Exactly five years ago today, the White House hosted a signing ceremony in the East Room for one of the most important policy breakthroughs in a generation. Policymakers from both parties have talked about providing health security for all of the nation's families for roughly a century, but on March 23, 2010, officials gathered not just to talk but to celebrate action.
Vice President Biden introduced President Obama to the audience and, in comments that weren't intended for the public's ears, said to the president off-mic, "This is a big f***ing deal." Five years later, there's little doubt that Biden was entirely correct.
If you'd told me five years ago that on March 23, 2015, the Affordable Care Act would exceed expectations on every possible metric, including reducing the nation's uninsured rate by a third, I'd say "Obamacare" would look like a great success. And fortunately for the country, that's exactly what's happened.
Anniversaries are a good time to pause, reflect, and take stock, and when it comes to health care reform, objective observers are going to find it easy on the ACA's fifth anniversary to appreciate the law's triumphs. But it's also a good time to take a moment to acknowledge those who told Americans exactly what to expect from the Affordable Care Act -- and who got the story backwards.
Failed Prediction #1: Americans won't enroll in the ACA
In 2009 and 2010, it was widely assumed among Republicans that Democrats had fundamentally miscalculated public demand and consumers would show no real interest in signing up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, among some on the right, this was a foregone conclusion -- Americans wouldn't trust "Obamacare." We now know, of course, that the opposite is true and that millions of families have eagerly signed up for benefits through the ACA.
Failed Prediction #2: The ACA won't meet its enrollment goals
OK, so maybe some consumers would enroll, Republicans eventually said, but the ACA would inevitably lose the numbers game when the enrollment projections proved overly ambitious. In reality, both this year and last year, enrollment totals exceeded the Obama administration's preliminary projections.
Failed Prediction #3: Insurers will want no part of the ACA system
First up from the God Machine this week is a legislative debate on gun policy in Arizona that, at least first, had absolutely nothing to do with religion, though the deliberation took an unexpected theological turn.
At issue in the Arizona state House this week were two bills related to firearm ownership: a proposal to make it easier for Arizonans to carry concealed weapons in public establishments and a bill related to transferring guns between states. One lawmaker, Republican Eddie Farnsworth said the ability to buy a gun is among Americans' "God-given rights," which set an interesting debate in motion.
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales (D) rose to oppose one of the bills, and threw in a note of correction to her colleague's statement about the divine.
"Twice on this floor I've heard members say that I have the God-given right to bear arms, and since I know that God didn't write the Constitution, I just wanted to state that," she said. "And I vote no."
Soon, other state representatives joined the discussion, with one insisting the Constitution was written by "humans, great humans."
Farnsworth, unimpressed, argued in response that "those who penned this" believed that Americans are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."
"This," however, was in reference to the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The former says we are "endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights" -- firearms are not mentioned in the document -- while the latter makes no mention of God and establishes a government created by "we the people."
Ultimately, it seems these details did not change the outcome of the debate. As the Phoenix New Timesreported, the Republican-led chamber approved both gun measures.
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard last night emphasized the need for a political strategy in Iraq to correspond with any military strategy to fight ISIS in Iraq. Crucial to the whole process is that Congress take up the matter for debate and ultimately vote. The United States may seem mired in unending war in Iraq, but Americans should at least be able to expect a ...
* A crushing day in Yemen: "Four suicide bombers hit a pair of crowded mosques in Yemen's capital of Sanaa on Friday, killing at least 137 people and injuring more than 300 others, officials told NBC News. The ISIS affiliate in war-torn Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant."
* Fracking: "A day after President Barack Obama signed an executive order to cut the U.S. government's greenhouse gas emissions, his administration is requiring companies that drill for oil and natural gas on federal lands to reveal the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing."
* Confirming a successor will be impossible: "The head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to step down at the end of the month after more than three years of leading the agency, according to an official announcement on Friday."
* It seems as if the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University has absolutely no idea what "satire" means.
* Breathing room: "U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed on Thursday to delay until April 14 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's vote on legislation that would force President Barack Obama to submit any nuclear agreement with Iran for Congress' approval."
* The probes in New Jersey aren't over: "Federal prosecutors issued a new subpoena to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey this week seeking possible evidence of claims New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration retaliated against the Democratic mayor of Jersey City."
* The country deserves better than this: "Republicans are trying to transform the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules into the same sort of drawn-out controversy as Benghazi and Obamacare -- providing a new springboard for sustained political attacks on the White House."
When 47 Senate Republicans sent a letter to Iran in the hopes of sabotaging international nuclear talks, it was a bit of a surprise to see Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) name on the list. Given his ideology and purported beliefs, it looked as if he'd fallen in with a strange crowd -- filled with colleagues he disagrees with.
The day the letter went public, Glenn Greenwald, who has at times been complimentary towards the senator on matters related to the national security state, highlighted the surprising fact that Rand Paul "is part of the GOP campaign to threaten to undo a US/Iran deal on behalf of Israel."
The Kentucky Republican has been struggling ever since.
A few days after the letter went public, Paul told Matt Lauer that he signed on to the sabotage letter because he wanted to "strengthen the president's hand." When the "Today" host seemed incredulous, the GOP presidential candidate struggled to respond.
Several days later, at the SXSW conference in Austin, Paul repeated the bizarre line, saying he signed the letter intended to undermine the president's negotiating position "because I want the president to negotiate from a position of strength."
It's been two weeks, and the unannounced presidential candidate apparently can't think of a more coherent explanation.
"We wrote laws putting sanctions on Iran," Paul said. "My goal in supporting those was to get them to the negotiating table. I don't want to push them away. I have not favored more sanctions during the negotiations -- I want the negotiations to succeed."
Dan Brian, a technical writer at Dyn, looked skeptically at Paul as the senator answered his question. "I want the president to negotiate from a position of strength," said Paul.
The New Hampshire voter who asked the question left unsatisfied, saying he found Paul's response "kind of ridiculous." There's a good reason for that.
Last week, during a memorable Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tried to press Secretary of State John Kerry on a variety of key challenges abroad. It didn't go well -- Rubio stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.
Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator "should be embarrassed." Swan added, "By his own standard that the next president have a 'clear view of what's happening in the world' and a 'practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,' Rubio fails the test."
This week has been just as bad. Rubio delivered remarks yesterday, which were quickly celebrated by neoconservatives, insisting that President Obama is nicer towards Iran than Israel.
"If there are differences, they need to be dealt with privately, like you do with other allies. And more than anything else, they deserve to be treated with more respect, not less than the respect this President and this White House is giving the Supreme Leader of Iran. For he would not dare say the things about the Supreme Leader of Iran now that he is saying about the Prime Minister of Israel because he wouldn't want to endanger his peace deal or his arms deal that he's working out with them."
We know this is ridiculously untrue in part because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said largely the opposite. He told AIPAC earlier this month, "I deeply appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel, security cooperation, intelligence sharing, support at the U.N., and much more."
Any chance Iranian leaders would celebrate "all that President Obama has done for Iran"?
Jon Chait added that Obama's policy towards Israel, even going forward, involves "continuing to provide several billion dollars a year in aid, and also providing aid in the case of attack, as happened when Hamas launched a rocket assault."
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.
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