Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) made headlines yesterday with public statements that passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (or Obamacare) was a mistake and “blew” the opportunity of the party to pass meaningful legislation that appealed to the middle class. As the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, the statement was a rare public rebuke of the strategy of the Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership. Schumer stated that at the time “Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their healthcare.”
Schumer criticized the decision to push through the ACA in the first term when citizens were demanding actions in other areas. He did not question the value of the ACA as much as its timing and the huge political costs of such legislation:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus. But unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform. Now the plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed, but it was not the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not changes in health care.
This makes sense, considering 85% of all Americans got their health care from either the government, Medicare, Medicaid, or their employer. And if health care costs were going up, it really did not affect them. The Affordable Care Act was aimed at the 36 million Americans who were not covered. It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010 only about 40% of those registered voting. So even if the uninsured kept with the rate, which they likely did not, we would still only be talking about only 5% of the electorate.
To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me. Again, our health care system was riddled with unfairness and inefficiency. It was a problem desperately in need of fixing. The changes that were made are and will continue to be positive changes, but we would have been better able to address it if Democrats had first proposed and passed bold programs aimed at a broader swath of the middle class.
Had we started more broadly, the middle class would have been more receptive to the idea that President Obama wanted to help them. The initial faith they placed in him would have been rewarded. They would have held a more pro-government view and would have given him the permission structure to build a more pro-government coalition. Then Democrats would have been in a better position to tackle our nation’s healthcare crisis.
Source: The Hill