Ortiz y Pino
The Right is Lying About Obamacare
One of the most puzzling aspects about the 2012 election is the way Republican candidates and conservative super PACs are deliberately painting our Affordable Care Act as a boogeyman.
I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about what this reform actually contains, and I’m convinced there is a whole lot of good and no real bad in it for us. And I was one who groaned when congressional Democrats rammed this bill through two years ago. I thought they’d blown the last real chance for single-payer legislation—at least for another 20 years.
Obamacare is not perfect, not by a long shot. But it does contain provisions that will help millions of Americans. So what accounts for the public’s lukewarm attitude about it?
Judging by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce’s opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal, it’s simple: The right is lying about this law, calculatedly misrepresenting it as an enormous tax burden for America’s middle class families. Purest hokum.
Repeating a lie doesn’t edge it any closer to the truth no matter how solemn the actors hired to tell the tale.
Pearce may not know all that’s in this bill since he was not in office when it was passed, but if he is going to fabricate tales of impending doom, he ought to at least be fact-checked.
Straight out, there is no impending tax burden to be heaped onto middle-class America by Obamacare. Pearce and his staff know this. Big insurance knows this. So does big pharma. That’s a scarecrow that does not have substance. Repeating a lie doesn’t edge it any closer to the truth no matter how solemn the actors hired to tell the tale.
A week after Pearce’s original bogus horror story, the Journal ran a “clarification” piece, but buried it on the inside of the Business Section—not on the editorial pages where the original ran. In the clarification, a staffer for Pearce explained that the congressman defines “taxes” differently than you and I do.
So though the law won’t inflict a $4,700 tax on the public as he said, Pearce feels the cost of buying insurance should be called a tax. Since the bill requires all Americans to have coverage, we should consider ourselves taxed by this law.
Pathetic. Think about it: The only additional spending a family would have under Obamacare is the penalty they would have to pay if they can afford insurance but choose not to have it. And that penalty cannot exceed 1 percent of the family’s gross income in 2014.
Millions of families will now be covered by Medicaid at no cost.
Millions more will get subsidies to defray the cost of the insurance coverage they select on the new state-operated health insurance exchanges. And millions more for the first time will have coverage through their employers. Those employers will be able to access affordable small group plans and will get tax credits for providing coverage to their workers.
Pearce knows all those benefits are on the horizon for New Mexicans, so fabricating an imminent, imaginary “crushing tax burden” can only have been calculated to mislead people into opposing a law that will soon be providing real assistance to them.
Pearce’s staffer also scrambled the truth in the clarification statement when he said “the Supreme Court ruled that this (Obamacare) mandate is a tax.” Were that true, it would support Pearce’s claim that any spending under the act could legitimately be termed a tax. But the court did not say that. One justice (John Roberts) said the penalty for not buying insurance should be considered a tax—and therefore would be permissible for Congress to enact.
The other four justices who voted in favor of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act didn’t base their approval on it being a tax. Instead, they agreed with the administration that it was simply consistent with Congress’ constitutional power to regulate business.
A few years ago, Pearce voted against the Children’s Health Insurance Program. When asked why he had opposed a bill that would help so many children and their families, Pearce said he thought any government-provided health care was “socialized medicine”—a bizarre argument to be made by a retired military veteran who receives health benefits from the government. In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when other similarly creative definitions creep into his public statements.
Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a retired social worker, community activist and college instructor. He is in his second term as the Democratic state senator for District 12 in the New Mexico Legislature. Email email@example.com
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.