Steve Doocy told Fox viewers the other day how distressed he is about the Affordable Care Act. He even tried to bolster his concerns by citing the Congressional Budget Office: “The CBO said yesterday at the end of this year, 42 million people will still be uninsured. 42 million! We blew up everything for one or two million while 42 million are still going uninsured? That’s not what we were sold.”
Evan McMurry did some fact-checking on Doocy’s rhetoric and concluded, “Everything about that is bollocks.”
McMurry is correct, of course, but what I found interesting about Doocy’s plainly silly ACA criticism was his underlying point: the Fox News host seemed to be suggesting that “Obamacare” isn’t nearly ambitious enough when it comes to covering the uninsured. It’s an almost comical line of attack: the Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans, but since the uninsured rate is not yet 0%, the law is obviously flawed.
But ridiculous or not, it’s becoming increasingly common. A variety of Republican pundits are pushing this line of criticism, as are leading Republican lawmakers. Jonathan Cohn noted yesterday that the attacks are “a bit much” given the circumstances.
House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 50 times. They have voted on serious Obamacare alternatives exactly zero times. They haven’t even made a serious attempt to get a bill out of committee, let alone hold a floor debate. […]In addition, a major reason the Affordable Care Act isn’t reaching more people is that Republicans have done their best to limit the law’s reach – primarily, by blocking expansions of Medicaid in states where conservative Republicans hold sway.
Cohn added that the House Republican budget blueprint not only wants to make the rate of the uninsured worse by repealing the Affordable Care Act, they also want to gut Medicaid, which would make it that much more difficult for struggling Americans to access medical care.
And it’s against this backdrop that the right has decided to complain that the ACA isn’t covering the uninsured fast enough?
In the larger context, note how conservative arguments against the law are starting to turn on one another.
The right believes the ACA goes too far in trying to cover the uninsured. It also believes the ACA doesn’t go far enough in trying to cover the uninsured.
The right has argued that the ACA is too liberal, representing a government takeover of an industry that should be private, and the right has argued that the ACA is too conservative, representing a sweetheart deal for big private insurers.
The right has argued that the ACA does too much to advance a system of socialized insurance and the ACA does too much to undermine a system of socialized insurance.
Some of these points could conceivably be the basis for a credible policy debate, but for conservatives to argue all of these contradictory points at once suggests they’ve clearly given up on policy seriousness altogether.
The point is to attack for the sake of attacking, even if the criticisms are incoherent, even if the attackers are contradicting themselves.