For four years, Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act has occasionally changed direction unexpectedly. GOP lawmakers, for example, went from touting the value of an individual mandate to condemning it as communistic authoritarianism with surprising speed.
But one consistent talking point has focused on redistribution: putting aside literally every other consideration, Republicans have no choice but to hate “Obamacare” because it rewards those at the lower end of the economic spectrum at the expense of those at the top. Such redistribution of wealth is plainly anathema to everything the GOP stands for, and any system that rewards parasitic “takers” must not be tolerated.
And yet, there was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) yesterday, making the exact opposite argument. For those who can’t watch videos online:
“[Obamacare] exacerbates income inequality. This is why the rich have gotten richer under President Obama. […]“Income inequality is increasing and, Mr. President, what have the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Democrats done to protect Americans from Obamacare? The answer is simple. Nothing.”
So let me get this straight. The Affordable Care Act is too generous to working families, but it’s also punishing working families. Health care reform goes too far in making economic inequalities less severe, but health care reform also goes too far in making economic inequalities more severe.
Clearly, Ted Cruz takes himself and his rhetoric very seriously, but one wonders if he expects the rest of us to do the same.
As a substantive matter, the right-wing senator’s argument is predicated on an assumption: the Affordable Care Act will put working-class Americans out of their jobs. He said as much in his little speech: “We know that Obamacare is killing jobs all across the country. Indeed, Obamacare is the biggest job killer in this nation.”
The problem, of course, is that the right can’t support any of this with evidence. There is literally nothing to support Cruz’s claim. Nothing. Cruz pointed to a “survey” conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – a lobbying group that tends to ally itself with the GOP – but the “survey” was an unscientific poll the group conducted on a website two years ago. As even Cruz should understand, this wasn’t a legitimate examination of private-sector intentions.
As for the notion that “the rich have gotten richer” because more working families have access to affordable health care, this is the kind of rhetoric that reinforces fears that Cruz believes Americans are fools.
It’s worth noting that after Cruz’s remarks on the Senate floor last night, he pushed for yet another vote to defund the Affordable Care Act. His effort was immediately rejected – there was no vote.
The developments were a reminder that Cruz’s standing has deteriorated quite a bit in recent months. In the late summer and early fall, the right-wing Texan seemed to be calling many of the shots on Capitol Hill, advising Republicans in both chambers and helping orchestrate a government shutdown for no particular reason. Five months later, Cruz is giving speeches that generate more mockery than scorn and demanding votes that never occur.
The senator continues to rant and rave, insisting he’ll “fight even harder … to repeal every word of Obamacare,” but the law’s proponents tend to see him as more of a joke than a threat.
Towards the end of 2013, ABC’s Jonathan Karl told viewers, “When it comes to politics, you could say this has been the year of Ted Cruz.” It’s hard to imagine these accolades will continue in 2014.