We talked earlier about the Obama administration’s new consumer safeguard, protecting investors planning for their retirement. Naturally, the financial industry isn’t pleased, and congressional Republicans are eager to scrap the regulation.
But note the specifics of the Republican talking points. NPR reported yesterday:
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan sides with the brokers, tweeting last week that the final rule would become “Obamacare for financial planning.” He promised to push congressional action to hold up the rule, which will not be fully implemented until January 2018.
Oh, for goodness sake. Are we stuck in the “Obamacare for _______” framework again? Evidently, yes, and conservative media is only too pleased to go along. (The Daily Caller, on cue, is also complaining about “Obamacare for retirement planning.”)
To the extent that policy details matter, let’s note that the new financial-industry safeguards bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Affordable Care Act. I suspect that Republicans and their allies know that, but (a) they’re reluctant to fight on Wall Street’s behalf too openly; and (b) for lazy communications directors, simply throwing an “Obamacare” label on everything is vastly easier than thinking.
But forget policy details. This is about an elaborate, and unfortunate, rhetorical exercise.
Following up on our previous coverage, we talked last summer about the scene in “Being John Malkovich” in which John Malkovich crawls into the head of John Malkovich (long story). Suddenly, he’s stuck in a nightmare in which Malkovich is everywhere and everything.
It’s striking the degree to which Republicans appear to be experiencing a similar nightmare, only instead of seeing an acclaimed actor everywhere, they see the Affordable Care Act, lurking in every corner, representing everything they abhor in all contexts.
Shortly after Hillary Clinton unveiled her plan to make college tuition more affordable, for example, Douglas Holtz-Eakin said, “It will be Obamacare for higher education.”
This comes up far more often than it should. Common Core standards are “Obamacare for K-12 education.” Net neutrality is “Obamacare for the Internet.” Dodd/Frank financial-regulatory safeguards are “Obamacare for banks.” Efforts to reduce carbon pollution are “Obamacare for energy markets.” A Senate proposal to consolidate government lending practices would be “Obamacare for real estate.”
My personal favorite: the international agreement to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons was labeled “Atomic Obamacare.”
No modern equivalence of this hysterical preoccupation comes to mind. It’s not as if Democrats ran around Washington in 2005 saying, “Bush’s scheme to privatize Social Security is the Iraq war for entitlements.”
Besides, the underlying complaint is baseless – every idea that can be tied, even ridiculously, to health care reform must be rejected – since the ACA is working extremely well.
Dear Republican press secretaries: please come up with something new.