence that, before Obamacare came along, health insurance had been reserved to the “privileged few” (also know as 90 percent of the country)? Perhaps one should start with that lawyerly language in which the the president insisted that premiums would be “lower than expected,” an irrelevant, vague and misleading metric that conveniently ignores his specific promise that costs would either go down or stay the same for absolutely everyone? Maybe one should start with the peculiar claim that “there’s no widespread evidence that the Affordable Care Act is hurting jobs”? Or, perhaps, with the president’s singling out of a silly and fringe HuffPo piece that compared the law to The Fugitive Slave Act, which was pulled from obscurity and launched into the mainstream in order to tar all conservatives as extremists and racists?

These were all astonishing and infurating in equal measure. But they paled in comparison to the dishonesty of the president’s central claim, which was that the attempt to link defunding to the debt-ceiling fight is illegitimate because Obamacare has “nothing to do with the budget.” I struggle to imagine how the president could have kept a straight face when he said this. This is a law, remember, that was crowbarred through Congress with the questionable use of reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that is reserved exclusively for budgetary matters; a law that was sold as a deficit-reduction measure; a law that contains a significant spending component, including a 5-10 percent increase in the size of the federal budget; and, alas, a law that boasts a central mandate that was upheld (rewritten) by the Supreme Court as a tax, thus ensuring that any changes to the penalties must be approved by the House. “Nothing to do with the budget”? This is what we call a lie, Watson.

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