Obamacare: Could it Produce Another VA GOP GUV?

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    by Paul Goldman

    The latest article in the National Journal points to a reason why my sweep analysis may not in the end defy the history of the modern two party system in Virginia: a potential GOP backlash against what they view as Obamacare. http://www.nationaljournal.com…

    I have written nationally on the key political difference between FDR and LBJ’s approach to Social Security and Medicare and the President’s approach on essentially national health.

    FDR and LBJ intentionally the rejected the use of any federal government dollars to fund those programs, breaking with the German approach in the late 1880s which had included government money, along with the type of social security/medicare taxes used here in America. The FDR and LBJ thesis was based on using 100% private money, that is to say half from the employee and the other half a pay raise the employee would not get, it being paid by the employer into the Trust Funds.

    FDR, who LBJ copied, didn’t trust future Congresses to keep his social security promise: he feared they would take the money for other uses. Thus, he wanted each American to view the money in the Social Security Trust Fund as their money, not the government’s money. We tend to forget that the Social Security initiative enacted by FDR was never intended to be a retirement program as it has become today. He viewed it quite differently and it actually didn’t cover African-Americans and women by in large, and many white males for that matter.

    The point being: FDR, then LBJ, feared using government money would make Americans see these initiatives as welfare. It is the reason I got a lot of national attention in the 1990’s when the late Senator Pat Moynihan and I independently wrote articles and put in national resolutions to prevent Democrats from means testing Social Security and Medicare, fearing this was a step toward welfares, in turn risking the programs broad national support. It was controversial, but eventually Clinton, top Democrats in Congress and others realized we were right in terms of the long term political backing.

    Harry Truman’s universal health care proposal likewise was based on the 100% private money social security tax equation although he did leave the door open to consider adding a government funding piece ala the European systems.

    Political bottom line: It has always been my contention that Obamacare took a political risk by using government funding given my read of history and also due to this political difference with Social Security and Medicare: they were enacted at a time when most people didn’t have retirement fund (1 in 10 had a retirement plan from work) and roughly half of those 65 and over had health care.

    Today, most people have health care: that’s a political fact. By using government funds to create the third and final and most difficult leg of the historic Democratic safety net – a monumental achievement on any historical basis – the problem in 2013 is thus: most of the swing voters already have health care. Thus, in raw political terms, their big political concern is not going to be THERE ACCESS TO CARE, but rather WHETHER THEY WILL HAVE TO PAY LESS than otherwise would have been the case without the new national health care law.

    On a purely mathematical basis, this is impossible to know due to the difficulty in getting a real apples to apples comparison. Accordingly, with 60 days left in the campaign for GUV, the issue is likely to be decided on subjective data: meaning, it will be processed according to one’s preset assumptions.

    This is a fact of political life: at this stage of a campaign, you basically take the voters as they are in terms of what they think, it is very hard to materially change their opinions.

    This tells me: the GOP base will be easy to gin up with stories about how what they see as Obamacare jacking up the prices. A soon to be released study by the State Corporation Commission could confirm this view.

    Meaning: As in 2009, there will be new and current reasons during the campaign for the GOP base to want to protest against Obamacare.

    Right now, Cuccinelli doesn’t have such an energy in his base, the way McDonnell did in 2009, the way the “out party” in terms of the White House has tended to use the VA GUV election to protest their loss the year before.

    People who have spoken to me over the year know the Obamacare/FDR/LBJ/out-year protest equation has concerned me on an historic GUV cycle basis.

    There is certainly no such protest energy in the GOP base right now, the “defund Obamacare” mantra boring really. But if a clear enough case can be made that the voter’s health care costs will go up – and they are now also having to pay with tax money for someone’s health care – then such energy could return by election day.

    This is why the White House has smartly publicized all studies and actions which indicate the health care premiums are going to be lower now. But in the end, as others have pointed out, it is really impossible to prove, it is a political argument with political math.

    Opposition to what the GOP called “Hillarycare” in 1993 helped fuel the protest vote that made George Allen Governor.

    I stand by my sweep analysis. But should the VA GOP ever show me a pulse and some brain activity on an anti-Obamacare protest play, then I would at least have to acknowledge the possibility of here being a protest vote on election day on the right: now, there is only the anti-Cuccinelli protest vote on the left brewing.

    This is why Medicaid expansion, which seems a no-brainer to the policy wonks as they do the fiscal math, is far from a certain slam dunk in political terms this year.

    Historically, successful GOP GUV candidates have been able to sue such expansive government programs to win a lot of net-net votes. Cuccinelli has been very inept in this regard to date.

    But if the public sees a rising tide of their premiums, they might protest against Democrats to vent their frustration. It might not be true policy wise, but this is politics, not a graduate course at UVA (maybe an online fake college like “Trump University”).

    I don’t see the health of the Democratic ticket in much danger if they play it right. But the “in” presidential party has been blinded by protest votes in 1977, 1993, and in 2009 in my view.

    Those were all in a presidential first term. So having a second one at the start of Obama’s second term would be a first in my view.

    But foreseeable.